Thoreau’s Complaint is our Challenge

Remnant Oak Savanna, Lancaster County, NE

Colleagues and friends,
A century and a half has passed since Henry David Thoreau complained:
We cultivate imported shrubs in our front yards for the beauty of their berries, while at least equally beautiful berries grow unregarded by us in the surrounding fields.

Those of us who love wild ecosystems and native biota, and work hard preserve them and to educate people to do the same, hear his words. His fine book Wild Fruits is dedicated to this concern and more importantly, to the appreciation of native plants. If you haven’t read it, you should!

In the meantime, an invasive and exotic plant colloquium is in order. Our colloquium will be an educational experience that draws on expertise from a variety of disciplines. We will meet at Hitchcock on January 19th for expert presentations, lively discussion, and invigorating hikes.

We will ask hard questions and share stories. We will eat hot soup and drink good coffee etc. We will learn about the history of exotic and invasive organisms and the cultural values that cultivated them. We will explore successful strategies and philosophies for restoring and preserving native plant and animal communities. We will be inspired to educate our clients, community leaders, and the public on the value of local native ecosystems and the need to fight for them. We will support each other in our good work. All in one day!

Our faculty for the day includes Susanne Hickey, Howard Eyre, and Chad Graeve. They are good friends of New Tree School and are looking forward to our time together. Their bios, topics, and interests follow below. This will be an enjoyable and productive day, and we will keep the gathering small. Please let me know soon if you plan to attend. And don’t forget to read Thoreau in the pale light of winter.

Happy solstice,
Jack Phillips

Hitchcock Nature Center and New Tree School present:

How we got here, where we need to go.
Invasive exotic plants in tallgrass prairies, savannas, and upland woods.

A colloquium and field session with Susanne Hickey, Howard Eyre, and Chad Graeve.
Monday, January 19, 2015. Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek, Iowa.
Native plant advocates, land managers, landscape architects, and environmental activists are invited!
(Registration by January 12, 2015 is required.)

Colloquium presenters and details:

Susanne Hickey, Iowa Director of Conservation Programs, The Nature Conservancy
Susanne has worked for The Nature Conservancy in Iowa since 1992 – most of those years in the Loess Hills working with landowners and partners on prairie restoration and protection. She currently manages conservancy projects across the state. Susanne’s passions are centered on the Great Plains – whether it’s thinking about getting fire back on the landscape at scale, working one on one with landowners to protect their prairies and oak woodlands, or sitting on the bank of the Niobrara River catfishing. Susanne writes:
The prairies and oak woodlands in the eastern Great Plains are often overlooked and misunderstood. Understanding the historical context for how these systems were shaped is important (native grazers and fire), but today those historical factors must be considered within the context of modern day issues including invasive species, fragmentation and broader land use concerns.

Howard Eyre, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Science, Delaware Valley College, Doylestown, PA
Howard is a native of Doylestown, but has been fortunate to have been able to travel and study environmental systems in many parts of the United States and northern Europe, particularly forest communities. This has developed his appreciation for understanding environmental systems and how human activity has impacted our habitats. He has also been fortunate to had the opportunity to have spent time with Dr. Alex Shigo and learning to view and understand forest systems in a whole new way. Howard writes:
Invasive organisms, plants, insects, birds, etc. place a burden upon the balance that should be functional in any ecosystem. To understand this burden and to develop a means of moving forward from today requires understanding not only the system, but knowing how we got “here”. Environmental systems are functional in regulating the organisms within that system, but when an intruder arrives, the system must make adjustments. Understanding how the system adjusts is critical to moving forward towards improved environmental conditions.

Chad Graeve, Natural Resource Specialist, Pottawattamie County Conservation
Chad has been employed by the people of Pottawattamie County in various capacities since 1994 and works alongside other staff and volunteers to restore natural areas. He is privileged to live and work at Hitchcock Nature Center – in the heart of the globally significant Loess Hills landform – and is continually learning about the importance of healthy human relationships with the places in which we live and work. Chad writes:
Most people recognize the importance of health – especially as it relates to the human body. If the body is properly nourished, gets healthy sleep, is mostly unstressed, and is appropriately exercised, it is resilient and its immune system capable of warding off invasive pathogens. Natural areas can be thought of in a similar manner. However, most natural areas remaining are not intact and lack the integrity to be resilient. Their vulnerability is largely due to our culture’s dysfunctional relationship with the land and is most visibly recognized by the presence of invasive non-native plants.

Susanne, Howard, and Chad will each give short presentations for the purpose of provoking thought and questions. The agenda of the day will allow for discussion, confronting challenges, and sharing our native dreams. We will also take short hikes to see the restoration and management work at Hitchcock. The New Tree School philosophy insists that people learn and grow in community, in conversation, from Nature.

We will meet at the Loess Hills Lodge at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa (5 miles north of Crescent; 20 minutes from Downtown Omaha). The day begins informally at 8:30 am for coffee etc. The colloquium begins at 9am and will finish at 3pm. We are asking for a contribution of $35 to support stewardship programs at Hitchcock Nature Center. Lunch will be provided.

Please bring a coffee cup, water bottle, and dress for outdoor activity. Our hikes will be short, but the terrain can be challenging. Please prepare accordingly. If you have special dietary needs, please let me know.

To ask questions and to register, contact me (Jack Phillips) soon (!) at 402.571.7460 or jackphillipsrca@gmail.com . The deadline to register is January 12, 2015.