Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Give STL Day is May 2nd!

Give STL Day is an annual day of giving through the St. Louis Community Foundation. The day brings the City together in giving to the organizations that make us such a great place to live. Your gift goes further on Give STL Day because the Community Foundation and their sponsors offer bonus prizes for Nonprofits throughout the day, and donors have a chance to win tickets to local sporting events in random drawings during the day!

Any amount you can give to Great Rivers helps a great deal to protect our local environment and health – in 2017, your donations totaled over $2,000! Because you gave on Give STL Day, we also received over $250 in bonus money!

This year, we are setting our sights on a $1,000 bonus prize, and you can help! Your gift during the 5:00am hour will make it possible for us to have a winning shot at the prize. If you can make an early gift on May 2nd, we need your help to win $1,000!

However, we welcome a gift at any other time that is more convenient for you during the 24 hour event, so please don’t be deterred if logging in that early doesn’t work for your schedule!

You don’t have to live in St. Louis to participate – donations from anywhere still count big on Give STL Day!

Want to let us know you plan to give? Record your pledge at – you can even have us text or email you a reminder if you want!

Let your friends on Facebook know about this event:

For more information on Give STL Day, visit

Join Great Rivers at the Chocolate Factory!

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For the love of chocolate, don’t miss our upcoming party!


Great Rivers at the Chocolate Factory
Sunday, May 6th, 2018
4:30 pm – 7:00pm
at the Caramel Room at Bissinger’s

We will have a fun evening overlooking the Mississippi River from the outdoor deck of the elegant Caramel Room in downtown St. Louis. There will be live music, heavy appetizers, an open bar, a photo booth… and chocolate!

What more could you ask for?

How about a silent auction – full of exciting items including a relaxing week-long vacation in Door County, Wisconsin or Cape Cod, Massachusetts, original artwork by local artist Kat Kissick, and of course, Bissinger’s chocolate! (And much, much more… stay tuned!)

Tickets are on sale now – click here to reserve a ticket today!

Check our Events Page for updated information on this and all of our events.

For information on becoming an event sponsor, please contact Sarah Willey at

Great Rivers visits Kansas City group

Sarah Willey, Director of Development and Community Outreach at Great Rivers, was the guest speaker at the Monday, March 5th meeting of the Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition in Prairie Village, Kansas.

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Sarah Willey, Director of Development and Community Outreach at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. Photo credit David Martin.

Meeting attendees learned about the attacks on environmental protection currently underway. Regulations in place to protect our resources and health are necessary for a public interest law firm like Great Rivers to function; one cannot enforce what doesn’t exist! We shared how we are working to stop rollbacks where we can (for example, our attorney Bob Menees recently testified against proposed legislation that would weaken the Missouri Clean Water Law), while continuing our work to ensure that these rules are not violated.

Rollbacks of Environmental Protection

Slide presents New York Times data on the environmental rollbacks underway as of October 2017. Photo credit David Martin.


In addition to nonprofits like Great Rivers working to protect these safeguards, Sarah provided some advice on what individual citizens can do.


We thank the Sustainability Sanctuary Coalition for providing us with the opportunity to speak to their members and to make new friends!

If you have a group and would like to talk about having someone from Great Rivers come speak at your meeting, please contact Sarah at or 314-231-4181.


Great Rivers testimony leads to better testing to protect citizens from radioactive waste

Every five years or so, any landfill in Missouri will need to renew their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which defines acceptable levels of pollution from the site and any necessary testing that must be done to ensure safety of the surrounding residents. These renewal periods include an opportunity for public comments.

Great Rivers attorney, Bob Menees, and Ed Smith, Policy Director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, each offered testimony at a public hearing on October 11, 2017 regarding the renewal for the Bridgeton Landfill’s NPDES permit. The permit that had been in operation for the past five years did not require any radioactive testing of the site. Given the radioactive wastes that are buried within the adjacent West Lake Landfill, we felt that radioactive testing was a necessary precaution for human health and the environment and urged the Missouri DNR to add this requirement to the renewed permit. Our testimony called for testing at the outfalls nearest the radioactive waste. Outfalls are the places where stormwater from the landfill are discharged from the site, and from where they make their way into the waterways we use for recreation, drinking, and more.


Map of the landfill site demonstrating the outfall sites

On February 28, 2018, the Missouri DNR issued a new permit which requires radioactive testing at outfalls 007, 008, & 009 for the following radionuclides: gross alpha, beta particle and photon radioactivity (gross beta), total uranium, total radium, radium-226, and radium-228. In addition, based on Bob’s testimony the DNR added monitoring for leachate at two outfalls where they had not originally planned to monitor for those pollutants. This is important because leachate is the wastewater produced by landfills, which contains a wide array of pollutants, such as benzene and heavy metals, that can cause damage to the surrounding ecosystem and to the community’s health.

You can read the text of Bob and Ed’s comment letter here.

You can read Missouri DNR’s responses to comments here.

You can read the final permit issued by the Missouri DNR here, including additional maps of the site.

