Meet the Farmers: Conservation Practices Across Missouri
Soil health is an extremely important component of a functioning, environmentally-sustainable farm ecosystem. Farmers can receive government support to assist with financing their sustainable practices on a state level through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources incentivizes and supports these sustainable practices which conserve land and water quality through the Soil and Water Conservation Program (SWCP). The program provides funding and reimbursement to farmers and landowners who utilize a variety of sustainable management practices, in areas such as grazing, irrigation, pest and nutrient pollution, ground and surface water, and soil erosion. These grants and reimbursements can make management practices like cover crops more accessible and attractive to farmers, and encourage practices which benefit both the environment and human health. The program is funded through Missouri’s Parks, Soils, and Water sales tax supported by 80% of voters in 2016. MCE has been instrumental in organizing public support the Parks, Soils, and Water sales tax since it first appeared on the ballot in 1988.
MCE met with five farmers from across Missouri who diligently implement environmental conservation practices to improve soil health. Several of these farmers supported their conservation work with funding from SWCP.
Nikki Morganand her family run Hart Beet Farm in Eolia, Missouri, a small diversified farm on which she implements cover crops and crop rotation.
Richard Oswald farms corn in Langdon, Missouri and implements no-till methods.
Dennis MacDonald and his wife Becky operate a rotational grazing operation on their farm in Galt, Missouri and frequently move their grassfed herd throughout their property to keep their soil and cattle healthy.
Greg Judy owns Green Pastures Farm in Clark, Missouri and uses a variety of sustainable practices including raising free-range chicken and hogs and moving his cattle herds once a day.
Louise Belt grows a diversity of vegetables and raises chickens behind her home in Wildwood, MO.
Learn more about each farmer and their conservation practices with our short videos! More coming soon!
This project was supported by the Mississippi River Network.
TAKE ACTION - Citizens should have a voice in protecting our waters.
Factory Farms are undermining our rights to clean water and air. The Clean Water Commission is a 7-member citizens' board which holds the authority in Missouri to implement the federal Clean Water Act and Missouri Clean Water Law and certify factory farm permits. A new state law (HB 1713) has removed the legal requirement for public representation on this Commission. While no longer required, the governor can choose to appoint members of the public to this important commission instead of special interests such as the concentrated corporate agriculture industry.
Take action through the online form below to contact the Governor. Learn more! Watch our video on how the factory farm lobby undermined the integrity of our Clean Water Commission through the Missouri legislature.
Clean water is crucial to a healthy people and aquatic habitats, we advocate for the protection and restoration of our state's abundant and valuable water resources. Because we all need clean water, MCE works on behalf of Missouri's rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands - resources all of us depend on and enjoy.
"In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference." - Rachel Carson
TAKE ACTION NOW! Tell Gov. Greitens to preserve the public's voice in water protection!
Stormwater is water that originates during precipitation events including snow and ice melt. Precipitation can soak into the soil (infiltrate), be held on the surface and evaoporate, or runoff and end up in nearby streams, rivers, or other water bodies (surface water). As environmentalists, we are generally concerned about surface flow - precipitation that evaporates or infiltrates into the ground water has less chance to pick up pollutants from the ground before returning to the water cylce. Stormwater runoff, however, carries chemicals, sediment, and debris such as fertilizer and pesticides from agriculture and motor oil and salt during winter months into nearby rivers, creeks, and storm drains. These impervious surfaces do not allow water to slowly permeate the ground. Infiltration is very important because water that travels slowly to creeks and streams sustains flow in drier spells, which is good for aquatic life. Water that travels slowly through the ground also gets filtered by natural processes before it reaches the water body.
Conversely, impervious surfaces such as paved streets, parking lots, roof tops, and row cropped agricultural land don't allow water to see into the ground so it becomes runoff and travels to the nearest body of water. Water that travels too quickly can pick up and carry a lot more sediment and other pollutants. It also hits creaaks and streams in a rush, which worsens erosion and flooding. In urban areas, as stormwater travels through our gutters, down our streets, sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots into storm drains along the street is transported through stormwater and sewer systems. Learn more about urban stormwater and sewer systems here.
Many people mistakenly assume storm drains carry water to a treatment plant for to be cleaned before it enters our streams, creeks, and rivers, but this is NOT THE CASE! There are simply not enough resources to carry out such a massive task. Most storm drain inlets (except in combined sewer systems - see Sewer Systems and Wastewater) on the streets in your neighborhood transport water after a rain, storm, or snow melt directly to the nearest water body - carrying debris and pollutants from all of the human activities we do with it! Therefore, it is up to US to be WARRIORS fighting for the health of these amazing water resources in Missouri and beyond! Our choices add up. When we don't pick up pet waste, bacteria and nutrients - both harmful to aquatic ecosystems - are carried by stormwater directly to our streams and creeks which flow to larger rivers and ultimately, the ocean. Learn how to be a steward of the waters in your watershed below and take the Watershed Warrior pledge to make clean water choices!
