this guest blog post was written by Garrett Broshuis
My grandfather and grandmother raised their ten kids in the forested hills of Bollinger County. You had to drive five miles down two rocky country roads to visit them, and in a very real sense, they lived off the land. If my grandfather wasn’t sleeping, there was a good chance you could find him outdoors.
He loved his own land — his “holler” as he called it — but he loved the area’s public parks just as much. During the summers of my youth, he would make multiple trips a week to the swamps and marshes of Mingo National Wildlife Refuge or Duck Creek. Lucky for me, sometimes he’d take me along.
We’d spend hours on swampy banks surrounded by cypress trees, picking wild blackberries or fishing. We’d see river otters and beavers, cranes and an occasional eagle, and enough turtles and snakes to fill a herpetology exhibit.
A number of years have gone by since those youthful days. My grandfather has passed. I went to college. I played some baseball around the country. I got married. I settled in St. Louis and went to law school. I had two kids of my own. And my visits to these parks diminished.
But my love for these parks — and for the environment in general — has not diminished. If anything, it has only grown. My wife and I recently decided to take our kids to parks they’ve never been to. Like all Missourians, we’re blessed with several fine ones nearby, and many more just a short distance away. This fall we went to Elephant Rocks. Our two kids spent hours climbing the weathered, granite boulders, and feeling the distinct, almost-spongy lichen at their feet. It was the type of experience that an I-Pad will never provide, and the type of experience they will remember for years.
But as wonderful as the day was, my mind could not help but wander into the future, as even the beauty from atop the Elephant Rocks cannot hide the challenges facing our environment. The effects of climate change are already wrecking ecosystems. And industry still lobbies legislatures for more access to our preserves’ natural resources and to burn more carbon. Budget cuts hinder our state’s ability to monitor and clean state waters and the EPA has been gutted. Development continues to sprawl outward with little consideration of the impact on our environment.
Great Rivers Environmental Law Center works to combat this. It works to preserve our most precious wilderness spaces so that future generations may feel the coolness of our state’s shut-ins. It works to encourage the use of cleaner energy, with the hope that someday our country’s farmland will produce just as much wind energy as corn. It monitors actions taken by regulators and utilities so that our kids and grandkids can ride their bikes on the Katy Trail without coughing from dirty air. It works to prevent overdevelopment in floodplains so that half of St. Louis isn’t shut down by flooding every other year.
So when I had the chance to join Great Rivers’ board of directors, it was a no brainer. Our environmental problems are of our own making, and we must face them together. I’m proud to donate a small amount of time each quarter to serving Missouri’s first and only nonprofit law firm focused on the environment and public health. And I hope you will join me in contributing in whatever way you can to ensure that our parks and wetlands continue to thrive, and that our planet remains livable.
We still have a lot of state parks to take my kids to, including Mingo. Someday soon we will visit it. And I hope they will see the cypress knees and lily pads that I saw. I hope they will see woodpeckers and woodducks. And if we’re lucky, we might even find some wild blackberries.