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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.

UPDATE TO STORY:

The hog farm in Livingston County proposed by United Hog Systems has withdrawn its permit application. Read the story in the Kansas City Star newspaper HERE.

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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Department of Natural Resources Awards $41.2 million In Assistance To The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District

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Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District will make collection system improvements

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources awarded a total of $41.2 million in financial assistance to the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District for upgrades to its collection system. The project is estimated to cost $43.2 million and is expected to be completed by January 2023.

The project is part of the sewer district’s Public Inflow and Infiltration Reduction Program to rehabilitate the existing collection system throughout the entire service area. This program is part of an ongoing effort to reduce the number and volume of overflows in the sewer district’s combined sewer and sanitary sewer systems.

Funding for the sewer rehabilitation project consists of a $40.2 million low-interest loan and a $1 million grant through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. To complete the project, the sewer district will provide an additional $2 million in local funds. The department’s funding is estimated to save ratepayers $1 million in principal and approximately $8 million in interest over the loan’s 20-year term.

“Improving the key infrastructure that Missouri communities rely on every day continues to be one of our top priorities,” said Governor Mike Parson. “We are absolutely committed to doing all we can to assist with infrastructure improvement projects large and small.”

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Sign Up For ‘Forest & Farms’ Earth Day Special For April 22

The Missouri Humanities Council and Heritage Programs recently volunteered to plant native trees to help replenish tree populations along the Katy Trail.  It’s all to kick-off a virtual program, “Forest & Farms: Explore the Historical Transformation of the Missouri River Valley,” to air April 22.

Panelists, Dan Burkhardt (Co-founder, Magnificent Missouri), Meridith McAvoy Perkins (Executive Director, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri), and Ken McCarty (Natural Resource Management Program Director, Missouri State Parks), will present on the historical transformation of the Missouri River Valley from lush bottom land forest to fertile farmland. They will explore how Missourians have shaped and been shaped by this landscape.

The program will showcase the “Trees of Treloar” conservation project of Magnificent Missouri, a mini-native tree arboretum at the Treloar Trailhead on the Katy Trail. Forest ReLeaf members and others will discuss finding a balance between reforesting the land and preserving the region’s cultural and agricultural heritage.

“Forest & Farms” will take place on Earth Day, April 22, 2021 at 6:30 P.M. (CST), and invites participants to discover the history of forests and farms along the Katy Trail. Today’s trail bikers and hikers can better appreciate what the landscape was — and what it can be! Participant Q&A to follow the panel discussion.

This virtual free event will be presented on Zoom and FB Live. To register CLICK HERE.

The program is a part of “Missouri’s Natural Environment: 200 Years and Beyond” series. This is a year-long series that coincides with the state’s bicentennial to explore Missouri’s natural landscapes. To learn more CLICK HERE.

EPA & Partners Install Trash Traps in St. Louis, Maplewood and University City Streams

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A “Trash Trout” trash trap floats on Deer Creek in Deer Creek Park in Maplewood, Missouri. (Photo credits: Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper, Ashville GreenWorks, and Trash Trout.)

The Trash-Free St. Louis Project to show how solving marine debris starts inland

EPA Region 7’s Trash-Free Waters program, along with Wichita State University’s Environmental Finance Center and the Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper organization, are working with local community groups on a project to install and maintain three trash traps in St. Louis area streams.

A stream trash trap is a mechanical system that includes a floating boom and net that funnel and gather floating debris near embankments, canals, or stormwater outfalls before it can reach  primary waterways like streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Three different types of trash traps are being installed at the following locations: “Trash Trout” at Deer Creek in Maplewood, Missouri; “B2B Beaver” at Mackenzie Creek in St. Louis; and, “Litter Gitter” at River Des Peres in University City, Missouri.

“Stream trash traps, like the ones being deployed in St. Louis, help build awareness of this issue and make the amount and composition of trash more visible, all the while helping to clean up litter in waterways,” said Jeff Robichaud, EPA Region 7’s Water Division director. “St. Louis has the ability to influence change and reduce the impacts caused by trash in urban streams and rivers that feed into the Gulf of Mexico.”