Pollution from cities and towns in Missouri are a significant source of pollution to nearby waterways, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and ultimately, the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Streets, parking lots, and driveways are impervious - water cannot penetrate them - so they act like a network conveying water carrying pollution from oil, yard fertilizers, chemicals like yard pesticides, and pet waste into storm drains that deposit them directly into nearby waters. We all have a responsibility to do our part to reduce the amount of pollutants in the water entering storm drains in our neighborhoods and communities!
Using phosphorus-free or NO fertilizer, not watering our lawns (which runs off your yard into storm drains carrying fertilizers or nearby pollutants with it), planting native plants (or better yet- a whole rain garden!) that act as pollution filters, and picking up pet waste (EVEN IN YOUR BACKYARD!) are all GREAT ways to reduce your impact on water pollution in your watershed!
Best management practices (BMPs) can lessen the water quality impacts of pollutants carried into the water system after storms or snow melt. For example, pervious parking lots allow water to permeate the surface and increase the time water is in transport to the nearest water body. Another highly effective BMP is the use of vegetation to slow water transport and provide nutrient cycling as the root systems of plants absorb and filter water before it hits the water table beneath the surface and using some of it for their own growth. Vegetative buffers along agricultural fields is an effective way to reduce the surface flow coming off farm fields reducing pollution and erosion in the process. Rain gardens - depressions planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses near runoff sources - are another effective stormwater management technique. Learn more about St. Louis rain gardens here.
The consent decree agreement between the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) and the Environmental Protection Agency requires $100 million to spent on “green infrastructure” to alleviate Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) problems that much of the city is facing.
Green infrastructure, commonly abbreviated as “GI”, is a form of water management that incorporates plants and landscaping practices to control the flow and direction of stormwater. Central to the design of all green infrastructure projects is a concave soil bed that absorbs water and reduces impervious surface area in an urban landscape.
A bioswale in action on New York City's Streets. Similar bioswales can be found on South Grand in St. Louis
Green Infrastrucure has multiple benefits, helping to...
Reduce stormwater runoff which helps reduce erosion and flooding.
Increase the amount of water that soaks into the ground to recharge local groundwater.
Filter harmful pollutants such as oil and grease from driveways, pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, etc.
Increase biodiversity through providing habitat for beneficial insects and birds.
Enhance the landscaping and appearance of homes and yards.
Protect our streams and rivers.
NOTE: While the Venn Diagram above depicts the overlapping benefits of green infrastructure, MCE challenges the triple-bottom-line approach, generally, as insufficient for achieving long-lasting, equitable sustainability, and instead promotes the idea of "strong sustainability," emphasizing that the human sphere is embedded in a natural system with limits that ought to constrain our actions. For futher information, please read "Our Future" under MCE's publication page
What is Grey Infrastructure?
GI’s plant-based design differs from conventional Grey Infrastructure, which uses traditional pipe-based systems to direct and collect water. The city of Saint Louis installed its first grey infrastructure system in the early 1850s, and today nearly 10,000 miles of pipes are used to transport wastewater across the city.
Because grey infrastructure is such a well-established and standardized practice, it makes the design and construction of project relatively easy and timely when compared to other management practices. Additionally, the engineered design of grey infrastructure makes the practice easy to monitor and control (ex. computer control of sewer outflows, water flow)
In a combined sewer, excess rainfall can lead to overflows into waterways. Green infrastructure reduces the amount of stormwater that reaches sewers, reducing overflow events.
Despite its benefits, traditional wastewater systems can fall into disarray when they are not properly maintained. For years, much of St. Louis’ grey infrastructure was improperly cared for. Sewage and stormwater flow through an aging shared pipe system (combined sewers), and heavy rainfall combined with imprevious surfaces causes too much stormwater to enter the sewers. This leads to regular sewer backups and overflows, many of which happen in low-income minority areas of the city.
How can GI fix St. Louis’ Aging Sewers?
GI helps to increase the amount of storm water that can be reabsorbed into the watershed, reducing the occurrence of raw sewage overflows into streets and waterways. St. Louis is one of many cities that are looking to green infrastructure to alleviate the burden on aging grey infrastructure systems. In 2012, Kansas City completed its Middle Blue River Basin Project, helping to reduce annual combined sewer overflows by 76% (292,000 gallons at one outflow).
MCE supports MSD's efforts to use green infrastructure in order to:
Reduce overflows and strains on grey infrastructure
Promote community wellness through education and outreach
Thank you for commenting on the Clean Water Act Rulemaking!
This rule is urgently needed to guarantee clean water and healthier streams and wetlands.
