Land

Up Close and Personal with Where Breakfast Comes From

By Kelly Shenk and Matt Johnston

Kelly:

PennAg Industries Association contacted me as soon as I became EPA Region 3’s Agricultural Advisor and offered me the chance to get out in the field to visit three farms.  I assembled a team predominantly comprised of Chesapeake Bay Watershed Modelers to learn first-hand from farmers about their success and challenges of growing food in a safe, humane, and environmentally sound manner.  PennAg provided an experience that I know we’ll all take with us in our careers and personal lives, as demonstrated by Matt Johnston in this blog.

Learning from farmers on the PennAg farm tour

Matt:
It is all too easy to forget where our food comes from.  Every Saturday as a young boy I awoke to the smells of bacon and eggs coming from the kitchen.  By the time I got to the table, my mother had already set my place with two eggs sunny side up, two pieces of extra crispy bacon, a piece of toast and a glass of milk.  It’s a menu familiar to many of us and served weekend after weekend in homes across America.

Never once did I stop to think about how my breakfast got there.  Never once did I consider the animal production side of the equation – the side that includes thousands of workers, millions of animals, and tons of feed and manure.  Last week while on a tour of farms with colleagues, I was reminded of the other side of that equation in very personal ways.

The first stop on our tour was an egg layer facility. Conveyer belts criss-crossed a three-story tall warehouse seamlessly transporting eggs to an adjacent packing facility from the millions of hens that were stacked in cages and spread out over an area larger than a football field.  All the while, another set of belts sent the byproduct of our food production in the opposite direction, depositing the poultry litter in two-to-three story high piles.  When confronted with mounds of litter taller than your house, you begin to realize the inevitable byproducts of our Saturday morning meals.

This lesson was repeated at a nursery pig raising facility, where I jumped at the opportunity to hold an adorable young pig when the tour leader offered.  Unfortunately, the pig did not share my excitement and promptly announced its disgust by soiling my clothing with manure.  All the while, under my feet was a concrete holding tank full of the same viscous substance ready to be pumped out and transported to a nearby field.

Visiting the pigs on the PennAg farm tour

Our last stop was a small dairy.  There were no large holding tanks or conveyor belts constructing piles.  Instead, there was a single farmer with a few small pieces of equipment, a small barnyard, and a few adjacent fields.  Without the resources to stack or store manure, the farmer can only do one thing with it – spread it.  This is the way farmers have farmed for hundreds of years.

Whether the manure is stacked, buried, or spread, it is real.  What is now clear to me is that it is not the devil.  It’s a necessary byproduct of our society’s growing consumption of animal products.  However, like all byproducts of production, it can be harmful in high doses.

Yet we have the tools to lessen its impact.  We can spread manure according to nutrient management plan recommendations.  We can plant grasses and trees along waterways to intercept nutrients.  And we can work with farmers to make proper storage and handling equipment available.

After all, the manure is not going away, and I’m not going to stop eating eggs and bacon with my glass of milk on Saturday morning.

Learning from Farmers on the PennAg farm tour

About the Authors: Kelly Shenk is EPA Region 3’s Agricultural Advisor.  Matt Johnston is a Nonpoint Source Data Analyst with the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Abandoned Coal Mines

By Jeffery Robichaud

A fair portion of our GIS mapping activities in Region 7 are related to cleanup of contamination from historic lead mining activities, several of which we hope to share in future blog posts. But mining in Missouri was not always lead.  In fact, Missouri has a rich coal mining history and lays claim to being the first state west of the Mississippi River to commercially produce coal.  In Missouri, hundreds of mostly small, family-owned mines operated into the middle part of last century.

