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May news 2015

“A time to be born, and a time to die, a time for everything under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes

The death of Leo Drey — St. Louis conservationist who put his money where his mouth was to preserve natural Missouri, who, with a spare staff, invented a new way of forestry which simultaneously improved cast off Ozark acreage, and made a profit from sustainably raised lumber — was not an entire surprise. Mr. Drey was 98, a long life well-lived, including personally seeing to the preservation of a half-dozen state parks, Greer Spring, 150,000 acres (more or less) of remote, steep, hardscrabble woodlands, and finally, giving over those lands and their profits to support conservation projects the old fashioned way.

Leo loved the rivers, and was deeply involved in their conservation, from being a constructive critic of the Ozark National Scenic Rivers to an ardent backer of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system — in Missouri,  management by the U.S. Forest Service, with a focus on more natural recreation with only minimal development for creature comforts. He fought for the Meramec River against its damming, and later the Natural Streams Act — an idea before its time,  where rivers were to be managed as ecosystems, not separate parcels.

This anecdote might illuminate something about Mr.  Drey.  Back in the late 80s, before L-A-D was working closely with St. Louis cavers, a group of perhaps rather naive young people decided they wanted to go caving in the area around Cookstove Cave the next weekend. We were sitting around on a Saturday, and someone said, “Well, shouldn’t we get permission from the landowner? How do we do that?” My husband said, “well, you could call their office on Monday or someone could call Mr. Drey right now.” Eyes widened. “You’ve got his phone number?” “No, but look him up in the phone book.” Someone did, the call was placed and in a 3 minute phone call Leo granted permission and told us that we were welcome as long as we didn’t leave a mess behind, and that he would be interested in hearing back (at the office) with a short written report of how we found the area. The fellow who called was just stunned. “Leo Drey answered his own phone. He actually answered his own phone.” Ok, that might be a corny story. But it’s the truth, and it made a big impression on impressionable young people with an intense interest in conservation.

Part of my Tufa Creek undergrad geochemistry thesis was accomplished on Pioneer Forest land. I’m personally indebted to Drey’s vision to help sharpen my own.

Filling Leo’s boots exactly will never be done, but those of us following in his footsteps now understand the enormity of the task before us.


Pallid Sturgeon spawning in the Missouri River

For the first time in eight years,  the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Nebraska  Game and Parks Department, and the Missouri Department of Conservation have found pallid sturgeon larva in the wild Missouri River, according to

The pallid sturgeon is an ancient fish, virtually unchanged for the last 70 million years. It was one of the first fish to be declared endangered in the Missouri River when new young decreased drastically after the damming and channelizing of the river.

Pallid Sturgeon larva
Pallid Sturgeon larva

Sturgeon need slow shallow backwaters to spawn.  For the last couple of decades, sturgeon have been taken from the river,  “milked” for sperm and eggs, and the resulting young returned to the river.

As with many fish, sturgeon reproduce by external fertilization, which leaves the young susceptible to being eaten by predators. Nebraska crews have  sampled the river from Yankton, SD  to the Nebraska/Kansas border with no success. These larva were found downstream of the Platte confluence, and biologists believe they may have come from spawning grounds along the lower Platte.

What is with the war on Conservation?

By Jo Schaper

I could rewrite this, but Steve Schnarr,  Program Manager of Missouri River Relief, a non-profit, environmental NGO based in Columbia, Missouri, says it just as well on his Facebook Page: mdcinchains

“The legislative assault on the Dept. of Conservation continues. The latest bill, Senate Bill 337 being heard tomorrow (April 14), would make it illegal (i.e. punishable by six months in prison) for any non-profit to work with the Mo. Dept. of Conservation. MDC does tons of great work in partnership with many nonprofits, from land management and restoration to education to, yes, river clean-ups. From the language, it seems like it would make Missouri Stream Team illegal. Here’s the definition of “prohibited conduct” – “entering into any contractual relationship with, or providing or receiving anything of value with or without compensation, including but not limited to professional or clerical services, work product, money, personal or real property, or property rights.”

“So in my life, for example, MDC will not be able to bring boats or education booths to clean-ups or the greatly appreciated funding that they provide to help us do what we do. They will not be able to partner with Mo. Prairie Foundation or Ducks Unlimited or Ozark Trail Association or Audubon Society or Missouri River Bird Observatory or Conservation Federation of Missouri or Nature Conservancy. Those kinds of partnerships leverage public and private skill and resources to get real big stuff done. I can’t imagine the purpose behind this bill but it needs to stop.”
Continue reading What is with the war on Conservation?

House Bill 955: is it a threat to Missouri floating?

By Jo Schaper

First of all, I’m not a lawyer. My background is a degree in geology, with a couple of classes in hydrology and a general familiarity with water law, and paddler’s law in Missouri. This is a personal and not a legal opinion.  I’ve been paddling since 1974. I’d be interested in hearing what others think. (If you want a primer on Missouri water law, I recommend take a look at Harry Styron’s blog, Ozark Law and Economy, Missouri water law primer.)

Missouri House Bill 955, titled “Changes the laws regarding natural resources,”  has some people upset as they wonder what effect this bill, if passed, would have on the iconic Missouri pastime of enjoying our rivers in canoes, kayaks, johnboats, jetboats, rafts and all manner of floatation devices.

Representative Robert Ross, (R- Dist. 142)  the author of the bill, is a land surveyor by OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtrade. A land surveyor must be familiar with both the craft of surveying, and survey law in order to do his job, which is measuring land parcels to define ownership of tracts of land. Many Missouri tracts have water on it or defining its boundaries.

Water law is a mix of statutory law (law enacted as statues) and case law (legal guidance issued as a result of court cases.) Statutory law is usually written generally to apply in all cases. Case law may be either specific to a situation to settle a dispute or it may, after going through several levels of courts, be applied generally to all such situations. One may turn into the other. Continue reading House Bill 955: is it a threat to Missouri floating?