Tom's Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Prairie Enthusiasts annual conference

Just returned from Menomonie, Wisconsin where Kathie and I attended the annual conference of The Prairie Enthusiasts at U.W. Stout. Although I always profit from these conferences, this year was especially nice because Stephen Packard was the keynote speaker. Steve Packard did pioneer work on oak savanna restoration in the Chicago area, and is still active. About five years ago he gave Kathie, Susan, and I a private tour of Somme Prairie Grove, his signature savanna restoration site. It was great to be able to talk with Steve again and hear the two talks he gave.

A nice book describing Steve's work in considerable detail was published in 1995 by New York Times science writer William K. Stevens. It is entitled "Miracle Under the Oaks: The Revival of Nature in America" (Pocket Books, New York). Here is a brief precis: "Our planet is nearing ecological disaster, but a vital restoration movement involving everyday people and private organizations like the Nature Conservancy has sprouted up in America. Miracle under the Oaks brings alive one of its victories--the revival of a long-lost ecosystem along the Chicago River. Here is the triumphant story of a grassroots movement to help heal the planet--and a blueprint for future change." An essential "read" for anyone carrying out oak savanna restoration!

The all-day meeting and evening banquet provided a chance to talk with a number of people doing interesting work on prairie and oak savanna restoration. The evening before the meeting, a lot of prairie enthusiasts met for dinner and conversation. I got to dine with Steve and with Mark Leach, another pioneer savanna researcher.

In addition to the oral talks, there were poster presentations, and I contributed one entitled "Buckthorn as a Calciphile: Identifying Low and High-Risk Areas", which is a more detailed version of a blog post I made several years ago.


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