Rural Missouri - January 2012 - (Page 5)

Hart to Heart Ensuring your voices are heard his month, Jefferson City looks forward to the 2012 legislative session getting underway at the state Capitol. I’ll be one of the many carefully watching what takes place at the statehouse. One of the most important roles for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives is to represent electric cooperative members at the Capitol. Our purpose is to keep tabs on any legislation that could adversely affect rural people and to propose new legislation that will be beneficial. Our efforts are guided here in Missouri by a Legislative Committee composed of managers and directors from electric cooperatives around the state. This ensures we have input from the various state regions and oversight from the grassroots. The people on this committee, and others from neighboring electric cooperatives who provide input, have the pulse of the state’s rural areas. They know the issues that are important to their members, and they certainly let us know what these are. We do the same thing on the T by Barry Hart national level, with help from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. NRECA also has a process to ensure the member at the end of the line has a role. Its resolutions process starts at the grassroots level and eventually gives the national association its marching orders. Recently, a blue-ribbon committee revised the resolutions process in order to ensure members’ voices were heard, loud and clear. Laclede Electric Manager Ken Miller represented Missouri on the committee. One of the most pressing problems for rural people, they tell me, is the lack of broad- band service in parts of rural Missouri. While this situation is improving, much work needs to be done. There are currently four electric cooperatives — Sho-Me Power, CoMo, Ralls County and United — that are actively involved in bringing true broadband service to their areas. Other cooperatives are watching to see if these business models might work in their service areas. There are a number of good reasons why every electric cooperative is not involved in this effort. But we all agree one of our roles can be to help remove any barriers that stand “One of the most important roles for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives is to represent electric cooperative members at the Capitol.” Barry Hart in the way of bringing this muchneeded service to rural Missouri. During this legislative session, we will be supporting a bill that will ensure broadband service can follow the same rights of way used for power lines. This makes a lot of sense. If those building the broadband infrastructure in the state are forced to seek new routes for their lines to follow, nothing will get done. Many other organizations are backing this proposal. At its annual meeting in December, the Missouri Farm Bureau passed a resolution in support of this common-sense approach. If you feel the same way, please join in this effort by contacting your elected officials and asking them to support bringing broadband service to rural Missouri. At stake is the future of our students, farmers, small businesses, local governments and emergency responders who need the same kind of access to the Internet and communications services that city people take for granted. Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Guest Column Private show caves wary, but open M by Kirk Hansen issouri, the Cave State: Here, that statement really means something. With more than 6,500 caves, Missouri ranks near the top of cave-producing states. With the large number of caves comes challenges. The karst topography that makes up much of our state is a great “cave factory,” but it also gives us reason to monitor groundwater, wildlife and urban encroachment. In most cases, the quality of life for cave-dwelling animals is directly linked to what is happening on the surface. For example, the Ozark cavefish has a hard time surviving in the contaminated water of an underground stream. The most recent issue to confront our unique underground environment is the spread of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a deadly disease affecting bats and bat habitats. Caused by a fungus, the disease is known to spread from roosting area to roosting area via the bats themselves. It is suspected that people can carry the fungal spores from place to place, especially those involved in wild cave excursions. Addressing WNS is an important task for both the public and private sectors of cave resource management. The public sector has taken steps to eliminate or limit access to caves on the public lands they control. Private sector caves have taken a different approach: stay open for tours while educating their visitors about WNS and other environmental issues. The Missouri Caves Association is made up of show-cave operators in Missouri and Arkansas. The association’s membership has taken an active role in WNS pursuits. Several of the cave attractions are even collecting donations to assist in funding research into the disease. They understand that, since the fungus (but not WNS) has been found in Missouri, it is important that the race to treat the disease be won. The National Caves Association also has made significant donations to the same research efforts. Missouri’s cave attractions, by nature, offer tours via wellmaintained tour trails. Visitors to these attractions sustain very little contact with the cave, thus reducing the possibility of cross-cave contamination. At Fantastic Caverns in “The karst topography that makes up much of our state is a great ‘cave factory,’ but it also gives us reason to monitor groundwater, wildlife and urban encroachment.” Kirk Hansen JANUARY 2012 Springfield, guests ride all the way through the cave without any direct contact with the cavern. Each of Missouri’s privately owned show caves is actively monitoring their property and cave for any signs of WNS — sick or dead bats. So far, the news is good. There have been no reports of either the fungus or infected bats at any Missouri show caves. The private show caves of Missouri are, for the most part, open throughout the year. There have been no operational reductions in schedules or visitor inconveniences at these caves. While the winter months are the hibernation months for bats, it is also a wonderful time to visit a Missouri show cave to learn more about the wonders and challenges of nature that surround us at every turn. During these months, you’ll find smaller crowds, more personal service and, making it even better, the caves are warm in the winter! Hansen is the public information director at Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, which is served by Ozark Electric Cooperative. You can learn more about the Missouri Caves Association at www. 5

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2012

Rural Missouri - January 2012
Table of Contents
Superior steel
Facing ‘extreme men’
Return to the prairie
Out of the Way Eats
Missouri snapshots
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Woven in tradition
Around Missouri
The Nimblewill Nomad

Rural Missouri - January 2012