Category Archives: Outdoor/Nature

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Missouri Gray Bats Suffer With Loss of Habitat 

Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

By Allison Hagene 

The Missouri Gray Bat once flourished in caves across the southeastern U.S., but since 1976 they have been consistently documented as an endangered species. Living only in an estimated 11 caves across the country, the Gray Bat has been struggling to cope with human encroachment, cave disturbances and diseases in their underground living spaces. 

Human disturbance is posing a very real and growing threat to the Gray Bat’s population growth. When humans enter a nursery cave, they can scare mothers who abandon their young which then either die from starvation or fall out of the nest and die on impact. When humans also enter wintering caves, they disturb hibernating bats that, when woken early, use up fat reserves and die from starvation as well. Both issues can collapse a colony’s population and reproduction for the whole year. 

Conservation efforts are underway to try to preserve Gray Bat populations, including maintaining and protecting wintering and nursery caves from disturbances, as well as reducing pesticide use in surrounding areas. 

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MDC Partners With Foundry Art Centre In St. Charles To Create Eco Art Native Garden

Foundry Art 2021 MDCPhoto: MDC

Art and nature unite to form an education experience for kids and native habitat for pollinators.

Please read below about the project from the MDC.

Nobody even seemed to notice temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit as they made short work of creating a haven for native pollinators at the entrance of the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles. A diversified group of 10 people gathered at the Foundry June 18 to plant Missouri native plants in the facility’s newly minted native garden.  The effort was given an assist from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

This team of assorted planters included four young members of the Foundry Summer Art Camp for kids age 6-14, City of St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer, Jenny Kettler, Head of Education and Programming at the Foundry Art Centre, Foundry Executive Director Sean FitzGibbons, MDC Conservation Educator Becky Robertson, Bill Mees of the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative, and Tom Claus, Operations Assistant Manager at The Home Depot.

Leonardo DaVinci’s once said “the artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.” Earlier this year Kettler, an artist herself, saw a potential native garden in a space beside the Foundry’s front entrance.  At the time it was choked by non-native plants.  But what if that space could be transformed into a flourishing plot of eco-friendly natives that would support pollinators?

Kettler reached out to MDC Conservation Educator, Becky Robertson, for help in making that vision a reality.

“It was exciting for them to reach out to us, and it was nice for us to partner with somebody who’s trying to make a difference in conservation and the environment,” Robertson said.  She helped Kettler organize a workday in April where MDC staff and members of the Confluence Chapter of the St. Charles County Master Gardeners joined Kettler to clear the ground of the less desirable non-native plants—the first step in making way for the conversion. MDC offered technical assistance to help determine good native replacements for the spot. 

Robertson also connected the Foundry Art Centre with other partners and funding to help bring the project to life.  Kettler said with Robertson’s assistance and her own efforts, the partnership soon blossomed into an impressive conservation coalition.

St. Louis Compost donated the mulch to prep the garden.  Native plants were sourced through donations from Missouri Wildflower Nursery.  Grants from the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative and the Missouri Prairie Foundation helped fund the entire project.  The Home Depot also stepped forward to supply shovels, concrete for creating garden stones, and wood to put birdhouses on.

Kettler wanted to go one step further though.  She envisioned creating an educational and inspirational connection for young people too, so she integrated the native garden project into the Foundry’s kids Summer Art Camp.

“It’s really Important now more than ever for children to learn about the natural world and to develop a close relationship with it because they will become the stewards of the Earth,” Kettler said.

Each weeklong session of the camp focuses on a different part of the natural world.  The theme for the week of the planting was “Monet’s Magical Monarchs”.  During the five days leading up to the planting event, the young campers created eco-art, including butterflies fashioned from plastic bottles, and watched real painted lady butterflies emerge from their chrysalises.  They also made decorative garden stones both to take home and to install in the Foundry Art Centre’s new garden.

The camp culminated in the Friday press event where the campers helped plant 16 native flower species in the new garden space.  These included gray, purple and yellow coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, shining blue star, milkweeds, St. John’s wort, and beauty berry.  Despite the heat, everyone involved seemed enthusiastic about the effort and the team of 10 was able to complete the task in short order.  The kids also released the newly emerged painted lady butterflies into the garden.