In an important development, a new federal rule has been proposed that will assure clean water protections for some of our most important streams and wetlands.Recently, there has been a lot of legal confusion and controversy over whether smaller streams and certain wetlands are protected. As a result, some waters have become vulnerable to dumping, pollution, destruction etc. The unclear definition of what is protected has left 60% of our streams and at least 20% of the wetlands in the U.S. threatened. These streams and wetlands help reduce flooding, supply drinking water, and provide critical support like flow, pollution filtration, and food for fish and wildlife in downstream waters.
The proposed Clean Water Protection rule provides clarity, efficiency, and cleaner water by better defining which rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands the Clean Water Act protects while maintaining existing agricultural exemptions. The rule provides certainty regarding who needs to control pollution and who does not. It is based on a vast body of scientific literature that recognizes the vital connections between smaller streams and wetlands and downstream waters. It also presents the opportunity to tell the agencies to fully protect waters that are often wrongly written off as “isolated,” but that science shows provide important functions. Learn more about wetlands types.
By participating in the rulemaking process (e.g. sending comments), we can insist that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers ensure automatic protection for all streams and wetlands known to have significant connections to downstream waters.
We expect strong opposition from institutions that use our rivers, streams, and wetlands as dumping grounds. Regretfully these polluters have the ear of many members of Congress and are working hard to defeat the rule. Don’t let them block this noble effort. Together we can ensure the Clean Water Protection rule is finalized and our waters protected. Stand up for clean water today!
Thank you for helping protect America’s waters.
Clean Water Protection Rule
Unfortunately, the Clean Water Protection Rule is currently blocked nationwide by courts—this action is only temporary.
After considering feedback from over 400 public meetings and more than 1,000,000 public comment letters, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released the Clean Water Protection Rule on May 27, 2015. By clearly spelling out what constitutes "Waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act, the rule provides clarity, efficiency, and cleaner water by better defining which rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands the Act protects while maintaining existing agricultural exemptions. The rule provides certainty regarding who is regulated for pollution controls and who is not. It is based on a vast body of scientific literature that recognizes the vital connections between smaller streams and wetlands and downstream waters. It also presents the opportunity to tell the agencies to fully protect waters that are often wrongly written off as "isolated," but that science shows provide important functions. Learn more about the Clean Water Protection Rule
The Clean Water Protection Rule has faced repeated challenges. Numerous states, including Missouri, filed suit against the EPA to have the rule repealed. Thirteen states, including Missouri, filed a motion for preliminary injunction that halted the rule's implementation within those states on August 28, 2015. Although a bill proposed in the the Senate that would have threatened to kill the Clean Water Protection Rule was defeated in November of 2015, opponents in the House of Representatives successfully passed legislation to undermine the rule:
H.R. 1732 – the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015 passed the House of Representatives on May 12, 2015 and is now being considered in the Senate. Despite the extensive public input EPA and the Corps have considered in crafting the proposed rule, if enacted into law, H.R. 1732 would force EPA to withdraw the rule and start from scratch regarding the Clean Water Protection Rule. Polluters are often well-funded and vocal. We need to be the voice of the environment. Tell your Senator to reject this effort to thwart the implementation of the Clean Water Protection rule and support our waters!
What are pesticides?
It’s hard to imagine modern agriculture without pesticides, but agriculture’s dependence on these substances can have a impacts on our water’s safety. Pesticides are “any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered to be pests”. This includes herbicides which control weeds, insecticides which control insect or animal pests, fungicides which control fungi growth, disinfectants to encourage fungi growth, and compounds used to control mice and rats. Pesticides are used for agriculture, but also for domestic uses and personal uses, like RoundUp to control weeds in yards, bug spray, and even common household cleaning products (disinfectants). Pesticides can reach waterways from runoff, leaching, erosion, or incorrect disposal of chemicals by individuals or large corporations.
Our dependence on pesticides for agricultural uses has only grown in the past 50 years. From 1960 to 2008, total pesticide use has increased from 157.68 million pounds to 516.11 million pounds. Genetically modified crops, otherwise called GMOs, complicate the increased use of pesticides within our agricultural system. Many genetically modified crops are altered so that they are resistant to certain pesticides. While the pesticide kills weeds, it can also kill crops, so genetically modified seeds are used so they are able to sustain the pesticides. One of the most common examples of this is Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready corn and soybeans, meant to accommodate RoundUp (glyphosate). In order to use glyphosate on their crops, farmers must purchase the seeds from Monsanto, ultimately allowing Monsanto to dominate both the pesticide and seed market.