Preserving the Missouri Clean Water Law

On Monday, February 28th, 2018, Great Rivers staff attorney Bob Menees testified in front of the Missouri House of Representatives Rules- Administrative Oversight Committee against HB 1973. The bill would significantly weaken the Missouri Clean Water Law by limiting the State’s ability to enforce against water contaminant sources and to prevent pollution before it happens.

The Committee voted against the bill 8-1 on February 28th, sending it back to the Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.

Click here to read Bob’s written testimony submitted to the Committee.

Click here to see the bill text and progression.

Missouri Bans Destructive Commercial Trapping of Wild Turtles

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.— In response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, the Missouri Department of Conservation today banned commercial collection of the state’s wild freshwater turtles — following a national trend of ending unsustainable turtle trapping.

“This ban saves thousands of turtles from trappers seeking to make a quick buck,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “That’s a big victory for all of us who care about the health of the state’s wildlife and waterways.”

Prior to the amendment that went into effect today, holders of a commercial fishing permit could take unlimited numbers of common snappers, spiny softshells and smooth softshells from portions of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers with no closed season. According to the state conservation department, 1,100 river miles were open to commercial turtle collection. Thousands of Missouri’s turtles were caught and sold over the past 10 years.

Scientists have repeatedly documented that freshwater turtles cannot sustain any significant level of wild collection without leading to population declines. For example, in a 2014 Missouri study researchers found that no commercial collection could be sustained for softshells, and common snappers could withstand only minimum rates of juvenile collection and no adult collection.

“Much gratitude to Missouri’s Department of Conservation for preserving Missouri’s wildlife for future generations,” said Bruce Morrison, general counsel for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. “It followed through with protecting these animals as a vital part of our state’s ecosystems.”


Millions of turtles classified as wild-caught are exported from the United States every year to supply food and medicinal markets in Asia, where native turtle populations have already been depleted by soaring consumption. Because turtles bioaccumulate toxins from prey and burrow in contaminated sediment, turtle meat is often laced with mercury, PCBs and pesticides, posing a health risk. Adult turtles are also taken from the wild to breed hatchlings for the international pet trade.

As part of a campaign to protect turtles in the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity has been petitioning states that allow unrestricted commercial turtle collection to improve regulations. Of the states that share a border with Missouri, only Arkansas still allows unlimited commercial collection of turtles.

As a result of the Center’s campaign, last fall Nevada created a statewide ban on commercial collection of all reptiles and New York halted all commercial terrapin turtle trapping. Before that, in March 2017, Iowa adopted new regulations setting closed seasons and possession limits for commercial turtle trappers. In 2012 Georgia approved state rules regulating the commercial collection of turtles, and Alabama completely banned commercial collection. And in 2009 Florida responded by banning almost all commercial collection of freshwater turtles from public and private waters.


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm in St. Louis that provides free and reduced-fee legal services to those working to protect the environment and public health.

Please direct press inquiries to:

Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821,

Bruce Morrison, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, (314) 231-4181,

Photo of Common Snapping Turtle by Dakota L. This image is available for media use.

Why I Proudly Joined the Board of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

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.

We’re coming to Kansas City!

Great Rivers President Kathleen Henry and Director of Development and Community Outreach Sarah Willey will be visiting Kansas City on March 5th and 6th, 2018. While they’re in town, they really hope to connect with you. There are three different events that you can participate in during their visit, and we invite you to join any combination of them:

Monday March 5th, 2pm – 4pm: Coffee and Conversation
at Panera Bread Company
(Country Club Plaza: 4700 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, MO 64112)

This is an informal, drop-in event where anyone who likes can join. We hope to hear about the environmental concerns local residents of Kansas City and the surrounding area are concerned with. If there are any questions about our work, we are also happy to answer those! See for more info.

Monday March 5th, 7pm – 9pm: Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition (SSCKC)
at Village Presbyterian Church (6641 Mission Rd., Prairie Village, KS 66208)

We are guest presenting at this monthly meeting – we’ll be sharing information on the environmental protections that are under attack by the current state and federal administrations, and what can be done to save these laws. This meeting is free and open to the public. Learn more about SSCKC at

Tuesday March 6th, 7:30am – 9:30am: Coffee and Conversation
at Crow’s Coffee (304 E. 51st St., Kansas City, MO 64112)

This is an informal, drop-in event where anyone who likes can join. We hope to hear about the environmental concerns local residents of Kansas City and the surrounding area are concerned with. If there are any questions about our work, we are also happy to answer those! See for more info.

Kathleen and Sarah hope to see you there! All 3 are open to the public, please feel free to share these events!

Fight Climate Change with your Search Engine!

Did you know that your online searches could fight Climate Change??

It’s easy – switch to Goodsearch, and set up Great Rivers Environmental Law Center as your cause. Every time you search, we get a penny… and it adds up fast! Without opening your own wallet, you’ve provided legal services to the community.

Thank you for your support!

Great Rivers Rejects Forest Service’s “Forest Health Initiative”

January 22, 2018. Great Rivers rejects the US Forest Service’s paradoxically named “Forest Health Initiative,” which calls for logging on 45,000 acres in the Mark Twain National Forest. Great Rivers urges the Forest Service to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement on the project as it will destroy critical habitat for the Indiana bat and other endangered species, as well as exacerbate climate change by eliminating thousands of mature trees. Read more about it here.