From a conservation perspective, Robertson emphasized that native plantings like these not only offer beauty, but they are important for the environment as well.  These plants provide a real boost to the wildlife and insect pollinators that rely on them.  Collectively, small native oases like this can add up to meaningful habitat in the big picture.

“I hope the kids will leave here with an understanding and appreciation for not only art but the natural world.  And that is priceless,” said Kettler.

Perhaps it’s this connection that 19th Century French artist Paul Cézanne realized when he observed, “Art is a harmony parallel with nature.

MDC Offering Up To $75,000 Grants To Help With Conservation Projects In St. Louis Area Parks

Back to Nature STL

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) works with and for communities to sustain healthy fish, forests and wildlife.  One of the ways in which it does this is by offering funding for conservation-friendly projects in St. Louis area parks through a unique partnership and funding opportunity: The Back to Nature StL Grant.

Applications for the grant should be relevant to the goals of MDC’s Community Conservation Program.  The Back to Nature StL grant supports terrestrial and aquatic habitat improvement in urban area parks, encouraging partnerships for supporting community conservation efforts, native habitat restoration and long-term natural landscape management, and engaging the public through conservation education and volunteer opportunities.

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June Hutson: St. Louis Has Lost A Horticulture Legend

This writer interviewed June Hutson for the following EE article in 2017. It was the first time I met with her. June was welcoming to this stranger asking many questions about gardening and her life in general. She answered each one with a delightful enthusiasm and with a humble openness found only in rare spirits. She was genuine. She was real. She was kind.

Hutson touched many lives in St. Louis and the truth of that can be found in the observations today from her colleagues and friends. In her retirement, she said she intended to travel and explore historic U.S. gardens and maybe the grand gardens of Europe.

However, the true passion in her voice could not be mistaken and was not related to foreign travel – she was looking forward to making future memories with her two grandsons in her own garden.

Hutson’s love of people and passion for gardening left a lasting legacy. This St. Louis horticulture legend will be missed because she was the kind of person that made the world a better place.

—Holly Shanks 7/25/21

The St. Louis Post Dispatch obituary for Hutson can be found HERE.

A memorial celebration of life will be held at the Spink Pavilion at Missouri Botanical Garden on Wednesday, Aug. 11 at 5 p.m.

June Hutson: St. Louis Horticulture Legend

By Holly Shanks

(This article originally posted on Environmental Echo July 17, 2017.)

After spending more than 40 years working at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT), one might think, June Hutson, a master gardener and horticulturist, retired this past January for some much-deserved leisure time. Nope. She says she retired to do the exact opposite. She wants to spend as much time as possible feeding her passion – getting her hands dirty in the garden.

Hutson started as a gardener at MOBOT in the late 1970s. She spent the last 20 years as supervisor of the outdoor gardens at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening. The ordering of plants and managing staff and volunteers limited some of her time to physically work with planting and maintaining the gardens. The love for the hands-on work played a role in her retirement decision.

Hutson wanted to retire on a good note and her long-term staff was knowledgeable enough to function independently. It was the right time for her to make the change.

“I really missed the physical work and I had a wonderful crew when I retired. If I was going to continue gardening I needed to retire while my physical health was still good,” Hutson said. “I was 74 when I retired, so, you know, time-is-a-tickin’.”

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Alfred Satterthwait And The Bluebird Of Happiness

ScatterthwaitBy Don Corrigan
 

The Eastern Bluebird is Missouri’s Official State Bird. If you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, you may be disturbed to learn this.  How could the Missouri legislature diss the redbird and bestow state honors on the bluebird?

Blame the Webster Groves Nature Study Society (WGNSS) for the slight. Members lobbied Jefferson City lawmakers to cast their votes for the bluebird in 1927. Blame Alfred Satterthwait, founder of WGNSS. Maybe even blame Henry David Thoreau, the prince of nature lovers, who wrote that the colorful bluebird of happiness “carries the sky upon its back.”  