Environmental and Public Health Impacts
Pesticide use can have an impact on our waterways and our drinking water, which it reaches through runoff, leaching, or erosion. After rain, stormwater carries the pesticides from its original location to nearby waterways, like creeks or streams that feed into larger waterways. In the past decade, a variety of chemicals derived from agricultural uses have been found in our groundwater. It is difficult to decipher the long-term health impacts that pesticide exposure can have on humans, but many commonly used pesticides are constantly being tested. Exposure to some pesticides can result in mild side effects, but some can have a more serious impact. Most recently, though, California added RoundUp, one of the most commonly used pesticides, to a list of known carcinogens. Many are pushing for a label which would warn users of its carcinogenic qualities.
Pesticides can impact soil health and the organisms that live in the soil. For instance, while pesticides do a good job of managing the pests, they can degrade the soil and hurt beneficial soil organisms. Additionally, pesticides can be unintentionally harmful to important pollinators like honey bees. A bee affected by the insecticide will either die upon the interaction with the insecticide, or can transport the poison back to its hive and affect other bees, too.  Pesticides can also negatively impact wildlife in aquatic ecosystems if leached into waterways. As all pesticides are toxic on some level by their very nature and purpose, they can kill off important organisms like insects, which fish rely on for food or disrupt reproduction of aquatic life .
Another common issue associated with pesticide use is the issue of drift. Pesticide drift is “the airborne movement of pesticides from an area of application to any unintended site” . Pesticides can drift from farm to farm, which damages the crop of farmers who are not using crops that are resistant to the pesticide. This is most recently been an issue with the pesticide, Dicamba, which is applied to the genetically modified, Dicamba-tolerant seed.
This growing season, farmers in Missouri have reported issues with Dicamba drift in startling numbers. From July 1, 2016 to June 29th this year, the Missouri Department of Agriculture has received 212 dicamba-related complaints. 123 of these 212 complaints have occurred from January 2017 until June 29th. On July 7th, Missouri Department of Agriculture announced a temporary ban on the selling and on-farm use of dicamba, with an official statement, “The Missouri Department of Agriculture has temporarily issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order on all Dicamba products in Missouri. All of us at the Missouri Department of Agriculture are working to lead Missouri through the challenges we're facing related to Dicamba drift damage. With any new technology, there are growing pains, and our goal is to help farmers and ranchers on both sides of the issue through them” . Hopefully, the ban will reduce the negative impact that Dicamba drift has on Missouri farmers this season, while bringing attention to the harmful effects pesticides have on aquatic life, soil degradation, and human health.
Alternatives to Pesticides
Luckily, there are many alternatives to pesticides for agriculture. For instance, integrated pest management relies on common-sense practices to manage pests in the least harmful way to both humans and the environment, by understanding the pest’s lifecycle.  Additionally, both crop rotation and cover crops can help manage bad pests, while encouraging beneficial insects . These methods of pest control have a variety of benefits, for the environment, insects, soil, and human health.
Hart Beet Farm does not spray pesticides on their farm.
We continue to support the protection of our nation's waters and are disappointed by the court's decision. Headwater streams and wetlands are intricately tied to larger rivers and lakes - our sources of drinking water and outdoor recreation as well as vital components of healthy aquatic ecosytems.
The Clean Water Protection Rule has faced repeated challenges. Numerous states, including Missouri, filed suit against the EPA to have the rule repealed. 13 states, including Missouri, filed a motion for preliminary injunction that halted the rule's implementation on August 28 (AP Report).
Concurrently, a bill was passed by the House (H.R. 1732) and another is now making its way through the Senate (S.R. 1140) to block the rule.
TELL SENATORS MCCASKILL AND BLUNT THAT MISSOURIANS SUPPORT CLEAN WATER!!
Sen. Barrasso (R-WY)'s S.B. 1140 tries to kill the rule by requiring the Army Corps and EPA start from scratch in it's development and incorporating input from another round of public comments - in addition to the over 1 million comments and 400 public meetings already held for this purpose.
Contact Senator Blunt (R-MO) (a co-sponsor of the bill) and let him know you disagree with his efforts to repeal the Clean Water Protection Rule here
Contact Senator McCaskill (D-MO) and urge her to oppose S.B. 1140 in the Senate here
Casino at Columbia Bottom in Spanish Lake
After 18 months of work by the Save the Confluence Coalition, on December 1, 2012 the Missouri Gaming Commission announced Cape Girardeau will get Missouri’s last casino license, ending plans for a casino at Columbia Bottom in Spanish Lake, at the Chain of Rocks in St. Louis and at Sugar Creek in Kansas City.
The newspapers reported: “Asked why St. Louis lost out, Mathewson [Gaming Commission Chair] said: “We received stacks and stacks of opposition, just baskets of it, from the area. We also had a lot of positives. And I think probably the biggest single concern there is, is that market is already well-covered with casinos.”
Thousands of Missourians told the Missouri Gaming Commission to look outside St. Louis for a home for the next casino.
