Environment

Kyle Spradley / MU College of Agriculture

This time of year, trees tend to attract more attention than usual. As the hours of sunlight shorten and temperatures fall, chemical changes in leaves bring out the bright yellows and reds across the canopies of Missouri’s many forests.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that spectacle and those forests, are timeless. But the woods as we know them today are a relatively modern development and Missouri’s historical woodlands looked considerably different. Understanding that history can help conservationists better manage our modern forests to encourage diversity and benefit wildlife.

Sebastian Martinez / KBIA

On an overcast Saturday morning, the weekend after Halloween a group of some 30 people gathered at one of St. Louis’s oldest cemeteries. Bellefontaine Cemetery is the final resting place of historical Missourians like William Clark and William S. Borroughs, but on this day the tour group was there to learn about how Bellefontaine is keeping up to date with green burials.

The group was led by Dan Fuller, the volunteer coordinator and guide for the cemetery. "A contemporary burial produces this kind of a carbon footprint," he said, lifting his hand high to show the environmental impact of a typical modern burial. "An outer container, a metal coffin, an embalmed body, 6-foot deep with a headstone," all add to that footprint, he explained.

Dana L. Drake

Fall is a season we typically associate with changing leaves, cooling temperatures, and the natural world beginning to quiet down before the long, dormant winter months. But for some animals, the season brings new life, rather than death. 

And if you’re out in the woods this month, perhaps hunting mushrooms after an autumn rain, you might just run into one. The creatures I’m referring to are Missouri’s fall-breeding salamanders: the ringed salamander and the marbled salamander.

Bruce Schuette / Missouri Prairie Foundation

It’s just before dawn in Southwest Missouri, and the outermost rays of the sun are just starting to reach across a dazzling array of wildflowers carpeting the shallow valley that runs along County Road 2120 near Mount Vernon. Crickets and cicadas are in full voice, interrupted only by the piercing call of dickcissels who nest in the thickets of sumac that dot the grassland.

Sebastian Martinez valdivia / KBIA

As Missouri enters the fall, one last wave of wildflowers are blooming now, before the winter frosts start. Throughout the state, asters, goldenrods, and other late-bloomers paint Missouri’s varied woodlands, prairies, meadows and glades in shades of yellow, pink, purple and white. But hidden among the tall grasses and undergrowth this time of year you can sometimes find something rarer – native orchids. People often associate orchids with tropical areas, but Missouri is home to more than 30 species of orchids, and while their flowers are typically pretty showy, a lot of the crucial action with orchids happens underground.


Sebastian Martinez Valdivia / KBIA

Late summer and early fall might not seem like a very tropical time in Missouri, but it is the best season to find one of the last remaining pieces of the state’s tropical past. I’m talking about the largest edible native fruit in North America – the elusive paw paw. Despite the fruit’s uniquely exotic flavor, and the fact that it grows throughout the Midwest, you won’t find the paw paw in most groceries, which means if you want to taste it, you have to set off into the woods, which is exactly what I did on a recent afternoon.


Kirk Kittell / flickr

Missouri utility regulators have rejected a proposed high-voltage power line to carry wind power across the Midwest to eastern states.

The decision Wednesday by the Missouri Public Service Commission creates a significant hurdle for Clean Line Energy Partners, which wants to build one of the nation's longest transmission lines.

All the other states along its route already have granted approval. The line would run from Kansas through Missouri and Illinois to Indiana, where it would connect with a power grid for eastern states.

Feral Hogs Can Damage Missouri Agriculture - And They're Not Easy to Catch

Jun 16, 2017
MDC Staff / Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

A lumpy field of mud interrupts an otherwise untouched grassy meadow in a remote section of Mark Twain National Forest near Rolla. Just to the right stands a large, circular cage made of metal. The day before, a 200-pound feral hog followed a trail of corn through the cage’s small opening. 


James Gathany / CDC

Ticks. If you spend much time outdoors in Missouri you've likely come across more than one of these little arthropods.