Satterthwait carries the legacy of the local nature society upon his back. He and his wife, Elizabeth, founded the group in 1920 and Alfred became its first president. The Satterthwaits immediately began leading nature field trips through Missouri that were covered by the Webster News Times. The newspaper listed birds sighted on the trips at sites like Jefferson Barracks, Creve Couer Lake and the Meramec Highlands.

A scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Alfred Satterthwait allowed nature society members to use his Entomology Field Laboratory at 527 Ivanhoe Place in Webster. The society had its regular meetings there. Young WGNSS members used its microscopes, binoculars and field equipment, and studied its insect collections. Some of them grew up to be naturalists and prominent scientists in their own right.

Throughout its century of existence, WGNSS leaders have fought to preserve wildlife and protect the environment with some important wins and losses. In the early years, they fought for municipal waste pickup, an end to open burning of trash, and preservation of Missouri prairie lands. In recent times, they’ve fought to spare flood plains from developers’ plans for strip malls, highway interchanges and sports complexes. Missouri fish and fowl would, no doubt, say “thank you,” if they could.

Environmental Echo will periodically single out outdoor / environmental heroes who have made a difference in the St. Louis area and beyond. Many of these individuals hail from the Webster Groves – Kirkwood area, where writer Don Corrigan is Editor Emeritus of the weekly Webster-Kirkwood Times. Corrigan is the author of Environmental Missouri by Reedy Press.

J.B. Lester: Local Steward of The Healthy Planet

JB LesterBy Don Corrigan

J.B. Lester, publisher of The Healthy Planet for a quarter century, shrugs off accolades for his nature advocacy and his editorial work to raise awareness on environmental issues. Instead, he describes himself as a messenger or conduit for environmental experts and real champions of the outdoors. He cites his many columnists and free-lance writers.

He is quick to single out one of his scribes, Jean Ponzi, whom he calls “Green Jean.” She is the Green Resources Manager for the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Earthways Center. According to Lester, Ponzi has informed, educated and entertained with prose and poetry on topics ranging from recycling to honeysuckle removal to wildflower gardens.

The Healthy Planet has a stable of writers from organizations such as the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, the Department of Conservation and a host of others. Lester adds a personal touch with his regular column about everything from the lack of social responsibility during a 100-year pandemic to his encounter with a moose on a trip to Colorado.

“My favorite columns are where I can take a magnifying glass to the eco-system in my Webster backyard – whether it’s on the hungry caterpillar on my tomato plants or our annual praying mantis family,” noted Lester. “By looking closely at what is right next to us, we can learn so much about how to view things farther away. I think the artists call this perspective.”

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Great Rivers Greenway Offers Biking Safety Tips

Don Levee Bike

Pictured: Don Corrgian

by Don Corrigan

Planning logistics for a biking excursion or a hiking adventure, and addressing safety concerns, are a big part of having a satisfactory experience. Another major piece of making things go well involves “trail etiquette.”

The Great Rivers Greenway (GRG) organization offers a number of etiquette tips for using its network of trails in the greater St. Louis area, but they are universal and can apply to many trails statewide and nationally.

Among the GRG advisories:

•Keep pets leashed and close, pick up and throw away all pet waste.

•Whether you’re walking, running, biking, pushing a stroller, using a wheelchair or anything else, yield to those moving at a slower speed than you.

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J. Marshall Magner: A Real Knack For Knowing Bugs

Marshall Magner CRBy Don Corrigan

Talk to J. Marshall Magner and the first thing he would do is disabuse you of any misconception that all insects are bugs. Conversation would often proceed from there and soon was likely to fly over the average human’s head. A frustrated Magner sometimes relied on large models of insects with detachable abdomen, thorax and head to make his scientific points.

When Magner was born in northwest Webster in 1913, the area was woods, farms and a few homes. Young Marshall was in the habit of collecting insects, frogs and snakes on the way home from getting milk from the Smith’s cows in the morning. Sometimes critters got loose in the house. In his teens, he hunted and roamed the woods as far north as Olive Street Road. St. Louis County was still largely rural in his early days.