Unfortunately abandoned underground coal mines can pose significant safety concerns, possibly causing damage to homes and infrastructure especially if folks aren’t aware of their presence.  Additionally, even though mining isn’t active, abandoned mines can also still produce methane  from vents, fissures, or boreholes.  If you have ever visited the Museum of Science and Industry  in Chicago and taken the Coal Mine tour, you know how dangerous methane can be if it builds up.  EPA has worked with industry and states to develop the Coalbed Methane Outreach Program (CMOP) a voluntary program whose goal is to reduce methane emissions from coal mining activities including abandoned mines, and whose:

…mission is to promote the profitable recovery and use of coal mine methane (CMM), a greenhouse gas more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide. By working cooperatively with coal companies and related industries, CMOP helps to address barriers to using CMM instead of emitting it to the atmosphere. In turn, these actions mitigate climate change, improve mine safety and productivity, and generate revenues and cost savings.

You can find out more about CMOP by visiting EPA’s website, and can view slides from 2012 US Coal Mine Methane Conference as well.

So as you contemplate whether you might find coal in your stocking this season, consider giving a gift to the State of Missouri if you have an old map that was passed down through your family like the one shown below.  The State has, for the last several years, been collecting donated maps and scanning them into the department’s archive as well as sending electronic versions to the Office of Surface Mining in Pennsylvania for inclusion in the National Mine Map Repository. You can see their pitch for your maps by watching the youtube video below (even though the video says 2011, I’m sure they would still be happy to receive a map from you).

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Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  He took his boys on the Coal Mine tour at MSI this Spring roughly thirty years after he visited with his brother.   It is quite possible that he may receive coal in his stocking at the end of December.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Water Treatment Ahead of its Time

By: Trey Cody

Fairmount Water Works

Fairmount Water Works, Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service

As in intern in EPA Region III’s Water Protection Division, there are always ample opportunities to learn about environmental protection. One of my most recent adventures was a trip to the Fairmount Water Works Interpretative Center in Philadelphia with other interns in my program.

The original Fairmount Water Works was considered at the time of its opening in 1815 to be a wonder of the world.  After witnessing its magnificent architecture and design, I would argue that it still is today. During the trip we learned about how, with advanced technology for its time, the Water Works facility allowed Philadelphia to be the first municipality in the nation to take on the responsibility of distributing fresh drinking water to the public. This was done with the use of two steam engines which pumped water from the Schuylkill River to a 3-million-gallon reservoir to house it.  In 1822, a 1,600-foot dam was built across the Schuylkill in order to direct water to three water wheels, which had replaced the steam engines.  Another innovation for its time was the use of hydropower–the facility itself was powered by the river.  And I learned that Fairmount Park was created to preserve open space to protect our water supply.

It is clear that the availability for clean drinking water has been a priority for centuries.  I knew that Philadelphia gets its drinking water from both the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, but it was nice to learn about the history behind this.  It gives me pride to know that the Mid-Atlantic Region was home to a facility ahead of its time that is still to this day a model for drinking water facilities across the U.S.

Do you know how your drinking water is treated and which source it comes from?  Do you have a similar story to a visit to a drinking water facility?  Leave us a comment and tell about it!

About the Author: Trey Cody has been an intern with EPA’s Water Protection Division since graduation from high school in 2010. He is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Reminiscing….

By Jeffery Robichaud

A few weeks ago I blogged about our pending office move.  The day has finally come, and this will be my last in this office.  The movers are taking our items to our new home Thursday and Friday, and I will start to unpack next Tuesday, our first day in the new digs.  This is the view out my window last night, the shadows creeping across the almost empty parking lot.

I know I have taken this view for granted over the years, but as I gazed out of it for one of the last times I was struck by all I could see… how out this one window, I could literally see before me my work over the last ten years and our mission as an Agency.  Apologies to the Little River Band (feel free to hum along) but I couldn’t help myself but do a little reminiscing.

On the left hand side just above an overpass you can make out an orangish-reddish building, EPA Region 7’s Science and Technology Center.  This state of the art facility was one of the first LEED certified laboratories in the country, and it was built on a Brownfields site, allowing EPA to practice what it preaches by re-using  a blighted property.  It is here where samples from all around our Region and even the country are analyzed to provide the necessary information for us to make decisions.  It was dedicated 10 years ago and we are just as proud of it today.   Even with the move to the new building around 80 staff will still be located here in Kansas City, KS.