KBIA's Kara Tabor talked with entomologist and University of Missouri Assistant Professor Richard Houseman to learn more about the ticks we encounter in central Missouri, bacteria they may carry and how ticks attach to people and our furry friends. 

More information on ticks and tick-borne diseases from the CDC.   

Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

Spring is wildflower season in mid-Missouri’s many woodlands. Already, dozens of species have bloomed and are going to seed, but there’s still time to catch some of the show, if you know where to look. If you don't, then you need Randal Clark, who has been guiding people through Missouri's spring wildflowers for close to 40 years. 

On a recent Thursday evening at the Devil's Icebox parking lot at Rock Bridge State Park, Clark was getting ready to do exactly that.


Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

After a historically hot and dry winter here in Missouri, spring rains have hit the state in a big way. With more rain forecast for the coming week, concerns over the winter drought could soon be supplanted by concerns about flooding. One critical piece of Missouri’s environment that helps guard against rising waters is the state’s wetlands – flood plains and wet prairies that can absorb excesses from rivers. But wetlands are also critical habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, something scores of kids learned on a recent Saturday in Saint Charles. 

On a sunny spring afternoon at the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area, about a dozen children gathered around a pond, probing the waters with long-handled nets. After emptying their nets into shallow plastic trays, they walked over to a nearby table, where volunteer Melanie Sanford helped them identify their findings.


Keith Yahl / Flickr

With the official start of spring just a week away, more and more wildlife is emerging from the thawing winter undergrowth. If you’re listening from a rural area, you’ve likely already heard an increase in morning bird song, for example. But even in urban areas, where habitat is harder to come by, entire ecosystems can survive, if given the right space.

Stretching across almost 1,400 acres in St. Louis, Forest Park is one of the biggest urban parks in the country. While its most famous inhabitants are the number of exotic animals that live in the St. Louis Zoo, the park is also home to countless native species, including a great-horned owl named Charles.


Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

The White House has made it clear that one of the Trump administration’s priorities is deregulation. So far that has translated into executive orders, including one that requires agencies to get rid of two existing regulations for every new regulation proposed. Now, Missouri has joined a list of states aiming for a rollback. And that means a potential shake up for endangered species in the state. 

Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

Two weeks into the Trump administration, several cabinet-level positions remain open, including the Secretary of the Interior, who is responsible for federal lands in Missouri and other states. The issue of federal lands has become increasingly controversial, and some Missouri lawmakers have even called for Washington to give up control of National Parks Service land. Despite this uncertainty, life goes on for many of those in charge of managing federal land in the state.

USDAgov / Flickr

The Missouri Department of Conservation says a beetle that is fatal to ash trees has spread to southwest Missouri. 

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media and KBIA

 


A bipartisan U.S. Senate bill that would have made changes to the $22 billion federal program that distributes free and reduced-priced meals in schools is officially dead, according to bill sponsor Pat Roberts, Republican U.S. senator from Kansas.

 

The school lunch, breakfast, and summer meal programs will continue to operate under the policies set in 2010 under the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act.

Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

As the winter moves in, several species of ducks are making their way into and through Missouri, en-route to their overwintering grounds. While this time of year is a boon to duck-hunters, recent research suggests ducks moving through might soon be an ominous sight for farmers.

The Environmental Protection Agency has extended its deadline to propose a plan to clean up the West Lake Landfill Superfund site. 

Federal officials had aimed to decide whether to partially or fully remove the World War II-era nuclear waste at the landfill by the end of December, but they decided to postpone the decision. Recently, there were allegations that radioactive contamination from the West Lake Landfill was found on residential property.

Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

On a recent Friday morning, a group of about 20 Nature Conservancy Trustees, visitors and staff have gathered for a tour of the conservancy’s Dunn Ranch Prairie. The Nature Conservancy is an international non-profit focused on conservation, and its Missouri director Adam McLane is on hand for the day’s tour.  

