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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 354

Friday, July 8, 2016

-- In this issue --

- Half Earth and the Lower Mississippi River

- Protect Minnesota’s Boundary Waters

- Why the Army Corps should drop the New Madrid Levee

- Dale Sanders, the Grey Beard Adventurer, nominated for the Spirit of Adventure Award

- Wanted: Business Partner for the Quapaw Canoe Company Helena Outpost!

Half-Earth and the Lower Mississippi River

President Theodore Roosevelt, exhorted Americans to “cherish” the nation’s “natural wonders” as a “sacred heritage for your children and your children’s children.” Do not, he said, “let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

Pope Francis appealed to this sense of ethics in the Laudato Si when he made this prayer:

Bring healing to our lives

that we may protect the world and not prey on it

that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth…

(Keep reading below for complete prayer, and where to find the Laudato Si online in its entirety)

The biologist E.O. Wilson echoes the importance of saving our wild places for altruistic purposes — specifically in acts of compromise and self sacrifice for the greater good — that save the earth. Dr. Wilson catalogs the state of our struggling planet, as it exists today, and proposes a route for salvation in his 2016 book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life.

Dr. Wilson warns us that “only by committing half of the planet’s surface to nature can we hope to save the immensity of life forms that compose it. Why one-half? Why not one-quarter or one-third? Because large plots, whether they already stand or can be created from corridors connecting smaller plots, harbor more ecosystems and the species sustaining them at a sustainable level.” (Keep reading below for more illuminating and poignant excerpts from Half Earth).

Rivergator: How does Half-Earth translate to the Lower Mississippi River?

The Middle Mississippi river annually rises and falls around 30-40 feet, and the Lower Mississippi 40-50 feet, sometimes more. These wildly fluctuating rivers create an unusual condition on all their adjoining lands, in the batture, the land between the river and the levee. Because of their catastrophic flooding humankind has been able to gain foothold in only a few high places along the way, and most of the riverbanks are covered in long swaths of forests, forested islands, sandbars, mudbars, and other wild places. Inadvertently the river has protected a very long and very narrow strip of wilderness in its batture, that runs almost uninterrupted from the southern border of metropolitan St. Louis all of the way down to Baton Rouge. Even Interstate Highways do not interrupt. Those big highways are built on elevated causeways above the batture to protect the highways from annual flooding. The animals pass unmolested and undetected below the endless roaring of interstate traffic. These corridors create “long landscapes” which are essential for the life cycles of many creatures, in the Lower Mississippi especially fishes and birds. Long Landscapes are essential to the health of the natural world because they provide long distance migration for the species that need it.

The greater Mississippi Valley provides the possibility for long migration routes to everything from American eel to white pelicans, from Louisiana black bear to monarch butterflies, from freshwater shrimp to least interior tern. Pallid sturgeon are making a remarkable comeback in the Lower Miss, and recently a paddlefish that was tagged on Moon Lake, Mississippi, was found on the Missouri River above Kansas City, which is 1354 miles by the shortest water route. The American eel migrates annually from hatching grounds in the Sargasso Sea. Of course, this fluidity affords migration for not so desirable “invasive” species like silver carp and wild boar. But we should not complain: we humanoids are the ultimate invasive species, and the river’s wild magic has assisted us in the same fluid fashion!

The Mississippi is the longest and narrowest wilderness in America. It is the only wilderness that is found on the doorstep of major cities (Memphis, New Orleans, St. Louis). Within minutes of putting in your canoe you can be surrounded by woods and water as provocative as any in the world. To enter it is as easy as sitting on the bank and watching the river flow. Roll up your pants and swish your feet in her waters. If you want to get deeper, get in a canoe and paddle for a day. Envelope yourself in a landscape that feels as far away as a desert wilderness or the highest mountains. E.O. Wilson proposes that we set aside half the earth to save the earth. In other words the earth’s creatures depend on space to maintain its diversity and health. While this would be impossible to do in the Mississippi Valley, we can help the tattered long landscape already intact by protecting as much of the wild lands we can, especially the lowlands that already get inundated by periodic flood waters. The Long landscape of the Mississippi could possibly someday connect to the longleaf pine belt to the south with the great north woods. The North woods connect to the Canadian/Alaskan taiga, which is one of the major saving pieces in “Half-Earth.”

