League Lines: League Staff and Volunteers Clean Up The Might MO and Educate Citizens

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The Missouri River is literally tons healthier after successful clean-ups led by League staff and members.

IWLA Regional Conservation Coordinator Paul Lepisto has been co-organizing the Missouri River/Lake Sharpe Clean-up with South Dakota Walleyes Unlimited since 2009. This year, they doubled the number of clean-up participants to 80. In just three hours, these volunteers collected more than two-and-a-half tons of trash from the Missouri River, including 540 pounds of tires, 640 pounds of scrap metal, 1,900 pound of rubble (lumber), and 2,240 pounds of garbage. That brings the event’s five-year total to more than 13 tons of trash removed from the river!

Lepisto says the success of the event is due to local volunteers who help with tasks ranging from public relations to chef duties. He credits this year’s large turnout of volunteers to outreach efforts before the event, including live radio shows and information in local newspapers. Members of the League’s Sunshine Chapter (Pierre, South Dakota) provided a fish fry for the hungry volunteers when their work was done.

A couple of meanders – and about 260 miles – down the river, a successful clean-up was book-ended with educational events for the community.

Nearly 300 high school students attended the sixth annual Missouri River Watershed School Festival held at Riverside Park in Yankton, South Dakota. The event featured 20 presentations lined up by the League on topics such as endangered and invasive species, the importance of wetlands, and a hands-on opportunity to learn about fish of the Missouri River.

The following day, more than 120 volunteers came out for the 11th annual Yankton-area Missouri River Clean-up and collected nearly three tons of trash and debris. Members of the League’s Yankton Area Chapter and Regional Conservation Coordinator Paul Lepisto helped coordinate the event, which involved boats from federal, state, and private organizations shuttling volunteers to locations along the river and hauling trash back to shore for proper disposal.

Lepisto spearheaded a new River Outdoor Expo for the broader Yankton-area community after the river clean-up. The Expo, held in conjunction with local Boys Scout troops, featured more than 30 presentations and exhibits designed to teach people about the Missouri River and other local natural resources. The goal of the Expo – which is an offshoot of the successful annual school festival – is to get more people familiar with the Missouri River and create a desire to recreate on and care for the river.