Newsroom Midwest Region

Partners tackle another lead mining restoration project in Missouri

March 12, 2018

Partners planted 550 small trees as part of a restoration project on a former mining area in southeast Missouri. Photo courtesy of Amy Poos/Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Partners planted 550 small trees as part of a restoration project on a former mining area in southeast Missouri. Photo courtesy of Amy Poos/Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Trustees for Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration in Missouri, including the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Service, have begun another project in the southeast Missouri lead mining district. In December of 2017, trustees started work on the restoration of the Little St. Francis River chat pile, planting more than 550 container-grown trees at the site of a remediated lead mine in Fredericktown.

The site is located within the Madison County Mines Site, at the southern end of the historic mining district called the Old Lead Belt. Past mining operations left numerous chat (waste left behind after ore is removed) and tailings deposits contaminated with high concentrations of heavy metals. As a result, the site was placed on the National Priorities (Superfund) List in 2003, and has been undergoing cleanup actions led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the years since. In 2009, the trustees settled claims for natural resource damages with ASARCO, LLC. Recovered restoration funds for Madison County were directly related to ASARCO operations at the Little St. Francis River chat pile.

Trustees allocated about $150,000 for the project, including design and implementation of a five-year program of upland and floodplain forest restoration and monitoring. Noxious and invasive plant species will be controlled with an integrated pest management plan which calls for the physical and chemical treatment of undesirable species. Existing high quality forests will be thinned and improved for increased wildlife habitat.

The City of Fredericktown has agreed to place a conservation easement on the property, which will ensure that the trustees’ investment of restoration funds will yield ecological benefits for the citizens of Missouri in the future. The Service and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources will support the long-term restoration and maintenance of the restored natural area by providing the city with funds for equipment and staff. After these restoration efforts, the area will provide outstanding habitat for migratory birds, recreational and historic opportunities to park visitors and landscape-scale connectivity with existing protected areas.

The restoration project is the result of a collaborative effort by the trustees and many existing and new partners. The City of Fredericktown is the current owner of the site and has acted as an invaluable partner in the first phase of the restoration project by applying herbicides to invasive plants that dominated the planting area prior to restoration. City staff also drilled holes with their skid-steer mounted auger for tree planting at the site, which is part of the larger restoration area totaling more than 110 acres of city land. Additionally, the Missouri Department of Conservation provided assistance in the form of expert advice for proper species selection and planting densities for floodplain forest restorations. They will continue to advise the trustees on forest restoration and invasive species control.

The trustees have also enlisted the experts at the U.S. Geological Survey in Columbia, Missouri, to assist and educate them on proper restoration monitoring. Scientists from the United States Geological Service have conducted extensive pre-restoration characterization of the site and will continue to monitor the response of wildlife and vegetation as the project unfolds over the coming years. USGS scientists are also helping the trustees develop experimental restoration plots at the site to determine the most efficient, speedy and cost-effective restoration techniques for invasive plant species control. Finally, the trustees have partnered with the Ozark Regional Land Trust, a private non-profit organization which holds conservation easements, to protect and monitor the restoration area in perpetuity. The City of Fredericktown will continue to own the property and maintain it in a natural state. Look for more exciting restoration project news and updates on field notes and on the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District Natural Resource Damage Assessment website.