St. Louis serves as an ideal location to launch the pilot project to study trash and litter, as it sits on the confluence of the two most prominent American rivers, the Mississippi and Missouri. Their watersheds combined form the largest single watershed in the United States and flow south to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

“The debris and trash that enters these two watersheds often makes its way through storm sewers and remains hidden until storms and rain empty the debris from storm sewers into small streams and larger rivers,” Robichaud said. “This is a positive step in helping to keep River Des Peres – and the Mississippi River it flows into – cleaner for both the animals that live there and humans who rely on it,” said Diane Bauhof, executive director of the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation.

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Missouri State Museum and Daniel Boone Regional Library Present “Missouri Trailblazer: Thomas Hart Benton” Virtual Program April 20

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 Missouri State Museum and Daniel Boone Regional Library invite the public to a virtual program titled, “Missouri Trailblazer: Thomas Hart Benton,” at 1 p.m., Tuesday, April 20.

Viewing the mural, A Social History of the State of Missouri, is one of the most exciting parts of a visit to the Missouri Capitol. Painted by Thomas Hart Benton in 1936, the mural tells the story of the state from its pioneer beginnings to the industrial 20th century. Join Dr. Sarah Jones, art historian and museum interpreter, to discuss Benton’s life and career including the story of his Missouri mural and his role in the rise of American Regionalism. 

Adults and teens are welcome. Those interested in attending must register online to receive a Zoom link to the program at events.dbrl.org/event/4946747. The event will be recorded for later viewing.

This program is a monthly series in honor of Missouri’s bicentennial, highlighting Missouri’s most significant trailblazers who have had an impact on our culture through major events, leadership, innovation and more.

For more information about the event, call the Missouri State Museum at 573-751-2854.

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.comMissouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Tree Book Inspires “Men and Women Who Plant Trees”

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By Don Corrigan

Both Kirkwood and Webster Groves have been designated individually as a Tree City USA. That classification reflects citizen appreciation for large leafy wonders. Now some local folks are extending their love of trees to the Katy Trail and the Missouri River Valley.

Among those involved are Bill Spradley of Kirkwood’s Trees, Forests and Landscapes and Mike Rood of Pea Ridge Forest. They are extending their arbor expertise to an area of the Katy Trail in eastern Missouri. Hikers and bikers will enjoy new trees in trail locations such as Marthasville, Peers and Treloar. In addition to beautifying the sites, the tree canopy will protect trail users from summer sun and stave off trail erosion problems. It’s all part of a partnership between Forest Releaf of Missouri and Magnificent Missouri to plant hundreds of trees along the trail over three years.

“The trees we are planting were grown in our Missouri River bottom nursery in Creve Coeur Park and will find permanent homes near the Missouri River,” said Meridith Perkins, executive director of Forest ReLeaf. She said the project covers the Katy Trail “between Hermann and St. Charles to provide habitat, erosion control and shade for generations of Katy Trail user.” To celebrate the launch of this effort, a special edition of the conservation book, “The Man Who Planted Trees,” has been printed. The celebrated fable captures how planting trees can transform a landscape. It has sold more than 250,000 copies.

The book is now available at Pedego Electric Bikes in Oakland near the north trailhead of Grant’s Trail. It also can be ordered at MagnificentMissouri.org.

“We hope that this project, and our special edition of ‘The Man Who Planted Trees,’ will inspire Katy Trail riders and others to become acquainted with the benefits of tree planting, especially Missouri native trees, and the many wonderful species that Forest ReLeaf grows,” said Dan Burkhardt of Magnificent Missouri.

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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.

University of Missouri Scientists Receive $4 Million Grant To Study COVID and Virus Variants Found In Community Waste Water.

The University of Missouri (MU) recently published information announcing a two year study of the COVID virus and the virus variants found in community wastewater made possible by a $4 Million grant. Please read below for more from the MU press release and link to the article.

University of Missouri scientists receive $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine clues about the rate of infection in communities and virus variants.

Using the 2-year, $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, scientists at the University of Missouri are collaborating with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, or DHSS, to figure out how differing levels of SARS-CoV-2 can appear in a community’s wastewater.

READ THE STORY FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI HERE.

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!