The St. Louis area might not be known for grand natural resources, but less than fifteen miles upstream from the Arch, the counties of Madison, Jersey, Macoupin, Calhoun and St. Charles, stretching along the Mississippi and Illinois confluence, from Pere Marquette at the north to Alton at the south, are home to a lush but delicate ecosystem of forests, streams, bluffs, prairies and wetlands. In its eleventh year, the Great Rivers Land Trust has invested millions to protect thousands of acres facing erosion, pollution and commercial exploitation. In another ten years the trust hopes to protect another 5,000 acres. Along with land acquisition and easements, the GRLT has also acted as a cagey liaison between local farmers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois-American Water Company to improve water quality in the region and has taken its message of conservation into area schools and community colleges. If you've ever marveled at the Acadian landscape along the Great River Road, credit Mother Nature first, but don't forget the GRLT.