Eastern Missouri Group E-Newsletter
June 26, 2014, Sierra Club General Meeting
The June General Meeting will be a pot-luck picnic in Shaw Park at the South Shelter (map). Bring your drink and a dish to share and enjoy the company of your favorite fellow Sierrans! The picnic will be starting at 6 p.m.
July 24, 2014, Social Gathering
Olympia Kebob House & Taverna, 1543 McCausland Ave. (map)
Instead of a general meeting this month, we will gather for dinner, wine and conversation. The dinner will start at 6:30 p.m. No registration required. We have reserved a private room. Contact Mark Ostendorf (417-850-0064) with questions.
Devil's Backbone Wilderness
By Toni Armstrong
Devil's Backbone Wilderness
photo by Richard Spener
There is nothing sinister about this gorgeous wilderness area despite the name. Devil's Backbone Wilderness is named for the rock ridge that resembles a north south backbone across the southern part of the wilderness area. The area is explored via 13 miles of trail or by paddle on the 1.5 miles of the North Fork of the White River that traverses the wilderness area. The wilderness is accessed by four different trailheads offering different lengths of hiking options. The trail forms a figure eight with a northern and southern loop that intersect. Blue Spring Trail, part of the northern loop begins at the North Fork Recreation Area, which includes a camp ground. The northern loop can also be accessed via the McGarr Ridge Trail head. The Collins Ridge Trail head provides access to the southern loop trail. Raccoon Hollow trail head gives the hiker a shorter trail that ends at the North Fork River in the western portion of the wilderness area, it does not formally connect with either the northern or southern loop.
North Fork River
photo by Richard Spener
The Blue Spring trail takes the hiker by the lovely Blue Spring and skips along the North Fork River. If your timing is good in the spring, you will walk thru a tunnel of blooming dogwood trees along McGarr Ridge that is accessed by the McGarr Ridge trail head or the Blue Spring trail head. In mid-May look for wild azaleas with fragrant pink blossoms. The Collins Ridge trail head provides easy access to the rocky ridge that gives the wilderness its name. Panoramic views of the surrounding area make the trek to the rocky, backbone worth the effort. Sugar maples and the dogwoods bring beautiful fall color to the wilderness area. At 6,687 acres, Devil's Backbone is great place to explore.
Devil's Backbone Wilderness is about 15 miles west of West Plains in Ozark County. The wilderness area can be enjoyed by day hikes, backpack trips or canoeing via the North Fork River. For longer backpack trips combine the Devil's Backbone with parts of the Ozark Trail and the Ridge Runner Trail.
Fracked Oil Rides the Rails through St. Louis
By Henry Robertson
The Holly Hills neighborhood of south St. Louis city is on a rail corridor carrying fracked oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. These trains make bad neighbors. In the past year there has been a series of derailments that spilled oil in North Dakota, Alabama and Virginia. But the worst was in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where a runaway train derailed and exploded. The fire killed 47 people and burned for 36 hours. Once this stuff catches fire, the fire department can only watch it burn.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, produces both gas and oil. The oil comes laced with gases like propane, butane and methane, which are highly volatile and flammable, making fracked oil much more dangerous than regular crude.
If there's a rail line near your house and you're wondering if it too is used to carry fracked oil, the railroads won't tell you. You can stake out a spot along the tracks and look for tanker cars bearing placards with the number 1267. This won't tell you for sure because the designation includes conventional crude, but I think it's a safe bet that oil coming from the west and north includes this product of the growing oil and gas boom in North Dakota.
Working with Holly Hills residents, the Sierra Club and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) are trying to keep these trains from running through the city. St. Louis fire chief Dennis Jenkerson agrees with us, and this summer we expect to get a resolution against the traffic introduced in the Board of Aldermen.
It's not an easy lift because the railroads are virtually self-regulating and are allowed to operate in near-complete secrecy. They may reveal their routes to local emergency preparedness agencies, but they forbid those agencies to tell the public. We may see some tightening of regulations for tanker cars — the present generation, known as Pepsi cans on wheels, have walls between a quarter and a half-inch thick — but it will take years to phase out the old ones, and thicker shells won't stop derailments.
