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MDC, Dickerson Park Zoo to Host First-Ever Virtual Eagle Days

Photo courtesy MDC.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and Dickerson Zoo in Springfield have teamed up to host MDC’s first online-only Eagle Days celebration Feb. 6. The event will be held virtually this year due to COVID-19 health concerns.

As part of this year’s Eagle Days events, Dickerson Park Zoo will provide participants with an up-close view of a live, rehabilitated eagle and peregrine falcon. Characteristics of these two birds will be discussed, and Q&A opportunities will follow each program.

Advanced registration for MDC Eagle Days is recommended: See below or (CLICK HERE).

The event is the latest example of the longstanding partnership between MDC and Dickerson Park Zoo. The program is known to raise awareness about bald eagles and is also credited with helping our national bird achieve a triumphant return to Missouri.

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Part I: Conservation Rules At Missouri’s Prairie Star Restoration Farm Near Bland

Pictured: Bruce Sassmann by Jessalynn Cairer Photography.

By Don Corrigan

Take a tour of Prairie Star Restoration Farm, between Bland and Belle, Mo., and you’re likely to get an earful from landowner Bruce Sassmann. Yeah, some of that earful will be a load about composting, but a lot of it will be quotes from his conservation idols.

Sassmann loves conservationists and has built guest shelters on the property that are replicas of historic haunts of Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold and John Muir. Thoreau’s house on Sassman’s farm even includes a pond – think Walden Pond.

A tour of Prairie Star Restoration Farm will take you past fields of wildflowers on the way to the replica cabin of Henry David Throeau on Walden Pond.

As you approach the Leopold site modeled after the original shack in Sand County, Wisconsin, Sassman will start quoting the famous conservationist in a low whisper. Sassman is kind of a conservation whisperer.

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us,” begins Sassman, with his low Leopold recitation. “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

According to Sassmann, “If I picked only one Leopold quote to savor, I think Aldo would approve of that one. Aldo Leopold is my conservation hero. He weaves his philosophy and ecology into poetic science.”

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“Time Fork” At Laumeier Offers Visions Of Past & Future

Pictured: Van McElwee

Artist Van McElwee’ “Time Fork” at Laumeier is part of the sculpture park’s thematic exploration  – “The Future is Present: Art & Global Change” – which runs through the late spring. The theme covers such topics as environmental crisis, tech waste, deforestation and astronomical phenomena. In part, McElwee’s art piece invites us to think about past civilizations, including the Mississippian settlements such as Cahokia Mounds just across our major river.

Cahokia Mounds once had more than 30,000 inhabitants and in 1150 was larger than any European city, including London. It was the largest city in North America until Philadelphia surpassed it in the late 1700s. Anthropologists speculate that when the Cahokia Mounds was abandoned about 1350, it may have been because of environmental degradation. Wanton tree cutting and erosion hurt the sustainability of crop lands and increased vulnerability to catastrophic river floods. For more on this, check out author Martin W. Sandler’s, “Lost To Time.”

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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 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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Raja’s Virtual Birthday Celebration

Photo by Robin Winkelman, Saint Louis Zoo.

Virtual celebration for Raja the Asian elephant’s 28th birthday

When: 11 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020

Where: Online only at  

How do you celebrate a birthday in 2020? You decorate your lawn with birthday signs and gather virtually, of course! Over the last 27 years, the Saint Louis Zoo has celebrated male Asian elephant Raja’s (pronounced RAH zhä) birthday with huge signs in the form of enrichment-filled birthday presents decorating his habitat for the big day. This year, for the safety of Zoo guests, staff and the animals, Raja’s celebration is going virtual-only and everyone can join in to watch together online. There will be no birthday celebration activities at River’s Edge.

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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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Top 10 Nutty Christmas Squirrels!

By Don Corrigan

That holiday favorite about “acorns roasting on an open fire” brings to mind Top 10 Christmas Squirrels & why we love them!

It’s impossible to enjoy the outdoors anywhere in North America without a squirrel scolding you from a tree limb, or a squirrel scampering across your path, or a squirrel playing “chicken” with you on the roadway when you’re driving. Squirrels are not just confined to the outdoors. They are in all the mass media that we consume and enjoy in the indoors. With that in mind, Environmental Echo offers a Top Ten of mass-mediated squirrels that we encounter in print and on our electronic devices. We humans must love them. We have made them the top virtual critters in our popular culture.

1.)  Christmas Vacation Squirrel

Remember Chevy Chase’s movie when Aunt Bethany asks: “What’s that sound? You hear it? It’s a funny squeaky sound.” Uncle Lewis then responds: “You couldn’t hear a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant.” The squeak was worse than a noisy dump truck. It was from the Christmas Vacation Squirrel. The production originally had a trained squirrel ready to wreak havoc on the Griswold holiday home, but it died the day before the scene was to be shot. An untrained squirrel was brought in to be chased by Uncle Eddy’s dog, Snot, which caused unanticipated mayhem. Today several online sites sell a “Christmas Vacation Attacking Squirrel” with motion sensor and sound!

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