The McKnight Foundation and the Walton Family Foundations and a network of other organizations with interests in the Mississippi River have started a campaign to “the land, water, and people of America’s greatest watershed.”
1 Mississippi encourages those who know and love the Mississippi River and its wetlands to sign up and become River Citizens. It’s free, and in signing up you make your first declaration of what you will do for the river.
If you are at loose ends about what you can do for the river, 1 Mississippi has seven suggestions, eight actually:
1. Sign up and become a river citizen;
2. Volunteer on the river: clean up, plant trees, engage in other restoration work such as grass planting on barrier islands in Louisiana:
3. Get to know the river: take short canoe trips on the river, such as through the islands at the Confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri; play in the festivals along the river; hike through its wildlife refuges; visit its nature centers.
4 and 5. Reduce fertilizer and pesticide use: When we phosphorous-based fertilize and use weed killers on our lawns, what the grass doesn’t use washes into our sewers and ultimately into the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, where the fertilizers nourish algae, which creates low oxygen conditions and a Dead Zone, which upsets the migration of fish and shrimp from their nurseries in Louisiana’s wetlands to the gulf; fertilizers also nourish algae behind the dams on the Upper Mississippi, creating low oxygen conditions there. Use phosphorous-free fertilizers on your lawn, or turn your lawn over to ground cover–ivy, no mowing.
6. Support sustainable agriculture: This is way harder than using less fertilizer on your lawn, because farmers resist using less fertilizer on their fields of corn and soybeans. More and more fertilizers have washed off Midwest farm fields, starting with the Flood of 1993 to the Flood of 2011, nourishing a larger and larger Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. One way you can support sustainable agriculture is to become a Locavor and buy your fruits and veggies at local farmers’ markets, or go to the farm itself, buy your produce, and get to know the farmer.
7. Protect wetlands: By protecting wetlands from development, we can reduce the impact of floods, because wetlands act like storage units for floodwater.
8. Though it’s not called 8: Get to know your elected representatives–local, state, and national. Get to know their voting records. Get to know the issues before them and let them know where you stand on them. Vote for candidates who make the river their priority.