Baskett Wildlife Research and Education Center, a 2,266-acre facility located five miles east of Ashland, Mo., on Highway Y, is an integral part of the School of Natural Resources mission of teaching, research and extension.
Baskett is used as an outdoor laboratory for several classes including dendrology, ornithology and resource measurements, and has been the source of more than 125 publications.
Students and faculty work together on a variety of projects including the development of strategies to mitigate invasive species, wildlife population research, investigation into predation and predatory patterns, the absorption of carbon dioxide in natural environments and much more.
Students in the wildlife management techniques class live at Baskett for a week during August and carry out exercises night and day.
Although the environment is much more challenging than any classroom, without exception, these students rank this week as one of the more enjoyable and informative experiences in their college education.
Named for long-time director Thomas S. Baskett, Ph.D., MU established this research and education center in 1938.
Baskett was an exceptional force in the conservation movement in Missouri and the nation as a teacher, researcher, writer, editor and administrator. Most of his career was spent as the leader of the Missouri Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Through his association with MU as a professor, he administered one of the strongest and most successful cooperative wildlife research programs in the nation.
Because of the foresight, commitment and determination of individuals like Baskett, Rudolf Bennitt, W.0. Nagel and E. Sydney Stephens, Baskett exists today. The development of Baskett is intertwined with several federal agencies and congressional acts.
In the fall of 1934, a University committee proposed to officials of the Resettlement Administration that an arboretum and wildlife experimental area be established on sub-marginal farmland near Columbia. This committee selected 2,240 acres comprised of 17 farms on the verge of bankruptcy in southeastern Boone County for this area. In May of 1935, this proposal was approved by Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace.
On May 15, 1939, the Department of Agriculture and Curators of the University of Missouri entered into a 50-year cooperative agreement whereby the University would manage the area, but the Department of Agriculture retained custodial and mineral rights. In the agreement the University’s objectives for the area were to:
- Operate and manage the area as an arboretum and wildlife refuge;
- Conduct investigations, experiments and research studies in botany, zoology, wildlife and game management.
These objectives have been held to throughout the history of the Baskett Wildlife Research and Education Center.
On Aug. 8, 1940, the land title was transferred to the Department of the Interior with provision that the land would remain available to the University for as long as the cooperative agreement remained in force. With this transfer, custodianship resided with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 1958, the Curators of the University requested transfer of the land title to the University. Although the proposal was accepted, the transfer was delayed because the Interior Department did not have a mechanism whereby land could be transferred to a state agency. However, the U.S. Forest Service could make the transfer. Therefore, the land was first transferred to the Forest Service and on March 25, 1960, a “quit claim” transfer of the land was granted to MU and the University took full control of the area.
An MU faculty member associated with wildlife management has been in charge of supervising activities throughout the history of BWREC.
Baskett supervised the area from 1948 to 1968 and again from 1973 to 1979. In 1988, MU named the wildlife research area for him.