I first noticed the depth of the wilderness feeling one frigid winter’s night in 2002 while paddling the Missouri out of Montana towards St. Louis with “Big Muddy” Mike Clark: “As we paddled through the bend above Glasgow (Missouri), the trees sweeping their cold dark branches through the sky I was suddenly struck by our grand illusion. Our companions the trees, the sandbars, the ducks and geese, the wild turkeys, the unbroken sky and wild expanses of water: we are all contained within a long serpentine womb of wilderness. But it is only as wide as its floodplain. Man and his machines eking out a wretched existence just out of our vision. We hear his engines and gunfire, smell his foul exhaust and paddle in his sewer. But his presence is as far away as the far side of the moon. We feel alone. We feel like the river is ours, and yet we are part of the river, something much bigger than ourselves, and something much greater than our comprehension. The rivers of the Midwest and the Mid-South making meandering pieces of paradise within the destruction of mankind.

If the river is an illusion, then I gladly choose this dream, and will keep dreaming as long as I can.

(Adopted from Rivergator: Preamble

E.O. Wilson Half-Earth

We need a much deeper understanding of ourselves and the rest of life than the humanities and sciences have yet offered.

In Half-Earth I propose that only by committing half of the planet’s surface to nature can we hope to save the immensity of life forms that compose it.

Why one-half? Why not one-quarter or one-third? Because large plots, whether they already stand or can be created from corridors connecting smaller plots, harbor more ecosystems and the species sustaining them at a sustainable level. As reserves grow in size, the diversity of life surviving in them also grow. As reserves are reduced in area, the diversity in them declines to a mathematically predictable degree swiftly — often immediately, and for a large fraction, forever. A biogeographic scan of the Earth’s principal habitats shows that a full representation of its ecosystems and the vast majority of its species can be saved within half the planet’s surface. At one-half and above, life on Earth enters the safe zone. Within half, existing calculations from existing ecosystems indicate that more than 80 percent of the species would be stabilized.

The living world is in desperate condition. It is suffering steep declines in all levels of its diversity. It will be helped but not saved by economic measures of its ecological services and potential products. Nor will the perception of God’s holy will suffice: traditional religions are pivoted on the salvation of human beings, here and in the afterlife, above all other purposes that can be conceived.

Only a major shift in moral reasoning can meet this greatest challenge of the century. Wild lands are our birthplace. Our civilizations were built from them. Our food and most of our dwellings were derived from them. Our gods lived in their midst. Nature in the wildlands is the birthright of everyone on Earth. The millions of species we have allowed to survive there, but threaten, are our phylogenetic kin. Their long-term history is our long-term history. Despite all of the pretenses and fantasies, we have always been and will remain a biological species tied to this particular biological world. Millions of years of evolution are indelibly encoded in our genes. History without the wild lands in no history at all.

Pope Francis — Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home

A Prayer for our Earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe

and in the smallest of creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.

Pour out upon us the power of your love,

that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,

help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of the earth,

so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives

that we may protect the world and not prey on it

that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing.

To be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognize that we are profoundly united

with every creature

as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day.

Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle

for justice, love, peace.

You can read the Laudato Si online in its entirety here:

Protect Minnesota’s Boundary Waters

JULY 1, 2016 New York Times


MINNESOTA’S Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of America’s most popular wild destinations. Water is its lifeblood. Over 1,200 miles of streams wend their way through 1.1 million acres thick with fir, pine and spruce and stippled by lakes left behind by glaciers. Moose, bears, wolves, loons, ospreys, eagles and northern pike make their home there and in the surrounding Superior National Forest.

All of this is now threatened by a proposal for a huge mine to extract copper, nickel and other metals from sulfide ores. The mine would lie within the national forest along the South Kawishiwi River, which flows directly into the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

The prospect of any major industrial activity in the watershed of such a place would be deeply troubling. But this kind of heavy-metal mining is in a destructive class all its own. Enormous amounts of unusable waste rock containing sulfides are left behind on the surface. A byproduct of this kind of mining is sulfuric acid, which often finds its way into nearby waterways. Similar mines around the country have already poisoned lakes and thousands of miles of streams.

The consequence of acid mine drainage polluting the pristine Boundary Waters would be catastrophic. It is a risk we simply can’t take.

Scientific evaluations of the project and the industry’s destructive record point to a major threat to a treasured ecosystem. Poison the headwaters, poison the system. And this mine would poison not just the Boundary Waters but also Voyageurs National Park, which is on the wilderness’s northwest corner, and the adjacent Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario.

