Linden's Prairie sunset. Photo: R.S. Kinerson

Missouri Prairie Foundation Bestows 2020 Awards

September 1, 2020 | News

The 54-year-old prairie conservation organization and land trust honored
champions of prairie conservation on August 28 during its virtual Annual Dinner.

The Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Annual Dinner, held virtually on August 28, 2020, is a celebration of Missouri’s prairie resources. During the event, the 54-year-old prairie conservation organization and land trust paid tribute to seven awardees.

“Missouri’s remaining prairies are rare and priceless resources,” said David Young, Missouri Prairie Foundation President. “Protecting and promoting them requires hard work and commitment from many people. Our award program recognizes individuals who have made or are making a positive difference in the conservation of Missouri’s prairie legacy, and in promoting and protecting native plants.”


The Missouri Prairie Foundation 2020 awardees are:

  • 2020 Donald M. Christisen Prairie Volunteer of the Year Award: Scott Lenharth of Nevada, MO

Lenharth is an ardent supporter of prairies and has served as a dedicated volunteer of the Missouri Prairie Foundation and the Missouri Department of Conservation for many years. He spends hundreds of hours every year collecting seed and treating invasive plants and encroaching trees on Missouri Prairie Foundation and other prairies. Lenharth is a highly valued team member at prescribed prairie burns. For several years, and especially over the past year, he has spent countless hours scanning and organizing boxes of Missouri Prairie Foundation historic documents.


  • 2020 Clair M. Kucera Prairie Landowners of the Year Award: Michaele Murphy and Bob Rosenow of Attica, Michigan

Michaele and her husband Bob live in Michigan, but own the 300-acre Hawthorne Point Farm near Sikeston in southeastern Missouri that has been in their family for many decades. Michaele and Bob have worked with the Missouri Department of Conservation for more than six years to conserve and restore 135 acres of sand prairie habitat on this property and have made it available for research. Sand prairie is the rarest prairie community type in the state. This site is one of only two known remnant sand prairies in New Madrid County.


  • 2020 William A. Davit Prairie Communicator of the Year: Andy Ostmeyer of Joplin, MO

Ostmeyer began his career as a staff writer with the Joplin Globe in 1984, after graduating from Kansas State University. During his 36-year career with the paper, he has served in various positions and is today the editor, overseeing newsroom staff and being responsible for the paper’s content. Six years ago, the Joplin Globe relaunched its outdoor page—a project of Ostmeyer’s— and he regularly writes columns and stories for that section. Ostmeyer has highlighted prairie conservation work in the southwestern part of the state many times. Ostmeyer’s interest in and dedication to sharing conservation issues with the greater Joplin community contributes to a citizenry informed about the importance of natural resource conservation in the region, and specifically, prairie protection work.


  • 2020 Bill T. Crawford Prairie Professional of the Year Award: Chris Newbold of Boonville, MO

Newbold has worked for 21 years for the Missouri Department of Conservation in a number of capacities, including his current role as Natural History Biologist in the Department’s Central Region. He has been instrumental in the reconstruction and stewardship of hundreds of acres of prairie habitat at the Department’s Prairie Fork Conservation Area and other sites. Newbold was the lead author of an article published last fall in the journal Restoration Ecology, which documents the success of different prairie planting techniques and the irreplaceable nature of original prairie remnants. Newbold has taken the initiative to organize intensive regal fritillary butterfly surveys on Missouri prairies and has painstakingly compiled data that compare regal butterfly counts with prairie management. This is important work for the survival of this prairie-dependent species.


The August 28 program also included announcement of three awards in two categories from the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s 20-year-old Grow Native! program:

  • 2020 Grow Native! Native Plant Pioneer Award: Mitch Leachman of St. Louis, MO

Leachman is the Director of Programs for the St. Louis Audubon Society. Since 2012, he has delivered more than 150 presentations and seminars to more than 5,000 people on native plant landscaping and gardening for birds. In 2016, Leachman helped develop a series of native landscaping continuing education classes at St. Louis Community College at Meramec. He spearheads the very successful Partners for Native Landscaping workshop and has coordinated the St. Louis Native Plant Garden tour. Leachman also coordinates the St. Louis Audubon’s Bring Conservation Home program, which involves many volunteers and provides on-site advice to homeowners in the greater St. Louis area on landscaping with native plants, the removal of invasive plants, and other stewardship practices that promote healthy habitat for birds, other native wildlife, and people.


  • 2020 Grow Native! Native Plant Protector Award: Missouri Native Plant Society

This 41-year-old conservation organization has worked, on a purely volunteer basis, to educate Missourians on the many values of the state’s native flora. The Missouri Native Plant Society was founded in 1979 and is devoted to the enjoyment, preservation, conservation, restoration, and study of the flora native to Missouri. The Society is active both at the state level and regionally with chapter affiliates. It organizes presentations on native plants, free and open to all, and many field trips around the state where participants learn how and where plants grow in specific habitats. The Society has also organized trips in partnership with Native Plant Societies of neighboring states and publishes the scientific journal Missouriensis to document and share native plant knowledge in Missouri. The Society’s Facebook group has more than 28,000 members.


  • 2020 Grow Native! Native Plant Protector Award: Corporal Brad Hadley of Birchtree, MO

Corporal Brad Hadley of Birch Tree is a Missouri Department of Conservation Agent. Among his many duties is enforcing Missouri’s Wildlife Code to protect Missouri’s fish, game, and other wildlife resources. This work includes the conservation of wild ginseng through work with other state programs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in tracking down fraudulent activity related to the ginseng trade. These efforts, along with his perseverance and insight, have been essential in developing and gaining support for revising ginseng harvest regulations to increase protection of this plant. For more than 10 years, Hadley has served as an instructor for the annual Agent Training Academy related to ginseng and other native plants that may be exploited. Hadley is interested in many rare plants in the Ozarks and engages in habitat management, public outreach, and actively contributes to the control of feral hogs, which are a current major threat to native plants.


The Missouri Prairie Foundation is a 54-year-old membership organization and land trust that protects and restores prairie and other native grasslands through acquisition, management, education, and support of prairie research. The organization currently owns 23 properties totaling 3,200 acres of prairie across the state, and with partners, inspires the conservation of thousands more. The Missouri Prairie Foundation is also home to the Grow Native! native plant education and marketing program and the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force.

Image: R.S. Kinerson


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