The original site that sparked the controversy was 377 acres adjacent to the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in north St. Louis County at Spanish Lake near the Confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The plan placed a casino and shopping complex in the Mississippi River floodplain in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway used by migratory birds.
The Save the Confluence Coalition began its advocacy work toward victory in August of 2009. By the time of the Gaming Commission’s decision, the Coalition represented more than 100,000 Missourians. The casino developers met strong resistance from the Save the Confluence coalition at every turn. Organizations whomunited with Save the Confluence included: Audubon Missouri, BOTT Radio Network, Chatham Bible Church, The Confluence Partnership, Conservation Federation of Missouri, Glasgow Village Improvement Association, Grace Baptist Church, Mississippi Valley Duck Hunters Association, Missouri Clergy Against Gambling Expansion, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, National Audubon Society, Old Jamestown Association, Riverview Drive Improvement Association, St. Louis Audubon Society, St. Louis Christian Chinese Community Service Center, St. Louis Metro Baptist Association—70 Churches in St. Louis County, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Sierra Club: Eastern Missouri, Spanish Lake Community Association, Webster Groves Nature Study Society, and West Side Missionary Baptist Church.
Between the unified opposition and the bad economics, the casino developers faced difficult odds. Save the Confluence commissioned an economic analysis of the casino developer’s plan. The analysis clearly illustrated the St. Louis market was saturated — any new casino would cannibalize existing casinos. The new River City Casino which opened in south St. Louis in May 2009 already demonstrated this negative impact on revenues compared to competing enterprises. Casino executives from St. Charles County testified against a St. Louis license because of this market impact. The Missouri Deppartment of Economic Development issued an Economic Analysis in late November that concluded that any benefits of a St. Louis casino would be offset by losses at existing area casinos.
Buildinga casino next to one of the most prized natural areas in the region likewise proved a failing. One of the driving factors in the defeat of the Columbia Bottom casino was how it would undermine the $170 million investment in natural areas, parks, museums and conservation areas in the Confluence region.
This David vs. Goliath struggle of the Save the Confluence coalition vs. the casino developers ultimately prevailed because the numbers were on our side. However, it was our job to shine a bright light on these facts by continually feeding this information to the press through press conferences, releases, and letters to the editor. The results were dozens of articles that consistently linked any stories about the casinos with the Save the Confluence opposition and the very real threat to this natural area. On a second front, we continually reiterated the bad economic facts to the gaming commission with the postcards mentioned above but also private letters, phone calls and comments made at public hearings from lawmakers and community leaders who were asked to and did speak out.
Some of the highlights of the campaign included nearly 50 people picketing the County Council when it made its rezoning decision, KETC’s production of a video about the Confluence area, a letter from filmmaker Ken Burns in support of the Confluence, and a tour of the site one morning with the herons gliding over its waters. And who could forget the eagle suit at Eagle Days?
The developers seeking the casino at Columbia Bottom fell out when they failed to submit a complete application by the Gaming Commission’s fall deadline. It was then that the Koman family’s proposal for a casino at the Chain of Rocks Bridge in north St. Louis became the top St. Louis candidate for the license. Riverview Drive Improvement Association, which had successfully fought other casino attempts, was joined by a second city neighborhood organization, the Chain of Rocks Community Association in opposition to the casino plan. As the only St. Louis city location, the Aldermen, the Mayor and other boosters joined with Koman. Nevertheless, the Gaming Commission’s December 1 decision eliminated that option as the final license was granted to Cape Girardeau.
More Good News
Great Rivers Greenway announced December 22 that it acquired 11.8 acres of the undeveloped property at the Chain of Rocks Bridge for $1.25 million from the Koman family, pursuant to a previous agreement. The newly acquired property, which has been used with the Koman Family’s permission for public functions in the past, will eventually be used to provide greater public access and additional amenities at the bridge and trailhead.
Save the Confluence supporters are still aware of threats to the Columbia Bottom area and are working to find ways to protect the floodplain for agriculture and low-density uses.
Check out our interactive story map citing examples of green infrastructure and their benefit on urban water quality in St. Louis and on reducing the burden of stormwater on our sewer system!
The St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District has provided grants for small and large-scale rainscaping, rain gardens, and rain barrel projects throughout the city. The City of St. Louis, MSD, East-West Gateway, and others are working to promote green infrastructure and urban renewal throughout the city and metro area. For more information on GI work in St. Louis, visit the City of St. Louis’ Urban Vitality website here.
Rainscaping and Rain Gardens
A feasible and innovative way to collect the rainwater and beautify your garden at the same time is to build a rain garden! As an important and versatile tool towards stormwater management, a rain garden is a landscaped site that collects, absorbs, and filters stormwater runoff from roof tops, driveways, patios, and other hard surfaces that don't allow water to soak in.