Towards the center of the photo you can make out the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers at a place called Kaw Point, a place where Lewis and Clark camped over 200 years ago and which holds tremendous significance to me as a history buff.  It is from that point where we launch Carp Buster II, our electrofishing boat which we use to collect fish from both the Kansas and Missouri Rivers as part of our Ambient Fish Tissue program, the longest running such program in the country.  The information that we and our partners in the four States collect provides the public with timely information about the safety of their water’s fish.   Administrator Jackson visited Kaw Point several years ago to kick off the Summer of Service Intitiative.

Kaw Point used to be a decrepit, derelict, outcropping but through the hard work of the many partners including the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and the Friends of Kaw Point, it was turned into a fantastic park just in time for the bicentennial of the Corps of Discovery.  The photograph below is of my first exposure to the point at  a clean-up I worked in the rain one Fall afternoon almost 10 years ago to the day (also featuring EPA’s Larry Shepard a fellow blogger and all around good guy).

Towards the top of the picture you can barely make out a candy striped stack of the Hawthorne Power Plant to the right of the new bridge.  As a Senior Advisor to our Regional Advisor ten years ago I remember working on an event where former EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman spoke about the plant which at the time was the cleanest coal fired power plant in the nation.  However just five years later, a horrendous fire darkened the sky above Kansas City, the result of a fire at a chemical plant nearby.  Many of us worked throughout the night collecting and analyzing the data from inside the plume to ensure that we could provide the public with accurate information about their health.

Finally, I need to comment on the big black silhouette that obscures a portion of my view out my window.  It is a bird, or at least a facsimile of a bird.  One of the nicer features of this building is the eastern facing facade is primarily glass, providing my view of the City built on the River.  However, it seems that birds have a tough time judging the windows and were smacking into them with some regularity.  Rather than just accept this rather macabre side effect, a group of folks including Holly (who is also contributor to this blog) decided that we might scare off the birds by use of these sillhouettes of birds of prey, and darned if they don’t actually work.

Next week the view will definitely change, and I will miss the big black splotch on my window.  What won’t change is the work that my colleagues perform everyday, their creativity, their pursuit of strong science and transparency, and their tireless effort to ensure that we work our hardest to protect the public health and the environment here in the Midwest.

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  He will miss his view of Kaw Point.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Lending a Critical Eye to Ecosystems Part 2 – Ecological Significance

By Holly Mehl

Last week I posted my first blog which talked about a project we worked on developing Terrestrial Conservation Focus Areas within Region 7. These areas were developed to provide an additional tool for decision makers to help in prioritizing ecological resources. Today, I want to share a little bit about of the technical side using some maps to demonstrate how we combined each of the different layers to arrive at the Conservation Focus Areas. In an effort to be as simple as possible, I’m going to really just skim over things, but I would encourage you to check out the report for the entire methodology.

Today I will share the first step, the creation of an Ecological Significance layer. To develop this we looked at the percent conversion of ecoregions from historical vegetation (original land cover) by abiotic site type (yes this is a mouthful). The actual methodology is quite complicated but you can think of it as how much natural vegetation is still around. Areas that are currently crop, barren land, urban or water represent areas of significant conversion. For example a reservoir would represent 100% conversion since it used to be a stream valley, while a grassland might exhibit 30% conversion if a third of the area is now covered with trees. You can get an idea of what this looks like by comparing the two figures below (the big gray area in the second Figure is St. Louis, MO).

