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Corps of Interns Restores Habitats, Glades In Southwest Missouri

Joshua Conaway

Most of us have heard of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Peace Corps, but there’s another corps of people working to restore and preserve natural spaces in the Ozarks.

A group of college students is busy clearing cedar logs and sticks on a hill and stacking them in piles to be burned. The work is part of a glade restoration project by the Watershed Conservation Corps at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.

Morgan Wetzel, who studies at Missouri State University, says clearing out these trees will help save a rare flower called the Missouri Bladderpod, which is threatened by invasive species.

“What we’re pretty much out here doing is just trying to take down some of the cedars to let more light in so that they can bring back the bladderpod,” Wetzel said.

Credit Joshua Conaway
The students heave the cedar log on a burn pile.

Tory Lydy, who also studies at MSU, says the paid internship program offers both college credits and experience for a career in conservation.

“It definitely gives you a good opportunity to get out in the field and actually work—because you spend so much time in class talking about stuff. But this actually allows you to get hands-on experience in habitat restoration,” Lydy said.

Caleb Sanders, who’s the WCC program manager, says he helped found the corps because southwest Missouri didn’t have many conservation programs for young people.

The WCC is part of the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, a nonprofit organization that works to improve and sustain water quality in the region. 

Since the corps’ founding in 2017, students have worked on projects throughout the Ozarks, including building projects at Lake Springfield and a boardwalk restoration at George Washington Carver National Monument. This summer, the number of workers the Watershed Conservation Corps employed grew to 17.

Eligible participants must be between ages 18 and 26 and have a passion for the outdoors and restoration. People interested in applying may call or email Caleb Sanders at (417)-425-9320, or at caleb@watershedcommittee.org.

Josh Conaway is a graduate of Missouri State University with a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in International Affairs. He works as a news reporter and announcer at KSMU. His favorite part of the job is exploring the rich diversity of the Ozarks and meeting people with interesting stories to share. He has a passion for history and running.