Below is a diagram showing how a residential rain garden works in your yard. A rain garden starts with a bowl-shaped bed of loose soil with plantations of deep-rooted trees, bushes, flowers and other plants that help absorb the rainwater. The plants serve as filters through layers of soil before the rain water enters the groundwater system or the stormwater system through the underdrain. Your rain garden is your personal contribution to cleaner water!
If you are interested in building a rain garden in your yard or neighborhood, check out the resources below:
The average cost of building a residential rain garden is $630 with 74 hours of labor. The Metropolitan Sewer District's Project Clear has funds available for citizens to build their own rain gardens. Although their grant application period has expired, visit the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance's website to see examples of how this watershed group funded numerous rainscaping projects in St. Louis in the last 3 years.
MCE, Missouri Botanical Garden, and ShowMe Rain Gardens, a local initiative comprised of the Soil & Water Conserviation District of St. Louis County, MSD, and others, all want to promote rain gardens in St. Louis and throughout the ShowMe state. Share your rain garden journey with others!
Or, simply contact us if you want your rain garden on our map on this webpage
Ozark National Scenic Riverways at risk
In 2011, American Rivers designated the Ozark National Scenic Riverways one of the most endangered rivers in the country. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then and some things have gotten worse. MCE and Friends of Ozark Riverways want to protect the outstanding natural beauty, ecological vitality, and rich history of the Riverways.
We have an opportunity to address degradation of the treasured Ozark National Scenic Riverways and protect the resource for generations through the National Park Service's upcoming Roads and Trails Plan. And WE NEED YOUR HELP!
We stand to lose a lot over the next few years unless we keep the pressure on to protect our most precious resources. Any setback in the protection and maintenance of Missouri's premier National Park, Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) could take decades to restore. We must be vigilant in our protection. And we have the perfect opportunity in the upcoming Roads and Trails Plan.
ONSR is one of Missouri's most treasured areas for biodiversity and outdoor adventure. It is a place of exquisite natural beauty and is unparalleled in the unique and remote recreational activities it offers visitors.
In 2015, ONSR attracted 1.2 million visitors, with local economic benefits over $50-million. It was the first park of its kind to protect a river system, the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers.
The General Management Plan guides policies and practices in the Riverways for decades to come. It sets priorities for resources, staffing, and activities. The Roads and Trails Plan is a more specific plan and the Park Service is in the process of considering comments from recent open houses and drafting preliminary alternatives. The alternatives are scheduled to be released in February 2016 and we will need your help to advocate for the best alternative.
Stay tuned for more details!
MCE's comments on the 2015 General Management Plan
The draft plan presents three alternative approaches which are outlined below.
In the Riverways, unauthorized roads, overuse by all terrain vehicles and excessive equestrian use in sensitive areas have contributed to degradation including increased bank erosion, more sediment in the water, reduced habitat quality, and unsafe bacteria levels in certain river stretches. Re-directing high impact activities to areas where damage is minimized, establishing levels of use that enable the rivers to maintain quality, allowing damaged areas to heal, and organizing activities with respect for the natural resources are the keys to stewardship of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. With your input, management of high impact activities can be integrated fairly into a GMP that preserves fishing, floating, hiking, boating, and wildlife habitat.
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment has supported policies that help restore and preserve outstanding water quality and habitat values, address threats to water quality, and maintain the quality of the Riverways for this and future generations.
Main Message: Strengthen the Management of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways through completion of a new General Management Plan (the current plan dates from 1989).
What the plan does:
The draft plan proposes management zones for land and water uses that vary in extent for each of three alternatives. The land-based zones are:
See maps of the zones for each alternative on pages 61, 67, 75 and 81 in the plan and a comparison of alternatives in Table 13 on pages 125-30 here.
This park’s problems have included the seemingly ever-expanding presence of motorized vehicles and their maze of eroded tracks in riparian areas and on gravel bars; the explosive growth of equestrian use and proliferation of undesignated trails and river crossings (many of which are in sensitive riverine areas or on steep, heavily-eroded slopes); overcrowding in certain reaches of the rivers and resulting conflicts among user groups, coupled with the rowdy behavior of some visitors; and inadequate monitoring and enforcement of scenic easements.
Though people will differ in their views of which alternative is best, we support the Friends of Ozark Riverways belief that the National Park Service has provided a reasonable range of alternatives and deserves support for its commitment to dealing with serious problems that have developed over the years.
However, the Riverways has seen a 30% reduction in staff in the last decade, owing to decreases in funding, and there is no guarantee that funds will be enhanced to the levels anticipated by the plan alternatives. That is one reason to approach with caution higher cost alternatives that feature increased development and more intensive use like those presented in Alternative C. We favor maintaining visitation at approximately the current level while emphasizing improvements that are less demanding in terms of staff and more conducive to family recreation.
