Over 1,000 hellbenders from Saint Louis Zoo released into native Ozark rivers by Missouri Department of Conservation this summer
Hellbender at the Saint Louis Zoo. Photo by Ray Meibaum, Saint Louis Zoo
Over 1,000 Ozark and eastern hellbenders raised from eggs at the Saint Louis Zoo were released into their native Missouri Ozark rivers this summer by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) State Herpetologist Jeff Briggler, Ph.D., in cooperation with the Zoo and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Since 2008, more than 8,600 Saint Louis Zoo-raised endangered hellbenders (664 eastern and 7,977 Ozark) have been reintroduced to the wild in Missouri.
The successful 2020 reintroductions almost didn’t happen, though, due to COVID-19. The team of scientists from MDC and the Zoo collaborated on a detailed plan that focused on personal safety of team members, while also providing the best care for the hellbenders and conservation of this species.
“The process was quite a bit different this year, with a lot of careful coordination on everyone’s part,” said Briggler. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the restoration team’s priority was to reduce contact and maintain social distancing among individuals. To achieve this, animal transfers from the Zoo staff to the state herpetologist occurred in open air parking lots. Crews releasing hellbenders also were reduced and limited to two individuals per boat. “Even with these safety precautions, release quotas of hellbenders were achieved and successfully conducted,” said Briggler.
Region’s Solar Group Buy Programs Provides Additional Discount for Program Participants
The pandemic has prompted many people to make their households more efficient and for some St. Louis area residents that means investing in solar power. Twin programs, Grow Solar St. Louis and Grow Solar Metro East, make this process easier and more affordable.
In 2020, more than 60 property owners have already committed to go solar through the programs. All are expected to be producing electricity before the end of the year. The 500 kW of new capacity will offset more than 700,000 pounds of carbon dioxide in their first year of operation. It will save solar homeowners roughly $40,000 on electricity bills, collectively, in that same time period.
“Another 60 households are actively considering their own commitments, and hundreds of people are joining us to learn all about solar,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Director for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, which is co-facilitating the programs with local sponsors. “It’s really exciting to see how much interest there is in solar in the Gateway Region as we approach the September 30 program deadline.”
Continue reading below for more information about the program.
by Don Corrigan
The massive derocho storm that slammed Iowa on June 10, and that flattened large parts of the state, also took a bite out of northern Missouri and the St. Louis area. A derocho is a widespread straight-line wind storm that can rival tornadoes and hurricanes with its wind velocities.The June 10 squall line that ripped through Iowa destroyed more than a quarter of the state’s corn crop and left $4 billion in damages and several fatalities. St. Louis was hit with the southern edge of the storm that began in the Dakotas and moved across Iowa, Illinois and Lake Michigan.
The St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood, which is the only city in the metropolitan area that owns and operates its own electric utility, is still assessing the impact of the June 10 storm on its electrical operation.
“We’re still reviewing all the numbers,” said Mark Petty of Kirkwood Electric. “But this may have been the worst storm for us since 2006.”
Canoeists paddle in the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo courtesy Randall Hyman.
Pictured: Randall Hyman
By Don Corrigan
Fresh off a story about flooding and pollution on the Upper Mississippi River, photojournalist Randall Hyman of St. Louis is using a journalism award to fund an investigation into travails of the Navajo fighting oil companies wanting a piece of their native lands.
Hyman won a coveted Society of Environmental Journalism Award to cover expenses on a project entitled, “Betrayal in the Fog of Viral War,” a story on oil and gas companies exploiting native lands in New Mexico with the help of the White House and the Interior Department.
“This Administration’s Bureau of Land Management has been trying to give away drilling rights and fracking permits on the native lands of the Navajo Nation,” Hyman explained. “It’s a little crazy now because the fracking industry is dead in the water in this economic downturn.
“The oil and gas industry has bankruptcies right and left,” said Hyman. “The fracking industry has never been profitable and it’s collapsing now with the lack of demand for oil in this pandemic economy.”
Read more of the article below.
