Category Archives: Environment

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Politics & Pandemic: Battle Looms in Mo. Farm Country

Family farms make a difference in animal welfare and the environment versus the impact of factory farms. Photo: LTD Photography.

by Don Corrigan

There’s not always a lot  of common ground between environmentalists and landowners in rural red state Missouri. Property owners and farmers want freedom to use the land as they wish, while environmentalists favor regulations to protect land and water in the public interest.

That divide between environmentalists and landowners is mirrored in the general partisan divide between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans in Missouri. One place where the divide is bridged and agreement can be found is on the ill effects of expanding CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).

Landowners worry that CAFOs, which are giant factory farms, will fill the surrounding air with the overwhelming odors from huge reservoirs of animal waste. They also worry that the pools of waste will breach, resulting in major contamination of groundwater as well as nearby lakes and streams.

Small family farms also feel threatened by the prospect of being taken over by well-financed corporate farm operations. These kill independent farms. Farmers worry their children may end up going to work as virtual sharecroppers for a giant company with headquarters out of state or even out of the country.

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Great Rivers Greenway – A St. Louis Success Story

by Don Corrigan

For the past two decades, Great Rivers Greenway’s (GRG) expanding network of recreational trails have been a St. Louis success story. Now GRG officials are asking area residents to envision the next 20 years of trail expansion and amenities.

Area residents are invited to guide Great Rivers Greenway’s work by providing feedback through Jan. 15 at http://www.GreenwayPlan.org. One survey participant will be randomly drawn to receive a $300 grocery gift card.

GRG has built more than 128 miles of greenways that connect people to their jobs, schools, parks, rivers, neighborhoods, business districts, transit and more. Greenways typically include a paved trail, conservation projects to enhance the environment, amenities like restrooms and vital destination connections.

The trails have spawned “People of the Greenways” — hiking, biking, in-line skating enthusiasts and more. Korri Thomas of South County is one of those people. An Alabama transplant, Thomas said she loves to exercise safely and to explore the region via trails.

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Local Environmental Leaders’ New Year’s Wishes 2021

by Don Corrigan

What will 2021 bring for environmentalists, nature advocates and outdoor enthusiasts? Will the pandemic of 2020 offer some hard lessons about nature’s fragility? Will America rejoin the world forum on Climate Change? Will St. Louis cultivate more open spaces and find ways to reduce the region’s carbon footprint?

Environmental Echo contacted more than a dozen local environmental leaders and asked for their 2021 prognostications and their New Year’s wishes for the planet, the country and for their own piece of planetary turf in the heartland of the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys. Their answers were as varied as the organizations for which they advocate and represent.

Rejoin Paris Climate Accord

Pictured: Richard Thoma

Richard Thoma of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society said he is looking forward to the United States reentering the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement for countries around the world to limit greenhouse gas emissions. “In 2021, let’s put our money where our mouth is and actually do something about this global threat,” Thoma said.

“Cities too, like St. Louis, could get involved in creating more green space as part of this effort,” Thoma added. “Wouldn’t it be neat in 2021 if St. Louis and other cities around the world took those blighted neighborhoods filled with abandoned buildings, raised them to the ground, and then replaced them with parks?”

Pictured: Sister Cheryl Kemner

Sister Cheryl Kemner, with the environmental advocates of the Franciscan Sisters, said her wish for 2021 is a renewal of hope for the future and a return to and fulfillment of the Paris Climate Agreement.

She said she prays for restoration of our relationship with nature, so we see its beauty, its intrinsic value, and that this leads to an appreciation and protection of nature’s diversity.

“I pray for a renewal that establishes ‘harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God’ as cited in Laudato Si,” said Kemner. “I wish for sustainable lifestyles attained by living simply … I pray for a healthy planet that is sustainable, a planet that has the time to rest and renew itself.”

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Please Don’t Litter When Visiting Conservation Areas

Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is reminding visitors to not leave trash behind – especially fishing line — when visiting conservation areas this winter.

A recent incident involving a ruddy duck entangled in fishing line prompted MDC’s Wildlife Management Biologist Luke Wehmhoff and MDC Resource Management Technician Jamie Wiseman to act quick.

“We had a member of the public come to Otter Slough Headquarters saying there was a duck tangled in something in the corner of the lake,” Wehmhoff said. “Jamie (Wiseman) and I went down there and found a ruddy duck with fishing line wrapped around one wing and its neck.”

He said the duck kept trying to dive and swim away, “but obviously couldn’t.”

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Celebrate Missouri’s Bicentennial!

Linden’s Prairie, by R.S. Kinnerson.

By Don Corrigan

Missouri’s Bicentennial is just weeks away. The Show-Me State has a lot to celebrate since it gained statehood in 1821, but Carol Davit says the state would be wise to do a little inventory of natural losses over its last two centuries.

“Up until the time of statehood in 1821, 15 million acres of prairie enriched our beautiful state,” noted Davit, executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF). “Today, in only 200 years, that figure has been reduced to fewer than 60,000 acres, or less than half of one percent.