The layer of percent conversion by abiotic site type (again, for exact details, read the methodology in the report) was combined with the Opportunity Area analysis previously conducted by the Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership (MoRAP). Opportunity Areas are places which are located at least 75 meters into the interior of a patch of natural landcover and which are at least 75 meters away from a road. Think of them as undisturbed areas, with the largest areas receiving a “1” and the smallest areas receiving a “5.” The two layers (percent conversion and ranked opportunity areas) are then combined, as shown below, to produce a measure of Ecological Significance

To me as an ecologist, the Opportunity Areas by themselves have so much value because they point out places on the landscape where development land demand is relative low so the opportunity to pursue conservation management is greater. Because they are defined as natural or semi-natural land cover patches that are away from roads and habitat patch edges, I figured I could look at these polygons in a GIS to see where I might want to purchase land in Missouri. In my mind it would be most attractive to pitch my tent as far away from roads as possible!

In my next post I will discuss how we came up with threats, as well as how we combined Threats and Significance to arrive at Ecological Risk.

About the Author:Holly Mehl is an ecologist for EPA Region 7 who helps with water monitoring in the field and performs mapping for EPA Region 7’s program offices.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Lending a Critical Eye to Ecosystems Part 1 – Getting Focused

By Holly Mehl

A few years back, we put together a nice analysis of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska’s most critical (i.e.,ecologically valuable) areas.  As ecologists know, ecosystems do not adhere to the administrative boundaries of our states, so the actual analysis extended out into ecological regions that overlie those states like South Dakota, Arkansas, Colorado and Minnesota.  Together with MoRAP – the Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership, based in Columbia, Missouri – we identified geographic areas of focus, Conservation Focus Areas, which would also be of use to management programs and agencies.  Our goal was that our state and local partners would use our assessment as another tool in helping to define priorities for conservation at whatever scale was appropriate for them.

The work that went into this project started in 2001 and culminated into a finished work in 2009 entitled, Development of Conservation Focus Area Models for EPA Region 7(Diamond et al).  This effort was incredibly involved, so I’ve decided to try and highlight the methodology and approach over several blog articles, first focusing on our terrestrial assessment then switching to our aquatic assessment since different approaches were used for each. 

Before I get in to the details of the terrestrial assessment next week, it helps to have a general idea of how we approached the assessment.  The flow chart below provides a quick overview, and shows how two items, Irreplaceability and Ecological Risk, were combined to identify Conservation Focus Areas.  I’m oversimplifying but Irreplaceability can be thought of as how rare (in terms of biology and landcover) a particular place is in an area, while Risk is the chance that an area might be threatened because of the encroachment of development or because of how ecological significant it is. 

 

What is neat about this analysis is that each component by itself is a uniform, continuous, relatively fine-resolution data layer that can be used for refined priority setting or individual project review, depending on what is needed by the user.   For example, even before the final report was finished, EPA’s water enforcement staff were able to use the Ecological Significance data layer (on the left side of the diagram) to help them select proposed projects for a wetlands mitigation case.  Next week I will explain how each of the layers above were derived and provide access to the shape files and data layers.  If you just can’t wait that long, give us a comment in the comment field below and we can share them with you earlier. 

About the Author:   Holly Mehl is an ecologist for EPA Region 7 who helps with water monitoring in the field and performs mapping for EPA Region 7’s program offices.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Congratulations Des Moines

By Jeffery Robichaud

Congratulations are in order to the City, of Des Moines Iowa, the third recipient in Region 7 for a Greening America’s Capitals project.  Greening America’s Capitals is a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities between EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to help state capitals develop an implementable vision of distinctive, environmentally friendly neighborhoods that incorporate innovative green building and green infrastructure strategies. According to the release:

Des Moines will receive assistance to incorporate green infrastructure elements into a proposed streetscape plan for a one-mile segment of 6th Avenue. The 6th Avenue corridor, which serves as the northern gateway to the city’s downtown, is a Main Street Iowa Urban Neighborhood District with direct access to the Des Moines River. The Greening America’s Capitals project will create design options to revitalize this commercial street, such as wider sidewalks, narrower traffic lanes, better lighting, and improved bus stop shelters, as well as street trees, permeable pavement, and rain gardens to minimize stormwater runoff. The city plans to use the 6th Avenue project to guide designs for other planned streetscape improvements throughout the city.

