Category Archives: Outdoor/Nature

Department of Natural Resources Annual Photo Contest Now Open

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is now accepting entries for its annual photo contest. Winning entries will be featured on the department’s social media platforms. The deadline to submit photos is Oct. 1.

Entries can include images from anywhere in Missouri, featuring beautiful natural resources, unique  state parks and historic sites, natural phenomena, outdoor recreation, scenic landscapes, weather, wildlife and people enjoying the outdoors.

Contestants can submit entries in the following categories:

  • Natural Resources: Photographs of Missouri’s air, landscapes and waterways.
  • Unique Places: Photographs taken within one of Missouri’s state parks and historic sites. For a list of all parks and sites visit mostateparks.com.
  • People Enjoying Missouri’s Outdoors: Photographs of people enjoying and exploring Missouri’s great outdoors.

Judges will choose first, second, third and honorable mention winners for each category. For more information or to submit photos, visit dnr.mo.gov/photocontest. Questions about to the photo contest can be sent to socialmedia@dnr.mo.gov.

Imagination, Creativity and the Arts In Service Of The Environment

by Don Corrigan

We are in a time of rebirth, resurrection and the revival of the creation. It’s spring. It’s also a time for renewal and the new energy of MICA, which happens at the First Congregational Church UCC in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis.

What is MICA?

MICA is the Ministry of Imagination, Creativity and the Arts, a concept developed by the Rev. Cliff Aerie. That concept has inspired “Journey through the Creation,” a year-long program with an environmental emphasis funded through a Lilly Grant from Calvin Institute of Worship.

“Our first program on earth, art and faith, featured environmentalist Jean Ponzi and storyteller Valerie Tutson, and was held last September,” said Aerie. “We’ve had to push things back due to the pandemic, but our final program will be on June 13 and will feature the Oikos Ensemble in an afternoon concert, Earth Walk 3.0.”

A program put together on March 20 featured community artist Tia Richardson and Michael Smyer, an expert on gerontology and CEO of Growing Greener: Climate Action for an Aging World.

“These webinars and worship services all coincide with the changing of the seasons,” noted Aerie. “The June program will be the capstone. If the pandemic continues to wane, we expect a concert to be held live.

“The concert may be outside,” added Aerie. “If not, we will bring outside inside, which we’ve done before through the generosity of Rolling Ridge Gardens. They have let us borrow trees to transform our sanctuary into a forest. Either way we will be blending jazz, stories, poetry, dance with video vignettes from our two previous webinars.”

Members of First Congregational Church UCC have been critical to the efforts of “Journey through the Creation.” Members of the planning team include Jan Barnes, Chris von Weise, Halley Kim, Debbie Tolstoi, John Paci, Phil Shoulberg, Ian Didriksen, Elston McCowen, Leon Burke III and Dave Denoon. Aerie serves as project director.

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It’s Time For Morels!

common-morel

Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Missouri Department of Conservation offers an abundance of information about Missouri’s nature wonderland. Early spring can offer a fun adventure in the form of mushroom hunting! Check out the MDC’s communication about all you need to know for finding those tasty golden shrooms – The Morel! 

To the uninitiated, a morel does not have the most appetizing appearance. Its brain-like form looks like something out of a campy horror movie, and a morel’s neutral, earthy color doesn’t command much attention. From about late March to early May, however, foraging for these small mushrooms is serious business—a business so serious that many folks refuse to reveal their morel spots even to their closest friends and family!

The question many people ask this time of year is, “How can I find morels?” Well, morels are finicky fungal organisms. The underground portion of the fungus only produces mushrooms in some years—mostly based on soil temperature and moisture availability (but other factors play a role, too). Ultimately, most of what we know about finding morels is anecdotal and widely variable, but here are a few tips to help you narrow down good places to look for morels:

  • Morels commonly appear after warm, moist spring weather with daytime temperatures in the low 70s and nighttime temperatures in the 50s.
  • South and west facing slopes are good sites to look for morels early in the season, with north and east slopes being better for later-season morel hunting.
  • Morels tend to favor tree species such as elms, ashes, cottonwoods, and even domesticated apples. Look around recently dead trees but beware of falling branches!
  • Areas disturbed by flooding, fire, or logging often produce loads of morels.
  • Morels peak when lilacs bloom!
  • Most public lands in Missouri allow the collecting of mushrooms for personal use, but always check the regulations before you collect to be sure.

Remember, these are just general guidelines – morels have been found growing in all sorts of locations and conditions!

Before setting off into the forest, make sure you know how to correctly identify morels. Misidentifying and consuming toxic mushrooms can cause anything from mild stomach issues to organ failure or even death! There are several mushroom species in Missouri, including the big red false morel, which are considered toxic and not recommended for consumption. Consult with field guides or a professional mycologist to be completely confident in species identification before consuming any mushrooms.

Browse MDC’s mushroom field guide for photos of the more common and noticeable fungal species in Missouri. Click here for tasty recipes using Missouri’s wild mushrooms!

Missourians Asked To Save Ticks and Mail To A.T. Still University For Scientific Research

MDC Tick

Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

MDC and A.T. Still University are asking Missourians to save ticks they find and send them to the University for scientific research to learn more about ticks and pathogens they may carry.