What we need is intense citizen engagement. It's really in the railroads' own interest. Do they want to see a Lac-Megantic in St. Louis? The Sierra Club, 350.org and Oil Change International are sponsoring an Oil by Rail Week of Action July 6–13. Let's do an action here!
Rerouting trains around cities won't stop fracking, but their presence in our town kind of brings it home, doesn't it? We can show people yet one more bad thing about fracking. If you're interested you can email me or call 314-647-5603.
Senator McCaskill acts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Last month, an Alaskan politician suggested "invading" the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to illegally drill for oil. Now, two new Senate bills have been introduced to drill in caribou birthing grounds on the Refuge's Coastal Plain.
Our senator, however, stood up for the Refuge by co-sponsoring a Senate bill which would designate the Coastal Plain as Wilderness, making it off-limits to dirty drilling plans once and for all. Please thank Sen. McCaskill for her decisive action to protect the Refuge's Coastal Plain as Wilderness!
Volunteers needed for two August ballot issues!
The Sierra Club is urging "No" votes on two constitutional amendments -- the so-called Right to Farm and the Sales Tax for Highways. The Right to Farm measure would open the door to even more destructive CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in our state. The Sales Tax measure would raise the sales tax to fund more highways, traffic, and sprawl. To volunteer to help stop these two measures, send an email to Missouri Sierra Club staffer John Hickey.
Donate table lamps!
The Sierra Club needs several lamps to provide lighting at the Club office in Maplewood. If you have a table lamp that is in good condition that you can donate, please drop it off at the office. Call 314-644-0890 if you have a question. Thanks!
Call For Speakers
We are looking for would-be speakers to give short 5-10 minute presentations at the EMG General Meeting on August 28 This is your chance to briefly share your thoughts on a variety of things. The short, fast, nature of these presentations will keep them to the point, interesting, and engaging. Topics could highlight recent outings or projects, thoughts on a current issues, the basics on an environmental subject you are passionate about, etc. Should be fun! If you have questions or wish to participate, contact Mark Ostendorf by July 14.
EMG's Own Stream Team
Jun 21, Sat: We will investigate a high quality stream in a wooded niche near the expanding city of Eureka. Our stream team will monitor Fox Creek and send the data to the Department of Natural Resources. At two locations we will test for dissolved oxygen and other chemical parameters, perform a visual survey and measure stream flow if feasible. Please email Jim Rhodes (314) 821-7758.
EMG Political Committee
You can help to ensure the election of environmental champions to the State House and Senate this election season. To get involved you can contact EMG Political Committee Chair Ross Hunt at 314-395-8251. The Committee will meet June 23 at 7 pm at the Sierra Club office in Maplewood.
Save the date --
Green Time TV - Protecting the Earth
Green Time appears in four Missouri areas. In the St. Louis area it airs at noon on Saturdays on Channel 24-1 and at 8 p.m. on Mondays on Channel 24-2 on these dates:
July 5 & 7: "Power Your Home with Solar!" Host John Hickey and guests Joan Bray and Mark Kalk discuss what it's like to have solar panels on their homes. They cover what motivated them to go solar, if their example influenced others, and whether state government is doing enough to promote solar.
July 12 & 14: "Wilderness Act: 50th Anniversary" The year 2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Host Don Fitz and guests Toni Armstrong and Richard Spener ask what qualifies an area as wilderness. The guests tell us about some of their favorite wilderness areas in Missouri.
July 19 & 21: "What Is Dirt?" Teresa Morris and Sarah Heyman explore a healthy balance of physical, chemical, and biological components of soil. They look at what soil is and its interconnectedness with humanity.
July 26 & 28: "Threats to Dirt!" Sarah Heyman and Teresa Morris address how adding chemicals for crop yields deplete physical and biological potentials. What would happen if all the dirt were to blow away?
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Sierra Club members and non-members are welcome to join Club members on our outings.
Visit the Eastern Missouri Group website for more information about outings, activities, and issues.
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