When we speak of conservationists, we tend to think of the groundbreakers in the conservation field such as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Ding Darling, Rachel Carson, Gladys Black or any of the other conservationists of the past. But we should not speak only of past conservationists get lulled into thinking that conservation is an issue of the past. Conservation of the land is just as if not more important now than it was then. Luckily there are many conservationists today keeping the ideas of the groundbreaking conservationists alive. You need only look at your local conservation board and even some private landowners.
It is all about land ethics. Ethics are the principles of right or good conduct within a community. The land ethic expands the community to include soil, water, plants, animals as well as humans. It is a belief that people and the land have intertwined relationships, and caring for people cannot be separated from caring for the land.
Let’s discuss some of today’s well known (or should be) conservationists. It should be noted that there are many more, but these jumped into my head first.
Larry Stone is a master at showing Iowa’s natural treasures through photography and words. He has written 5 books as well as many articles for major publications. Larry worked for the Des Moines Register as an outdoor writer and photographer, which allowed him to explore the entire state in search of natural wonders. But he also lives a conservation life. He and his wife manage woodlands, native prairie and reconstructed prairie on their own land in northeast Iowa. He continues to write, photograph and travel the state to present and teach others the importance of caring for the land.
Cornelia (Connie) Mutel has authored 15 books, which include Emerald Horizon: The history of Nature in Iowa and Fragile Giants: A Natural History of the Loess Hills. She recently wrote A Sugar Creek Chronicle; Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland. This focused on how Iowa’s altered natural environment interacts with the hydrology of Iowa and the consequences of climate change on that interaction. Connie is passionate about sharing the natural world and translating scientific information on natural history and restoration of nature and natural processes to the general public. She and her husband also live what they teach by working to restore biodiversity to their oak-hickory woodland near Iowa City.
Some conservationists choose to study and educate on a particular piece of the conservation puzzle. Bob Cruden, Steve Hummel and Ann Johnson have brought odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) to the attention of many. Their work of finding and identifying these creatures throughout the state has led to a much higher known number of species in Iowa. Not only do they travel to find dragonflies and damselflies, but they also work to improve the knowledge base of the public. Ann Johnson leads educational events and created a pocket guide to odonates of Iowa. Bob Cruden was one of the instigators of the odonate project in our state along with O.J. Gode. Steve Hummel has been studying and collecting dragonflies and damselflies for many years, and has an extensive set of records.
I could continue with many more, but there is plenty of time to expand at a later date. For now, do a little searching to find more about the many conservationists doing excellent work in your city, county, state and beyond. You may be surprised. It might be your neighbor.