In March, Minnesota’s governor, Mark Dayton of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, courageously announced his opposition to the project, calling the Boundary Waters one of the state’s “crown jewels” and a “national treasure.” And in April, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell identified the Boundary Waters as a “special area” that should be re-examined to “better understand the value of the land and water and potential impacts of development.”

The company that has proposed the mine, Twin Metals, is owned by the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, one of the world’s largest copper producers. Twin Metals holds two now-expired mineral leases first issued in 1966, before modern environmental laws were enacted. The Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that manages the government’s mineral estate, is now weighing whether to renew those leases.

As part of its review, the agency has asked the Forest Service whether it would consent to the lease renewals. Fortunately, the Forest Service has said it is “deeply concerned” about these leases and is “considering withholding consent.”

Both agencies should say no to renewing the leases, eliminating the immediate threat of a Twin Metals mine.

But so long as the area remains open for mining, its mineral deposits will beckon. Secretary Jewell should exercise her authority and impose a 20-year moratorium on mining in this precious watershed. Her predecessor, Ken Salazar, used that power in 2012 to block new uranium mining on one million acres in northern Arizona, near the Grand Canyon. Permanent protection could then be sought, either from Congress or the president.

It is irresponsible to jeopardize an irreplaceable resource for something readily available elsewhere. President Theodore Roosevelt, who created Superior National Forest in 1909, implored Americans to “cherish” the nation’s “natural wonders” as a “sacred heritage for your children and your children’s children.”

Do not, he continued, “let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

Conservative thinking dictates that we manage the Boundary Waters under the “precautionary principle.” If we err, it must be on the side of environmental safety. We must risk no harm to a pristine environment.

In their time, several presidents — both Roosevelts, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter — have acted to defend this irreplaceable wilderness. President Obama should join their company by agreeing to the 20-year mining moratorium.

There should be no copper mining anywhere near the Boundary Waters Wilderness, today or ever.

Walter F. Mondale was vice president under President Jimmy Carter. Theodore Roosevelt IV, the great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, is an investment banker.

Why the Army Corps should drop the New Madrid Levee

May 31, 2016, St. Louis Post Dispatch

By Tyrone Coleman

Despite the recent floods that caused devastation up and down the Mississippi, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is finalizing plans for a $165 million levee project that will put river communities at even greater risk of catastrophic flooding.

My home, Cairo, Ill., is nestled in the confluence of two of America’s greatest rivers: the Mississippi and the Ohio. Our historic community was born out of the shipping these rivers brought to our doorstep. But living close to two unpredictable rivers comes with a certain amount of risk.

Normally, we view the Army Corps as our ally in efforts to protect us from flooding. This is why we are baffled by the Corps’ insistence on pursuing the expensive and unnecessary New Madrid levee. The agency appears to be working to help us with one hand and destroy us with the other.

Unlike most levees, the New Madrid levee would block an area that was designated as a floodway in the aftermath of the 1927 flood. During severe flooding, the Army Corps diverts water from the rising Mississippi River into this section of the river’s historic flood plain.

But using this floodway has always been met with opposition. During the flood of 2011, a lawsuit delayed activation of this floodway, putting the community of Olive Branch under water and destroying many homes within the town. If the order to use the floodway had come much later, it might have been too late for Cairo, as well.

The landowners in the floodway want the levee so they can more intensely develop their land. But more development in the floodway will also make it that much more politically challenging to flood the area when necessary. And scientists are telling us that the Mississippi will flood more frequently in a warming world.

We will never be able to fully control the Mighty Mississippi, but timely activation of the floodway will let us avoid disaster by sending water into an area that has been designated for flooding for 80 years – instead of letting it inundate historic Cairo and other river communities.

If built, the levee would also damage the health of the Mississippi River and its wildlife. The levee would effectively drain an area of wetlands 2½ times the size of Manhattan. These flood plain wetlands are some of the last remaining fish spawning grounds along a long stretch of the Mississippi. Without these wetlands, fish populations are projected to crash in a large stretch of the river.

This is why The Washington Post, in a 2013 editorial, called the levee proposal a “bizarre waste of taxpayer money and an ecological disaster” and why the Missouri Department of Conservation has flatly informed the Army Corps that the project “should not be constructed.” Internal Army Corps’ emails reveal that the project is an “economic dud” with “huge environmental consequences.”

A multitude of organizations — from the local chapter of the NAACP to the National Wildlife Federation—have called on President Barack Obama’s administration to stop the project once and for all.