You can view the previous awardees in Region 7, Jefferson City, MO and Lincoln, NE to find out more about plans for greening these State Capitals.  What I found interesting about these (as well as from other State Capitals throughout the country which you can visit here) is that an important part of visualizing future green development, taking stock of community assets, and communicating the public is a good map

Map from plan - Greening America's Capitals - Jefferson City, Missouri

In both of the design plans for Jefferson City and Lincoln, maps help to anchor the effort and depict where activities might occur to help green the Capital.  In my experience folks always want to know the “what” involved with a potential project but more often the “where” is just as important.  Communicating activities visually through mapping, provides greater transparency and allows the public to become better informed in order to provide comments and ideas to decisionmakers.  You can also check out more about the Smart Growth Partnership here.

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Test. Share. Protect. World Water Monitoring Day 2012!

World Water Monitoring DayBy Trey Cody

Did you ever wonder how information is gathered on the condition of our streams, lakes, estuaries, and coastal waters?  Or how we know whether it is safe to use these waters for drinking or recreational activities like fishing, swimming, and boating?

September 18th is your day to not only ask these questions, but to get out and be involved in the data collection yourself… because September 18th is World Water Monitoring Day!

You don’t have to consider yourself a scientist to help keep tabs on the health of your local watershed.  As part of World Water Monitoring Day, you can do your own monitoring tests and enter your results into an international database.  Simple monitoring kits are available for purchase by anyone interested in participating.

The health of our water bodies is important more than just one day per year, which is why the World Water Monitoring Day Challenge runs annually from March 22nd (the United Nations’ World Water Day) until December 31st. Events are held, and tests can be conducted and results submitted at any time. The purpose of the challenge is to encourage people everywhere to TEST the quality of their waterways, SHARE their findings, and PROTECT our most precious resource.

Watch this video for background on the event and to learn how to test for the four indicators (Turbidity, pH, Temperature, and Dissolved Oxygen) of the World Water Monitoring Day Challenge.  By just testing these four parameters – and it’s easy to do – we can learn a lot about the health of our waterways.

There are lots of materials out there to help you learn more about the importance of water monitoring. EPA’s Monitoring and Assessing Water Quality page and other outreach materials can help get people excited about water quality.

So get out and assess your waters!  Tell us about your water monitoring experiences and what you found in your data collection.

About the Author: Trey Cody has been an intern with EPA’s Water Protection Division since graduation from high school in 2010. He is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University.

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of September will focus on Action and Education.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Encouraging Design Thinking to Develop Integrated Green Infrastructure Solutions

By Ken Hendrickson

Campus Rainworks Challenge - click for more information!When you hear the words “design” or “designer”, what comes to mind?  The latest couture on the runway?  Swiss furniture with names that are hard to pronounce?   While you may envision the products of design, I tend to think about design thinking – the process of working through a complex problem. In many cases, I believe the understanding gained during this process is more important than the product or end result.  Design can result in beautiful or interesting things, but design thinking can help to integrate multiple disciplines, create positive change and advance our understanding of the world.

We’ve all heard the phrase “thinking outside the box” – to be creative and not use the same old thinking to solve complex problems.  Design thinking takes that a step further.  It helps to reframe the problem, consider information from several fields and test possible solutions.  It’s a perfect vehicle for advancing ideas in new and unexpected ways.  This explains the popularity of design competitions as a way to encourage creative thinking around a particular set of environmental problems.

One example is the use of design competitions to explore the possibilities of green infrastructure to address urban stormwater. These green techniques use vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage stormwater close to its source.  They also have the potential to provide additional social and environmental benefits.  Design competitions are helping to build an interdisciplinary discussion around the potential of green infrastructure – thinking outside the pipe.