Magner’s outdoor interest and insect love led him to a career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the military in World War II, he served in Europe and Africa. Later, Magner landed with Monsanto Company and he studied insects worldwide, sometimes on long stints in Central America. He shared his collecting skills and knowledge with the youngsters when he returned to Webster Groves. This garnered him the honor of the naming of Larson Park’s children’s playground as “Marshall Magner’s Bug Kingdom.”

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The New Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape In Forest Park Is Now Open To The Public!

Forest Park Forever Play 2021Ready, Set, Go! Visit Forest Park to check out the newly opened 17-acre playscape! Get out and enjoy the natural setting while connecting to nature in a green space for children and the young at heart!

Forest Park Forever details interesting information about some of the elements it took to create the green space, including 1,500 tons of boulders and rock, including Missouri limestone, 30 tons of sand, 1+ miles of paths, 30+ benches made from fallen or hazard local trees, 1500+ wood stump steppers and 300 newly planted trees. See what the addition has to offer in the included video, along with more details about the green space listed below.

Forest Park Forever website: This highly anticipated opening follows nearly two years of construction to transform what had been 17 acres of turf grass into a one-of-a-kind experiential play space with natural landscapes that include native and diverse species. The project was funded by donors to the nonprofit conservancy Forest Park Forever and completed in partnership with the City of St. Louis.

“The Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape is an experiential green space built to enable visitors, especially children, to connect with nature and engage their senses as they explore, discover and learn. The destination features nine distinct activity areas — including Mounds, a Spring, a Meadow, a Wetland and more — and a series of accessible paths and boardwalks that connect them.”

Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape By the Numbers

  • Playscape Size: 17 acres

  • Trees planted: 300

  • Shrubs planted: 700

  • Perennials Planted: 40,000

  • Boulders & Rocks: 1,500 tons, including Missouri limestone

  • Paths: 1+ miles

  • Boardwalks: 4

  • Wood Stump Steppers: 1,500+

  • Sand for Play Areas: 30 tons

  • Hand Water Pumps: 5

  • Boot-Washing Stations: 2

  • Benches: 30+ made from fallen or hazard local trees

  • Bike Racks: 7

  • Drinking Fountains: 3

  • Design & Build Cost: $5 million

  • Cost to enter and enjoy: $0

Jack Lorenz: From High School Cutup To Outdoor Champ

Environmental Echo will periodically single out outdoor / environmental heroes who have made a difference in the St. Louis area and beyond. Many of these individuals hail from the Webster Groves – Kirkwood area, where writer Don Corrigan is Editor Emeritus of the weekly Webster-Kirkwood Times. Corrigan is the author of Environmental Missouri by Reedy Press.
Jack Lorenz CR
by Don Corrigan

Who says environmentalists are all stuffy, humorless, killjoys? Jack Lorenz, who went to Webster Groves High School in the Happy Days era, enjoyed 1950s fast cars, fish stories and cutting up. He sometimes wore a monster mask he called “The Face.” He wore it while in the front seat of buddy Cy Perkin’s car. At a stop light in South St. Louis, they spied Stan the Man in the car next to them. Musial cracked up when “Jack The Face” rolled down the window to let out a hearty, “Hi, Stan!”

No big surprise that Lorenz coached football, basketball and baseball at a prep school while majoring in journalism at the University of Tulsa. He later joined the PR team of Falstaff Brewing, “America’s Premium Quality Beer,” a favorite of another WGHS alumnus named Harry Caray. While hustling Falstaff, Lorenz started a river clean-up campaign and helped create the “Pitch-in” anti-litter campaign.

A growing interest in outdoors lured the lifelong fly fisherman to move to Washington, D.C., to become editor in 1973 of Outdoor America, the magazine of the Izaak Walton League. A year later he was named executive director of the League, a post he would hold for 18 years. During his tenure as CEO of the League, he was asked to the White House to advise Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush. This was in the halcyon days of the environmentalism, when most politicians saw clean air and water, protection of parks and wilderness areas as winning issues.

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