The Army Corps should abandon its efforts to build the New Madrid levee. If the Corps cannot see reason, the Environmental Protection Agency should stop the project using its veto power under the Clean Water Act. The EPA only uses this veto power in the most egregious circumstances — the New Madrid levee easily qualifies.

In short, this project would put people’s lives at risk, destroy a vast area of wetlands and damage the health of the Mississippi River. It is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and should not be allowed to move forward.

Tyrone Coleman is mayor of Cairo, Ill.

Dale Sanders nominated for the “Spirit of Adventure" award by Canoe and Kayak Magazine!

From our good friend, Dale Sanders, the Director of Outreach at the Wolf River Conservancy:

Can you help get out the votes by voting and sharing this with your friends and family, plus possibly posting the link to your Face Book Page / website?

From Dale:

As you may already know, I received the nomination for “Spirit of Adventure" award by Canoe and Kayak Magazine. Voting will be closed at midnight on July 201, 2016.

As I was departing the site of the 2016 US Nationals Spearfishing and International Championships, Beaver Lake, Arkansas last week, I received word I had just been nominated for a World Wide Award “Spirit of Adventure” by Canoe and Kayak Magazine. My Source to Sea paddle of the Mississippi River for Juvenile Diabetes last summer was specifically the adventure named in the award nomination. I did the paddle in just 80 days at 80 years old. Below is a summary of what is being sent friends asking them to vote Dale Sanders Grey Beard Adventurer:

The "Spirit of Adventure” award is a huge, world class opportunity for me to gain world-wide notoriety, ultimately helping the kids with Type 1 diabetes through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Please support my efforts to fight Type 1 diabetes and vote for Dale Sanders, the Gery Beard Adventurer. Would appreciate it if you could share this with your friends and POST IT ON THE WEBSITE, if applicable. Please see what other people are saying:

Dale Sanders, the Wolf River Conservancy Director of Outreach alias, Grey Beard Adventurer, at 81 years old, was recently honored, being nominated for the Spirit of Adventure Award for 2016 by Canoe and Kayak Magazine. Please support the extended goal Cruising for a Cure mission. While paddling Source to Sea on the Mississippi River last summer Dale accomplished 100% of his promised goals. Every paddle stroke taken was for the Kids with Type #1 diabetes. The paddle was all about fighting Juvenile Diabetes by raising awareness of the disease and funding for research. Speaking through a personal note, Dale "will continue to fight, supporting all efforts to find a cure for this dreaded disease. You can help — Please vote for me, the Spirit of Adventure award, by Canoe and Kayak Magazine... It's easy - Just click below. Past voters have told me it only takes few seconds”:

(Please share this with your friends, I need every vote possible. Right now I am trailing, in second place, but only by a handful of votes)

Wanted: Business Partner for the Quapaw Canoe Company Helena Outpost! Great career opportunity in the best location on the Mississippi River in between Memphis and Vicksburg. “Where the Ridge meets the River.” Excellent community, excellent location, biggest river in North America at your doorstep. See below for full details.

Quapaw Canoe Company

Helena, Arkansas

Business Opportunity: Purchase/Partnership

Intro: This is an extraordinary opportunity for anyone who both loves the water and has dreamed of running or owning their own business. Purchase or partnership using well-established and successful system of operations. Great opportunity for first time 'outdoor-preneurs' for coaching, mentoring, logistical support, and camaraderie of the Quapaw Canoe network of river rats on the biggest and baddest river in North America!

Ever since we lost John Fewkes “Mad Dog” the Quapaw Canoe Company Helena Outpost has been wandering like a pelican lost in a hurricane. Help us get back on track. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a career change. This is the perfect location and setting for somebody to realize their potential.

Description: Quapaw Canoe Company - Helena Outpost is offering a purchase or partnership opportunity for someone who has a strong passion for rivers, outdoor recreation, and is ready to dive into a challenging but rewarding business based in Helena, Arkansas. For more information about QCC, please visit

Geography: The Mississippi River forms 321 miles of paradise for paddlers along the Eastern Border of Arkansas, and Helena sits in the center of it all. With a protected harbor and 2 boat ramps, Helena is the ideal setup. Additional access to spectacular paddling on the White River, the Arkansas River, the St. Francis River, the Cache River (ivory billed woodpecker?) and Big Creek -- all within an hour’s drive of Helena.

