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New Plan Unifies Efforts to Protect and Restore the Meramec River

Plan Aims to Increase Conservation, Limit Pollution and Improve Economy and Recreation

St. Louis, MO. June 18, 2014 — The Meramec River is beloved by many Missourians. A great spot for fishing, floating and swimming, the river also provides drinking water for about 340,000 households and supports many rare plants and animals – some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Decades of overuse, however, have damaged the river and its resources.

Many groups work to keep the Meramec healthy, but efforts have often been fragmented and comprehensive resources have been difficult to find. A new plan aims to change that by uniting stakeholders in the Meramec River Basin.

The Meramec River Conservation Action Plan is the result of nearly four years of collaboration among 29 stakeholders. Derived from over 40 existing policies and publications, the plan consolidates information and resources into a single framework. Businesses, government agencies, private landowners and conservation organizations will all be able to use the plan as a blueprint to determine best practices when working in the basin. The plan will maximize protection, restoration and conservation of the river’s resources.

The Nature Conservancy’s Missouri director of freshwater conservation, Dr. Steven Herrington, headed up creation of the plan. “By focusing the actions of all stakeholders on clearly defined targets and threats,” said Herrington, “we hope to achieve long-term conservation of the Meramec River Basin in the most effective way possible.”

Rob Pulliam, fisheries management biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, supports the plan. “Over half a million people live in the Meramec River Watershed, which covers an area roughly four times larger than the state of Rhode Island. I applaud the Conservancy for being inclusive and taking a big-picture view during their planning process. Reaching out to others and listening to multiple interests are just as important as the plan itself.”

The relatively good health of rivers and streams in the basin is harmed primarily by too much soil getting into the water. “Excessive sedimentation has been identified as one of the chief pollutants in the river,” Herrington said. “It can result in large-scale changes of river habitat, loss of important fish and mussel habitats, filling of pools, destabilization of streams, and poor water quality.” Altered floodplains, wetlands, and riparian corridors, as well as heavy-metal contamination, are also key threats.

All these changes harm plants and animals that live in the basin, including sport fish, mussels, bats and amphibians. Quality of life and local economies can decline as well. The costs to clean drinking water can increase, swimming and fishing holes can be lost, and flood damage can become more common. Industries that depend on a healthy river, such as fishing and tourism, can also be affected.

The plan identified thirteen activities that were significant sources of problems to the Meramec’s health, with the most critical threats being livestock farming and ranching, housing and urban areas, heavy metal and gravel mining, and roads and pipelines.

“We’re not saying these activities shouldn’t take place. We’re saying that measures should be taken to minimize any negative impacts,” said Herrington. “For example, installing stream crossings helps keep livestock – and associated sediment and waste – out of the water. Solutions like these improve the health of the river and can benefit the landowner.  And, with the help of various programs and grants, they can often be done at little or no cost to the landowner.”

Other strategies described in the plan include improved policies, better enforcement of existing policies and more community outreach. The plan also calls for improved coordination of funds for programs that encourage best-management practices.

The results of this work will have far-reaching impact as the Meramec empties into the Mississippi River and, ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico.  

Funding for the project was provided by Crystal Light through a “Collaboration for U.S. Freshwater Sustainability” grant. Support was also provided by The Boeing Company Charitable Trust and the Employees Community Fund of Boeing St. Louis.

For more information or to read the plan in full, visit nature.org/MeramecRiverCAP.

About The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.

 

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