Information from the Missouri Department of Agriculture in reference to unsolicited seeds showing up in mailboxes from China. See guidance below about what to do if you or an acquaintance might receive the suspicious seeds in the mail.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture has received reports from residents of unsolicited seeds being delivered from foreign countries such as China and surrounding areas. Missouri’s announcement follows several states who have also reported packages of these seeds being delivered across the United States. Consistent with nationwide reports, the packages were labeled as jewelry, specifically stud earrings, bracelets and other accessories.”
It is important to take steps to prevent the introduction of invasive species into Missouri to ensure safety of the environment, livestock and plants. The full risk associated with the seeds in question is unknown at this time. However, the seeds could be an invasive species that has the potential to destroy native plants and damage crops. Invasive species can also introduce diseases to plants and may be harmful to livestock.
If Missouri residents have received unsolicited seeds, the following guidance applies … Continue reading from the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s announcement HERE.
From Left: Sam Page, Jake Zimmerman and Mark Mantovani
By Don Corrigan
(This story has been updated to add candidate Jamie Tolliver’s position on environmental issues.)
In a tough Aug. 4 primary for St. Louis County Executive, three Democrats have put the focus on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, loss of jobs, gun violence and race relations. However, that doesn’t mean environmental issues are totally off their radar.
The cleanup of radioactive contamination in North County, a legacy of the role of St. Louis in developing and manufacturing atomic bombs, has never been off their radar screens. They want the contaminated West Lake Landfill addressed as well as Coldwater Creek areas. In particular, they want to make sure the EPA follows through on its commitment to clean up West Lake.
See more environmental information and quotes from the candidates below.
Read more about this program below. Also, visit the Missouri Environmental Education Association on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
To apply for the open positions CLICK HERE for the application link.
Photo: Missouri Department of Natural Resources
People should be able to identify blooms and know potential health risks and the symptoms of exposure.
As people head out to enjoy the outdoors this summer, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources wants everyone to stay safe by being aware of possible harmful algae blooms in Missouri waterways. It is important to know what harmful algae blooms are, how to identify them and understand the potential health risks both to people and their pets.
Harmful algae blooms are clusters of cyanobacteria, often referred to as blue-green algae, that can grow in lakes, ponds and slow-moving or pooled streams. Cyanobacteria are capable of producing dangerous toxins that can cause illness and even death in people and animals. While they typically appear during summer and early fall, harmful algae blooms can occur any time of year.
Center for Missouri Studies. Credit line: SHSMO/Notley Hawkins.
The State Historical Society of Missouri recently received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for its new building that opened in August 2019. Gold is one of the highest certification levels awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council to measure the environmental sustainability and performance of a building.
“The initial planning stages of our new facility included design and materials that would prioritize efficiency, be a healthy building for staff and patrons and decrease operational costs,” said Gerald Hirsch, senior associate executive director of the State Historical Society. “We are very proud that Missouri’s history and art is housed in a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient building that used materials sourced from our state.”
West Lake Landfill
By Don Corrigan
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of the third annual National Federal Facility Excellence in Site Reuse awards. The Weldon Spring atomic site, located in St. Charles, Missouri, receives one of three awards given nationally.
Pictured above: Dawn Chapman (Left) and Karen Nickel, co-founders of Just Moms STL.
Dawn Chapman, a leader of Just Moms STL, which has been battling for the remediation of the West Lake atomic site in the Bridgeton area across from St. Charles, is not so impressed by the award for Weldon Spring.
“If we are being honest, the federal government polluted the hell out of this area during the atomic bomb production era,” said Chapman. “Then it let everything just sit around leaking for decades — some of it sitting next to a high school. The government let radioactive waste get into ponds and streams, then knowingly allowed and even encouraged people to hunt and fish there.”
The Weldon Spring DOE LM Site, comprised of a former Chemical Plant and Quarry, has a complex history, according to the EPA. It played a pivotal role in the success of World War II and the Cold War, according to EPA, and the 228-acre site, located about 25 miles west of St. Louis, has been revitalized for beneficial reuse as a community educational center and recreational site.
EPA officials said new Weldon Spring Interpretive Center features exhibits designed to fulfill DOE’s post-closure responsibilities. The center informs and educates the public about long-term stewardship and the site’s historical legacy. An important educational focus is on risk communication, showing how cleanup activities made the site safe for public use. Other redevelopment highlights include community use facilities and a natural prairie habitat, which promotes wildlife conservation.