The prairie covers more than 3,000 acres and is host to a dizzying variety of native insects and birds, but on this morning, the tour group gathered to see its most imposing inhabitants: bison.

Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

Every year on the second weekend of October, birders and bird-watchers across the country demarcate a 17-foot wide circle, set up shop within it, and bird watch from dawn to dusk. Countless chapters of the National Audubon Society organize the event, appropriately titled the Big Sit. Birders chat, knit and even barbecue during the event, all while keeping a count of all the different birds they see.

Jocelyn Augustino / FEMA

Missouri is sending help to the southeastern part of the United States as Hurricane Matthew continues to damage coastal states.

According to a press release from the Boone County Fire Protection District, FEMA activated Missouri Task Force 1 Thursday evening to aid in relief efforts. Missouri Task Force 1 is an urban search and rescue team trained in everything from large building collapse searches to water rescues. The task force is bringing more than 40 personnel and 100,000 pounds of gear to help the affected states.

Yinan Chen / Wikimedia Commons

Missourians will vote on the renewal of funding for state parks, water and soil in November.

Department of Natural Resources Director Sara Parker Pauley spoke at MU Wednesday on the current challenges the state faces and how the funding would keep resources maintained for the long haul.

The park, soils and water one-tenth cent sales tax returns to the ballot every ten years for reauthorization. The tax was first approved in 1984 when Missouri’s parks and natural resources weren’t in good shape physically or financially.

Sebastian Martinez / KBIA

Hinkson Creek, which runs through Columbia, might not seem like an ideal destination for anglers. While it carries some standard game fish like bass and blue gill, you’re not likely to find any record catches.

But on a recent late-Summer day, Michael Moore was after fish on the opposite end of the spectrum.

A doctoral student in fisheries conservation at the University of Missouri, Moore was turning over rocks in the creek, looking for tiny aquatic bugs to use for bait.

Paddlers Will Travel 100 Miles Down Missouri River

Sep 22, 2016
Aimee Castenell / Wikimedia Commons

About 70 paddlers will embark on a five day journey down the Missouri River on Sep. 24. They’re traveling the last 100 miles of the river, passing through New Haven, Washington and St. Charles, ending where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi.

The inaugural Paddle MO participants will spend five days on the river paddling, camping and learning about culture at educational waypoints.

Missouri agriculture officials are looking into widespread misuse of pesticides in in the Bootheel region.

Judy Grundler is division director for plant industries within the state's Department of Agriculture. She told a state House committee on Thursday that there have been 115 complaints in four counties of pollution caused by pesticides in the past month alone.

NASA

Some small Missouri towns that'll offer a view next year's total solar eclipse are trying to prepare for the event. The Kansas City Star reports that the total solar eclipse will occur Aug. 21, 2017. 

Challiyan / Flickr

Many cities and counties have banned smoking indoors, but the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur is going a step further.

jetsandzeppelins / Flickr

A sweltering heat wave is expanding as temperatures in the Midwest and South approach near record-setting levels in the waning days of spring.

The National Weather Service says the number of states under heat advisories nearly doubled Thursday to 12. The affected states are Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Annual Mosquito Spraying Program Begins in Columbia

Jun 2, 2016
turkletom / flickr

The Department of Public Health and Human Services partnered with Columbia Parks and Recreation Thursday in an effort to reduce mosquito numbers.

Every year, Columbia’s trails are sprayed with an Environmental Protection Agency approved chemical for mosquito control. These locations include the MKT Trail, Grindstone Creek Trail, among other additional areas approved by Columbia Parks and Recreation. A small, red Chevrolet truck is scheduled to drive along the trails Friday mornings through September spraying the chemical.

The Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri conservation advocates say the case of a man who received a modest fine for killing a black bear shows why the state Legislature should put more teeth in poaching penalties.

The Springfield News-Leader reports 40-year-old Chris Keown of House Springs shot the bear with a muzzle-loading rifle around May 2 in a heavily wooded area near his home.

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