Requirements: Must live in Helena or be willing to relocate. Must be friendly and people-oriented. Must be good with kids as well as adults. Must have good communication skills, and be able to speak comfortably with individuals as well as groups. Must be a capable writer and typist. Must be computer savvy (both Microsoft and Apple systems). Knowledge of Quickbooks a plus. Ability with Social Media a plus. Must be willing to tackle challenges and learn new skills. We will train as needed. Must be a good team member, but also must able to work independently. Must be passionate about the outdoors and the American wilderness ethic. Must be physically capable of outdoor tasks (such as canoeing and kayaking) and moving heavy equipment in preparation and/or cleanup of expeditions. Must have own personal vehicle and current driver’s license. Must be honest, earnest and hard-working. We are all worker bees in this company; the river is the queen.

Other Helpful Skills (but not requirements): Experience in nature tourism. Wilderness First Aid, or other medical training. Creative writing. Youth Outdoor Programming and Leadership. Natural Sciences. Adobe software. Grant-writing.

About Us: Quapaw Canoe Company is a mission-driven small business based in Clarksdale, Miss, with river outposts in Helena, Ark and Natchez, Miss. We are dedicated to exploring and sharing the beauty and wildness of the Lower Mississippi River and its muddy tributaries in human powered vessels.

Arrangement: Partnership or Purchase opportunity, subject to negotiation, including long term association with Quapaw Canoe Company: its systems, equipment (giant voyageur canoes), and internal mechanisms (that have passed the test of time for safe operations on the biggest and wildest river in North America).

Quapaw Canoe Company -- Helena, Arkansas

Partnership/Purchase Opportunity


This Partnership/Purchase will enable Quapaw Canoe Company to better establish itself in Helena and provide higher quality service to its clients.


Statistics from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show there are 24 million recreational paddlers in the U.S (compare that to 11 million licensed hunters). Most Americans go hiking, biking and paddling in the Rocky Mountains, Appalachia, the North Woods, or Florida to participate in outdoor recreation. The Mississippi River is America’s largest undiscovered wilderness. Quapaw Canoe Company is seeking to provide better access for paddlers right here in the heart of America’s Deep South.

We provide an essential link to nature in the heart of America on the biggest river in North America, the 3rd largest in the world. 1155 miles of free-flowing river below St. Louis with countless channels, back channels, side channels, runouts, passes and chutes to explore and get close to nature. Paddling brings clients closer to the essence of the wild river than any other means.


Quapaw Canoe Company was established in 1998 to provide high quality wilderness experiences on the Lower Mississippi River and its floodplain.

An opportunity in Helena

Quapaw Canoe Company Helena Outpost opened in 2008 at 411 Ohio in the historic district of downtown Helena. In 2012 we purchased the most ideal location for a river business in Helena at 107 Perry (5548 square feet). Helena has the best ramp and the safest harbor for hundreds of miles up & down the river (in between Memphis and Vicksburg). If any place is going to become the Canoe & Kayaking center of the Lower Mississippi River it’ll either be Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez or Helena -- and Helena has better public access and riverbank public camping. In addition, a public use island (Buck Island) is found within one mile of the Helena Harbor. Buck Island has been preserved for public recreation by Arkansas Game & Fish. All of these variables create the ideal combination for making Helena the springboard for Nature Tourism on the Mississippi River. All of the pieces are in place. It is only a matter of time before Helena reaches the tipping point and this takes off. When it happens, Quapaw Canoe Company will be there to serve and benefit!


We want to expand our services in a wholesome manner, to better serve our clientele, and better protect the river, and we want your help in a purchase/partnership to make this possible.

Rivergator Celebratory Expedition New Dates: March 14th to May 5th, 2017:

Due to the catastrophic flooding we suffered in March, we are backing up the dates on the Rivergator Celebratory Expedition from Fall 2016 to Spring 2017. If you have been thinking about joining us for this 6-week celebration from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico, please adjust the dates on your calendar: March 14th to May 5th, 2017. Exact itinerary and more details forthcoming.

The Rivergator: Paddler’s Guide to the Lower Mississippi River is one million words describing the Middle and Lower Mississippi River for paddlers! Free online guide to the mysteries of the big muddy river from St. Louis to the Gulf. Also includes thousands of photos, maps and videos. 6-year project now being completed with the help of hundreds of naturalists, paddlers, and other river rats. Go check it out at!

For more photos of the Lower Miss and more reading, go to

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
is a service of the:
Lower Mississippi River Foundation
Clarksdale, Mississippi ~ Helena, Arkansas

Photos, artwork and writing by John Ruskey unless otherwise noted. Please share with friends, but reprinting by permission only. Thank you and May the River be with You!