Each of the action alternatives provides for:
A mix of recreational and interpretive activities
More effective distribution of concession drop-off/pickup points for watercraft to reduce crowding
Year-round non-motorized watercraft use, motor-free zones, and zones for year-round or seasonal motorized watercraft use
Mountain biking on designated trails
Management of roads, river access points and land access to gravel bars by zones
Ecological restoration projects including restoration of undesignated roads, traces, trails, and river access points and crossings
Preparation of a horse use and trail management plan (and possible permit system), improving and adding more designated horse trails, and closing and restoring many informal trails
Increasing law enforcement for compliance
Restoration of historic structures and cultural landscapes
Allowing mountain biking on designated trails
Allowing for new concessions for overnight activities such as guided float trips and guided backcountry hiking trips
Partnering with state officials to enhance healthy game fish populations
Partnering with counties on road management and with state officials to enhance healthy fish and wildlife populations, organizing a national park advocacy group for the Riverways and various other partnerships
Construction of various new park operational facilities
The National Park Service identifies Alternative A as the environmental preferable alternative. It emphasizes traditional, non-mechanized recreation and visitor experiences that are quieter, less crowded and slower-paced. To reduce motorized intrusion it would close unauthorized roads, traces and river accesses, restore 50 miles of such roads to native vegetation, replace 15 miles of undesignated roads within primitive management zones with hiking trails, and no longer allow motor vehicles on gravel bars (walk-in or float-in day use and camping still allowed). To reduce equestrian overuse it would add 25 more miles of designated horse trails, close and restore 65 miles of undesignated horse trails, improve the design of the 23 miles of currently designated horse trails, and consider establishing a permit system for horse use within the park. To improve visitor experience and reduce conflicts among users, there would be more hiking trails, more motor-free zones, and redistribution or limit of commercial services. There are some staffing increases.
The National Park Service prefers this alternative. It would enhance opportunities for visitors to learn about the park’s natural and cultural resources, and provide a balance of diverse recreational opportunities with increased opportunities for education and appreciation of park resources. To reduce motorized intrusion it would close undesignated roads and access points, restore 45 miles of such roads to natural condition, convert 10 miles of roads in primitive zones to hiking trails and reduce and designate camp sites on gravel bars open to vehicles. To reduce equestrian overuse it would add 35 miles of designated horse trails, close and restore 65 miles of undesignated horse trails and unauthorized river crossings, improve the design of the 23-mile long designated horse trail system to avoid sensitive areas, establish a permit system for horse use within the park, and may allow for designated horse camping sites. To improve visitor experience, there would be a new learning center and visitor contact station at Powder Mill; two additional campgrounds at existing day use areas at Akers on the Current and Blue Spring on the Jack’s Fork; additional trails; a resumed oral history program, discovery sites, and enhancement of archive and museum collections; and strengthened monitoring, research, and preservation projects. The Cedar Grove low water crossing would be replaced with a high-water bridge. Waste systems in the park would be improved. There are staffing increases under this alternative.
Alternative C would accommodate higher levels of park visitation and more intensive recreation while striving to maintain the scenic natural setting and protect cultural resources. To reduce motorized intrusion it would close undesignated roads and access points, restore 40 miles of such roads to natural conditions, replace five miles of roads in primitive zones with hiking trails, and allow vehicular access only to designated sites on gravel bars. To reduce equestrian overuse it would add 45 miles of designated horse trails, and close 65 miles of undesignated trails and river crossings; it might also develop a 25-unit horse camp along the Jacks Fork. Visitor experiences would include two additional campgrounds, possible more backcountry and primitive campsites, more interaction among visitors and higher resource impacts especially in higher use area. Staffing levels would increase the most under this alternative to provide for more use and more monitoring and mitigation of impacts to resources.
The 1989 plan is due for an update in order to reverse the degradation of the Riverways. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways deserves an increased investment of staff and resources to ensure it retains its quality as Missouri's own 'Yellowstone'.
We prefer Alternative B, with some additions and qualifications, because it:
Addresses concession (floaters) drop off and pick up location overcrowding in certain areas by redistributing them to include 20 new designated access points while keeping the total designated access points constant. (Alternative C also does this.)
Provides a balance of diverse recreational opportunities;
Enhances opportunities for visitors to learn about the park’s natural and cultural resources including discovery sites, and expanded archive and museum collections;
Restores 45 miles of undesignated roads to natural condition while reopening some old roads for vehicular access to discovery sites;
Reduces gravel bars designated for vehicle access which helps reduce ecosystem damage and protect public safety;
Adds 35 miles of designated horse trails to the existing 23 miles of designated horse trails, while closing and restoring 65 miles of undesignated horse trails and unauthorized river crossings;
Improves the design of the 23-mile long designated horse trail system to avoid sensitive areas while keeping the seven designated stream crossings;
Establishes a permit system for horse use within the park as necessary in conjunction with development of a horse use and trail management plan;
Establishes a new learning center and visitor contact station at Powder Mill;
Builds two additional campgrounds at existing day use areas at Akers on the Current and Blue Spring on the Jack’s Fork;
Restores five additional cemeteries (Alternative C does this too);
Restores additional historic structures;
Enhances the Riverways’ role as an archeological curatorial hub for the region.
