Blog Archives

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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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From Classroom to Bookshelf: Publishing a DIY Guide to Local Environmental Issues

By DON CORRIGAN

A popular ad slogan for city tourism is “St. Louis has it all from A to Z.” That’s certainly true when it comes to hazardous waste issues or land, air and water pollution. It’s not hard to find environmental tales from the St. Louis region that grab my students’ attention and elicit incredulity.

A journalism professor in St. Louis can talk about dioxin at Times Beach, lead smelters in Herculaneum, a creek on fire across the Mississippi River near the Sauget chemical works, or the dangerous radioactive waste pile near a smoldering landfill west of Lambert International Airport.

Soon students will be asking these kinds of questions:

– How can a waste oil hauler get away with spraying roads of an entire town with a dioxin concoction?
-What prompts a state legislature to pass laws to immunize a lead company from contamination lawsuits?
-When does a landfill operator get sanctioned for allowing a landfill fire to smolder for months near a site containing radiation?

These are questions that can inspire students to research and write their own investigative stories. The local aspect of the stories propels a personal interest in the environmental issues. Knowing that these stories can be located in the students’ own backyards – sometimes literally – gives them a special urgency.

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Gateway Greening’s Gardening 101, March 18

Gateway Greening’s Gardening 101 Webinar will be held Thursday, March 18th at 6:00pm.

New to gardening or just need a refresher? This class mainly covers vegetable gardening. Going into what crops work for different seasons, how to read seed packs, basic pest management, what crops do best in our region, and some specific tips on finicky crops such as tomatoes and squash.

This class will be virtual through Zoom. Registration is required. Participants will receive Zoom information via email immediately after registering.

Register HERE.

Visit the Gateway Greening website for more events and information.

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Top Ten Environmental Issues In Missouri

Pictured: Rich Thoma of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society

by Don Corrigan

What are the Top Ten Environmental Issues that Missourians have coped with last century, from 1900 to 2000? Rich Thoma of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society (WGNSS) recently had a conversation about this. WGNSS members have been involved in a number of environmental battles. What quickly became apparent to me is that naming these Top Ten will depend in large part on what environmental groups you may have affiliation. St. Louis and Missouri have a number of such organizations that have been on the frontlines.

Here is one take on the Top Ten Environmental Issues in Missouri, but it is not definitive. Revisions and commentary on these are welcome. Additions and subtractions may be necessary to put an accurate list together.

1.)  Atomic City – radioactive waste issues in Weldon Spring, West Lake Landfill, Coldwater Creek.

2.) Lead Contamination – Lead smelter products poisoned people in urban center and the Leadbelt.

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Community Science Volunteers Needed For FrogWatch USA

Photo: Gray tree frog By Michael Dawson, Saint Louis Zoo.

Saint Louis Zoo virtual training sessions set for March 5, 13

Jump in and become a FrogWatch USA™ volunteer with the Saint Louis Zoo! Members of the St. Louis-area community are needed to monitor frogs and toads from their backyards, parks, fields, creeks or just about anywhere. The information gathered can lead to practical and workable ways to stop amphibian decline.
You do not have to be an expert to be help with frog conservation. All you need is an interest in frogs and toads and a willingness to participate at the level of commitment that works for you.
“We will train you to distinguish the croaks, peeps, and various calls of the 10 most common frog and toad species around the St. Louis area,” says Michael Dawson, Conservation Education Liaison at the Zoo, and coordinator of the St. Louis Chapter of FrogWatch USA. “Breeding calls vary greatly and are often mistaken for birds or insects. Their volume ranges from a soft musical trill to a deafening chorus.”

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February Polar Vortex Knocked Out Electricity in Texas; Utility Experts Say “Green New Deal” Is Not To Blame

Photo: Michal Dziekonski

By Don Corrigan

The worst polar vortex event of the winter has faded quickly for St. Louis residents. The memory of the bitter cold and snow storm have melted away. Not so in Texas, where electrical outages, burst pipes and critical equipment failures continue to plague the Lone Star State.

Texas towns suffered weather-related fatalities and millions of dollars in damage from one of the costliest weather disasters in U.S. history. Could the St. Louis area and Midwest suffer a similar fate in a brutal winter storm and extended cold snap?

Mark Petty, Kirkwood Electric Director, who said his job “is to keep the lights on,” does not foresee any such utility catastrophe for his suburban city. Kirkwood is the only municipality in the St. Louis region with its own electric department.

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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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