Region 3’s Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) Initiative did a webcast this spring exploring how design competitions can be powerful tools to spur innovation and adoption of green infrastructure communities. View the archived webcast by visiting http://www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/watersheds.htm#g3academy and clicking “G3 Academy Studio.”

The Community Design Collaborative, Philadelphia Water Department, and EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office are partnering to host Infill Philadelphia: Soak it up!, an exhibition of best practices in green stormwater infrastructure.  The goal of the exhibition is to showcase projects that soak up stormwater while creating healthy, engaging, and visually-appealing urban places.  Selected entries will be on display at Philadelphia’s Center for Architecture this fall. The exhibition is also a build up to a national design competition.

Design competitions can also engage and educate students.  The EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge seeks to engage college and university students from multiple disciplines to develop green infrastructure solutions.  This design competition is an exciting opportunity for college and university students to be on the cutting edge of a real-world issue and contribute to the discussion.  Students must form teams and register to participate.  Registration for the competition is open from September 4 to October 5, 2012, and entries will be due on December 14, 2012.   Visit the Campus RainWorks website for more information about the competition.

Have you ever thought about designing something to solve a problem?  How did your thinking change from when you started designing to when you developed your solution?  What kinds of things did you have to consider?  How would you design green infrastructure for your neighborhood?

About the Author: Ken Hendrickson has worked at the EPA since 2010 and is the Green Infrastructure staff lead in the Office of State and Watershed Partnerships.  Ken has a background in landscape architecture, geology, and watershed management.  He enjoys working to empower communities to improve their environment and finding solutions that create more resilient social, environmental, and economic systems. When not in the office, Ken enjoys challenging and rewarding outdoor activities and creative indoor hobbies.

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of August will focus on Science and Innovation.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Ecoregions of the Midwest

By Jeffery Robichaud

I spent a couple of weeks this summer with my family on the beach in North Carolina.  I’m not the most social fellow in vacation settings, so I spent most of the time splashing in the waves with my sons.   Occasionally, I was forced into some small talk with locals at attractions while waiting for the boys to complete a ride.  Invariably, the question, “Where ya from?” would enter the conversation.  Whether I answered Kansas, Missouri, Kansas City, or the Midwest the responses were all the same…”really flat out there isn’t it…lots of corn huh?” (I’m choosing to leave out comments about the Royals as there is no need to kick them when they are down).

Yes Kansas is flat.  Yes we grow lots of corn in this part of the country.  But our four-State Region is not just a boring landscape of monoculture and interstate.  We have a tremendous diversity of unique ecosystems; from the Sandhills of Nebraska to the Mingo Swamp of the Missouri bootheel….from the Flint Hills of Kansas to the Prairie Potholes of Iowa.

Photos: University of Nebraksa Lincoln, US FWS, NASA, and Emporia State University

Over twenty years ago James Omernik with EPA’s Office of Research and Development worked with colleagues at EPA and with other organizations throughout the country to develop a map of Ecoregions for the United States.

Designed to serve as a spatial framework for the research assessment, and monitoring of ecosystems and ecosystem components, ecoregions denote areas within which ecosystems (and the type, quality, and quantity of environmental resources) are generally similar. By recognizing the spatial differences in the capacities and potentials of ecosystems, ecoregions stratify the environment by its probable response to disturbance. These general purpose regions are critical for structuring and implementing ecosystem management strategies across federal agencies, state agencies, and nongovernmental organizations that are responsible for different types of resources within the same geographical areas.

 

You can get a copy of EPA’s Level 3 Ecoregions (the most commonly used Ecoregion) for the entire country as a zipped shapefile here, as well as the metadata here, and symbology here.  Download them and see for yourself how many different ecosystems we have here in Region 7.  Or drop us a comment.  Last week I mentioned we were packing up maps and wouldn’t you know, we found extra copies of unused wall sized Level III Ecoregion maps of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska which could sure use good homes.

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7’s Environmental Services Division.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.