Resumes an oral history program;
Strengthens monitoring, research, and preservation projects;
Replaces the Cedar Grove low water crossing with a high-water bridge;
Improves waste systems in the park;
Separates back country camping (which offers some facilities) from primitive zones (which offer no facilities).
Additionally, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment supports the following changes:
More hiking trails (each alternative offers 15 miles or fewer)
No horse campgrounds in the Riverways (25 sites are proposed for Alernatives B and C). We do not agree that the ONSR needs a designated horse camp in the park, preferring that this opportunity be developed by the private sector, on private land in proximity to the park. Instead of a new development of this magnitude, we ask that NPS work with existing local businesses to provide a concession horse camping operation outside the park that would have less impact on park resources within the narrow river corridor.
Minimal restrictions on motorized boats. We oppose year-round prohibitions on boats in certain stretches of the Riverways because such restrictions would eliminate opportunities for area residents to enjoy the Riverways. We think any restrictions on boats should be minimal and driven by evidence of a problem that only restrictions will solve. If better enforcement will solve the problem we prefer that to prohibitions.
Sensitive natural and cultural resource management that avoids new conversions of bottomland riparian forests to open fields, or artificial pasture for elk and other animals and focuses on restoration of upland meadows, woodlands, and glades with native vegetation.
The restoration of impaired riverbanks that avoids developed facilities along the rivers, which are screened from view from the river in any case, and low impact. We suggest that heavily engineered solutions be avoided (e.g. Rock and weirs) and instead NPS talent and experience be employed to bring natural landscape design and sustainable structures appropriate to the site.
Prioritization of solutions for problem areas that focuses on low-impacts in riparian zones. For example, the area across from Welch Spring should be restored where heavily rutted unauthorized roads mar an undeveloped bank. Damaged areas should not serve as opportunity to add new ‘hardened’ development where it does not belong and instead should receive restoration.
MCE urges the National Park Service to approach the designation of mountain bike trails with care for the vulnerabilities of the landscape so that erosion, impacts to biodiversity and water quality are minimized.
Friends of Ozark Riverways agrees with NPS that Alterative B provides the most balance among the three alternatives, though some of our organizations and members may favor the environmentally preferable Alternative A or a mix of elements from alternatives A and B. Alternative B would provide more staff for maintenance, monitoring and enforcement while substantially enhancing visitor experience of park resources. We believe that several improvements could strengthen the plan:
Scenic Easements. Although there are not changes to scenic easements proposed in this plan there are 9,257 acres of scenic easements that are intended to maintain the natural environment and scenery for the benefit of the visiting public. These easements are critical to the quality of the Riverways. They were acquired to add public value to the national park and need to be effectively monitored in a timely manner. Easement violations must be corrected promptly.
Annual Visitation and Economic Influence. Visitation is about 1.3-1.5 million people each year. A 2011 study estimated visitor spending at $55,445,000, more than 88% of which is by non-local visitors. This spending combined with NPS employment accounted for 845 jobs, or 16% of total employment in Shannon and Carter counties. We support this high-valued investment in the Ozark region of south-central Missouri, understanding that a well-managed park and the visitors it attracts may be the most important contributors to the long-term economic health of local communities.
Wilderness. The GMP review includes one small, undeveloped backcountry/wildland area of approximately 3,400 acres near Big Spring. The area, which was acquired as a state park in the 1920’s and later became part of the ONSR, has been continually managed as an undeveloped wild area and we support that approach. We also support the use of prescribed fire to manage wildland quality. The NPS is proposing in each alternative to recommend some portion of the Big Spring area as qualified for federal wilderness protection (Alternative C proposes 1,779 acres for Big Springs wilderness). Management would continue largely unchanged as it has been but with the recognition that it can provide a true wilderness experience, which would be an addition to riverways offerings we support the NPS-preferred Alternative B which recommends 3,430 acres for wilderness management , while recognizing that official designation as federal wilderness is beyond the scope of the ONSR GMP.
Horsepower Limit. Zoning for horsepower limits on boats have been part of existing regulations since the River Use Management Plan of 1989. FOR supports the balanced approach of motor-free zones for upper reaches of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers and seasonal or year-round provision for motors on other reaches as proposed in Alternative B. (NPS recognizes that the present and proposed 60/40 horsepower limit is in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations and is proposing a rule change process in order to continue allowing it.)