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Archive for April, 2008

Get a whiff of this: The big stink that rural folks have been making over giant factory farms has suddenly wafted into our own sweet suburbs. The cows have finally come home.

Some of those poor cows have ended up in ground beef packages at our local school districts. Lindbergh and Kirkwood were among the St. Louis area districts which were warned about tainted beef that may have been sold to their food services.

Fortunately, a food supply check revealed that Lindbergh and Kirkwood did not have the lot numbers of questionable beef. Other schools, locally and across the country, including Ladue, were not so lucky.

Estimates of the amount of tainted beef actually eaten in school cafeterias range as high as 20 million pounds.

Almost 50 million pounds of beef, recalled because of failure to cull out crippled and sick cows, were distributed to schools nationwide. U.S. agricultural officials issued the recall after a Humane Society investigation.

Employees of meat giant Westland-Hallmark Co. were discovered to be shoving sick and crippled cows into queue for the slaughter. Injured cows were forced to stand with electric prods and water hoses. TV networks aired scenes of injured cows being shoved to slaughter by
forklifts.

For several years now, our country cousins in rural Missouri have been warning us about the loss of family farms to factory farms and giant agribusinesses such as California’s Westland-Hallmark.

Our outstate friends have been complaining about stinking CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) ruining the atmosphere at our state parks. They have banded together in Citizens to Protect State Parks and Historic Sites (CPSPHS).

Animal waste reservoirs on giant farm operations have a history of being poorly maintained and even breaching – pouring filth into creeks and streams. Members of CPSPHS argue that the odor from the CAFO’s swine manure is not merely a nuisance, but a real respiratory health
hazard involving harmful chemicals.

Now we find stinky air and polluted streams aren’t the half of it. The other half of the story is the vulnerability of our food supply at giant farms and processing plants.

“When you put 3,000 cows in a giant meat grinder, good things do not come out the other end,” said Kat Logan, executive director of Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of pathogens to taint a huge amount of meat when it is processed that way,” said Logan. “It doesn’t take a lot of sick cows in a mass slaughter like that, to make a lot of people very sick. That accounts for this huge recall.”

Logan’s environmental group will sponsor a panel on “The Battle for Control Over What We Eat” at the Schlafly Tap Room at 21st and Locust in St. Louis, 3 p.m., Sunday, March 2.

She said it will be a good meeting to find out what you can do to fight for safer food. Why not drop by for a beer? Think twice before ordering a burger.

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Nature Notes

-Are you upset that more area streams and rivers are being declared unsafe for play and recreation?
-Are you disturbed about proposals to sell off parts of our national forests for short-term gain?
-Are you concerned about the air and water pollution posed by waste reservoirs on factory farms?
-Are you wondering if anybody else is upset, or disturbed, or concerned about environmental degradation?

Please join the conversation and share your opinions.

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Missouri has a natural heritage worth preserving and many outdoor sites worth protecting. Although these state assets have often suffered from neglect, they have actually come under assault in the first decade of this new century.
No natural site shows the scars of this degradation, if not destruction, more than Johnson Shut-ins. On the early morning of Dec. 14, 2005, the collapse of AmerenUE’s Taum Sauk hydroelectric plant reservoir sent a billion-gallon tsunami of water into the popular state
park.

If the huge reservoir had ruptured during the busy summer season, the disaster could have resulted in lost lives and serious injuries. Johnson Shut-Ins remains in a state of serious disrepair months after the deluge. Let’s hope state officials closely monitor how AmerenUE
carries out its plans to restore the area under a recent agreement.

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Everyone who loves nature and the outdoors has special places – bluffs, springs, streams and caves where they like to hang out. To make this Nature Notes Blog more interactive, please consider sending us a description of your special hideout. Also, please alert us if your
special place is facing neglect or degradation.

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Here are some other recreation areas that are of concern right now:

PIGS VERSUS PARKS Among the parks facing threats from big farm pollution are Arrow Rock, Roaring River and the Battle of Athens State Historic Site. The state’s loss of family farms to new “factory farms” has had deleterious environmental consequences as well as an economic impact. Animal waste reservoirs on giant farm operations have a history of being poorly maintained and even occasionally breaching, pouring filth into creeks and streams.
More plans for CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) have inspired ordinary, rural citizens to become vocal activists. Residents have banded together in the Citizens to Protect State Parks and Historic Sites (CPSPHS) to oppose CAFOs and to push for legislation that would create a five-mile buffer zone around state parks.

STREAM CONTAMINATION The beautiful, clear Jacks Fork River in the Ozark National Scenic Waterways is one stream that you might expect to be protected, but you would be wrong. The Jacks Fork, which connects with the Current River at Two Rivers below Eminence, has appeared on the state’s impaired waters list for almost a decade due to high levels of fecal coliform bacteria. Fecal coliform can often indicate other forms of bacteria that cause dysentery, hepatitis and more.

A federal study in 2006 using DNA testing traced the fecal coliform bacteria to horseback trail rides in the area below Eminence. According to the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, the National Park Service appears to be doing “not much” to rectify the situation. Not only has the Park Service failed to impose any new limits on trail rides, it has a history of developing horse staging areas in the Riverways. Canoe renters in the Eminence area complain that the contamination is going to ruin their operations on the river.

• BLUFFS FOR SALE While Missouri has succeeded in preserving some choice river bluffs at places such as Meramec State Park and Trail of Tears State Park, other prime vistas are for sale to the highest bidder. In the St. Louis region, some of the best lofty plots have been snatched up in the St. Albans area for construction of McMansions that overlook the south side of the Missouri River.
The integrity and viability of bluff lands can be lost because of poor environmental management; because of industry and quarry activities; and because of the developers who gobble up the best tracts. As more bluff land disappears, the remaining high tops call out for crucial protections and should be declared part of our state and national public heritage.

•FORESTS FOR SALE. Mark Twain National Forest in southern Missouri has been included in a Bush Administration plan to sell more than 300,000 acres of national forest to help pay for rural schools. The proposal covers a disproportionate amount of land in the South and Midwest, while actually benefiting schools in three West Coast states.
Sierra Club activists and other environmental groups maintain the proposal is a wrong use of public resources. They contend that selling off America’s natural heritage is not the way to fund government services, and it’s unwise to be “holding a bake sale on bits and pieces of our limited national forests” for short-term budget needs.

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You don’t have to be an environmentalist or a conservationist to want to protect outdoor sites. Let your voice be heard on these issues. Once again, to make this Nature Notes Blog more interactive, please consider sending us a description of your special hideout. Also, please alert us if your special place is facing neglect or degradation.

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