Most people who have ventured through Missouri woods, fields, yards, and other outdoor environments have encountered ticks. These small, creepy crawlers climb on and cling to clothes and skin in search of a blood meal. Some tick species and the bacterial pathogens they carry can also cause illnesses in people.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and A.T. Still University in Kirksville are asking people to save ticks they encounter and mail them to the University. The ticks will be used for a new scientific research study to help better understand the statewide distribution of tick species and the human pathogens they carry.

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Route 66 State Park: What A Bunch of Flowers!

by Don Corrigan

Nature often triumphs at environmental disaster sites, sometimes with the help of man – and sometimes not. There’s no
shortage of photos on the web of flora and fauna reclaiming damaged territory, such as at Chernobyl in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan, sites where nuclear plant disasters occurred.

In Missouri, Times Beach is an environmental Superfund Site that cost upwards of a billion dollars to rescue from major dioxin contamination. In the 1980s, debates took place on whether to bury the dioxin or flush it down the Meramec River. The final solution was to scoop up and burn the dioxin-saturated ground to neutralize the contamination.

Today, the city of Times Beach is no more and the dioxin is mostly gone. In its place – on land between Fenton and Eureka, Missouri – is Route 66 State Park. A nearby visitors center is across the Meramec River from the land known for its terrible legacy of dioxin contamination.

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Invasive Asian Carp Global Malnutrition Solution?

The University of Missouri published a news release entitled, “Asian carp could pulverize world hunger, MU researcher finds: Powdering Asian carp could address an environmental problem and a global malnutrition crisis.”

The article and video give valuable information about the ongoing fight against the invasive Asian carp and the destructive impact the species have on our rivers and lakes. Please take a few moments to read the article and watch the video to learn more about the efforts to reduce damage caused by the Asian carp and to also help the “global malnutrition crisis.”

Read the article HERE. See the video below.

“These fish are a delicacy in China, where they are native, but Americans tend to dislike them,” said Mark Morgan, an associate professor in the School of Natural Resources. “Why eat bony, ugly carp when we can have trout and salmon, instead? But taken as a nutritional supplement, these fish, which have high amounts of macro and micronutrients, could have an incredibly positive impact on society while we loosen their hold on our waterways at the same time.”

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Missouri Prairie Foundation Earns National Recognition

Missourians strongly support protecting the open spaces they love. Since 1966, the Missouri Prairie Foundation has been doing just that for the people of Missouri. With its 25 properties across the state, which are open to the public to enjoy, the Missouri Prairie Foundation is protecting extremely biologically diverse and rare original, unplowed prairie, which is one of the most imperiled ecosystems on the planet, as well as expanding prairie habitat with native grassland plantings.

Today, the Land Trust Alliance announced that the Missouri Prairie Foundation has achieved national accreditation—joining a network of accredited land trusts across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in their work. There are currently 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the Land Trust Alliance’s most recent National Land Trust Census, and more than 400 of them are accredited.

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Cockroaches Are Getting A Makeover, But They Aren’t Incredible or Edible Yet!

by Don Corrigan

In any insect popularity contest, cockroaches always are near the bottom of the barrel. Cockroaches may rate more favorably than black widow spiders or tsetse flies, but they are generally loathed by most Americans.

All is not lost for the lowly cockroaches, however. Recently they have gained some cachet as lead characters in promotions, benefits and charitable causes. Celebrity cockroaches have arrived, like it or not.

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Bald Eagle Shot In Washington County, MDC Investigating

MDC Conservation Agent Jaymes Hall holds a wounded bald eagle at the Word Bird Sanctuary. MDC is seeking information from the public on the incident. Call 1-800-392-1111 to report any tips.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is investigating the shooting of a male bald eagle near the town of Belgrade in southern Washington County. The incident occurred at the intersection of Highways C and Z and is believed to have happened on Feb. 3 or 4.

On Feb. 5 MDC Washington County Conservation Agent Jaymes Hall received a report about the injured bald eagle from the U.S. Forest Service office in Potosi. Agent Hall responded and found the male bald eagle in a field near a nest, with its mate in the nest. Conservation Agent Hall verified the eagle was seriously injured and determined it needed to be captured so its injuries could be treated. Agent Hall was able to capture the eagle with the help of Viburnum Police Chief, Hershel Shipman.

“A special thank you goes out to Chief Shipman for his assistance,” said Hall.

Agent Hall transported the injured eagle immediately to the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS) in Valley Park. WBS staff examined the eagle and found that the bird’s right wing was dislocated and severely fractured. A closer examination revealed two gunshot wounds through the joint connecting the wing to the torso. Based on the extent of tissue healing, WBS estimated the bald eagle was shot on Feb. 3 or 4.

WBS operated on the bald eagle hoping to repair its injuries and rehabilitate it. Those injuries were too extensive however, and the bird did not survive.

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Part II: Missouri Rep. Sassmann Brings Conservationist Ethic To State Capital

Newly-elected state Rep. Bruce Sassmann and his wife, Jan.

By Don Corrigan

Newly-elected state Rep. Bruce Sassmann, R-Bland, was recently appointed to the Missouri House Committee on Conservation and Natural Resources. He brings unrivaled credentials to this work to be done under the dome in Jefferson City.

Sassmann and his wife, Jan, have taken a family farm and converted it into what they call the Prairie Star Restoration Farm. They give tours of the prairie site, where they have built replicas of the outdoor shelters of Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold and also a site for John Muir.

Thoreau, Leopold and Muir are praised by Sassmann as the “holy trinity of conservation.” But Sassman has brought his own brand of conservation to the farm, where he gives educational tours of the restored farm’s indigenous flora and fauna.

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