“Our New Year’s wish at the foundation is that more Missourians join us in supporting our mission to save as much remaining original prairie as possible, and to help us reconstruct more prairie habitat through plantings,” Davit said.

The Columbia-based Missouri Prairie Foundation recently posted a new video on its website to share the sheer beauty and diversity of Missouri’s prairies, and to help people understand the importance of prairies. Residents can get involved in helping protect what prairie remains, and can help MPF reconstruct prairie habitat through plantings.

Davit believes Missourians will understand the imperative to save prairie lands after visiting some of the beautiful locations around the state.

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2020 Grow Native! Ambassador Award Presented at Virtual Professional Member Conference

The 20-year-old Grow Native! program honored 2020 Ambassador Award winner Mary Voges for her contributions to the advancement and promotion of native plants and native plant landscaping.

The Grow Native! Professional Member Conference, held virtually this year on November 4, 2020, is an annual gathering of Grow Native! professional members and their staff to learn about current native plant-related research, projects, and opportunities. During the event, Grow Native! Chair Ronda Burnett recognized Mary Voges of Litzsinger Road Ecology Center (LREC) with the 2020 Grow Native! Ambassador Award. The Grow Native! Ambassador Award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the advancement of the use and promotion of native plants and native plant landscaping in the year the award is presented.

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COVID-19 Pandemic Multiplies Worries For Residents Living Near West Lake Landfill

By Don Corrigan

Fear. Anxiety. Heartbreak. Those are words used by residents living near the radioactive West lake Landfill in North St. Louis County. Residents say their fear, their anxiety and their heartbreaks have multiplied in the 2020 pandemic because of weakened immune systems.

The COVID-19 virus can cause severe illness and death, especially for those with compromised immune systems. Many residents living in the vicinity of West Lake report that they already suffer ailments that they attribute to the nearby toxic landfill.

“The amount of fear and anxiety our community members have been forced to live with in regards to the landfill and toxins has doubled with COVID-19,” said Dawn Chapman, co-founder of Just Moms STL, an activist group that has fought for years for cleanup of the site. “Many of our residents are taking more extreme precautions in order to avoid this COVID-19 illness.

“If there is any good news, it is that we have learned to rely heavily on each other for support and other resources, while we have fought for a clean up at our site,” said Chapman. “Our community connections and relationships have really helped us during this viral pandemic. We are continuing to support and look after each other.”

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“Trees of Treloar” Project To Bring Back A Bit of Yesteryear’s Natural Setting

Photo: Magnificent Missouri. Left to right: Bill Spradley, Dan Burkhardt, and Mike Rood.

By Don Corrigan

Missouri’s bottom lands were once filled with tall trees and abundant wildlife supported by a sprawling tree canopy. Much of this natural area has been replaced by rows of corn and soybeans.

An organization called Magnificent Missouri wants to bring back a bit of yesteryear’s natural setting. It’s a project called “Trees of Treloar” and will focus on planting native Missouri trees near the Treloar Trailhead of the Katy Trail north of the meandering Missouri River.

“The Trees of Treloar will become a place to promote Magnificent Missouri’s goal of reforesting areas along the Katy Trail by planting trees along the trail route. This will be done in cooperation with Forest ReLeaf,” said Dan Burkhardt, the force behind Magnificent Missouri. “Trail users will love the shade and beauty, and pollinators and wildlife will appreciate the new habitat.”

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St. Louis Garners Green Energy Recognition

Photo by Diana Linsley.

By Don Corrigan

The St. Louis region has had its environmental woes from dioxin to lead to radioactive waste contamination. The city did recently get some good news with its inclusion in the Top 100 Major Cities for clean energy initiatives. The listing was  released this month by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

“St. Louis made impressive strides this past year by adopting a policy requiring many major buildings to improve their energy efficiency,” said ACEEE Local Policy Director David Ribeiro. “Only two other cities have passed bills like it, so St. Louis is in elite company.”

Among key findings in the ACEEE report are the top 15 cities, the two fastest-rising cities, and five laggards at the bottom of the ranking for clean energy efforts. The report analyzes the efforts of 100 major U.S. cities — home to 19 percent of the nation’s population — to make buildings and transportation more energy efficient and scale up the use of renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

“St. Louis took other innovative steps too to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, like ensuring that new large buildings are built in a manner where solar panels can easily be added,” said Ribeiro. “The city has been bold, and will need to continue taking bold policy action to achieve a clean energy future.”

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Preparing Students For Extraordinary Challenges at The College School in Webster Groves

All photos courtesy The College School.

by Don Corrigan

Most people agree we live in critical times and young people must be prepared for extraordinary challenges. Educators at The College School in Webster Groves say they are preparing students for those challenges – and they are putting money where it counts to make that preparation happen.

The school has invested several million dollars in a 28-acre LaBarque Campus in Pacific, Missouri. The project includes the 3,000-square-foot Jan Phillips Learning Center, which contains classroom, workshop, outdoor and community spaces. The project reflects concern for the environment, sustainability and entrepreneurship.

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