The Spiritual Side of Managing for Wildlife
I have met many different types of people since I began working as the private land conservationist for Cole and Osage counties. Each person I have met has expressed his or her passion and love for the outdoors and natural resource conservation in their own unique way! I consider myself very enthusiastic when it comes to conservation, so it only adds fuel to the fire when a landowner shares the same enthusiasm and eagerness to put natural resource management on the ground. This is exactly the attitude that Father John Groner had when I first spoke with him about planning management activities on his property.
A strong sense of service and stewardship
Fr. Groner (John) grew up in Osage County. As a young man he was always tied to the land and conserving the state’s natural resources. “I always had two strong desires in my life, one to manage the land and the other to serve the Church.” At 65 years old, John has been serving the Catholic Church for more than four decades and has been the minister for churches all across the Midwest, as well as Italy. John feels that we all have a “spiritual” obligation to be stewards of the land and care for all of God’s creations. John first became interested with conservation as a young man, hunting and fishing the Osage County hills. Over the years as the land changed, he began to see a decrease in the abundance of wildlife he so much enjoyed as a young man. “It’s been years since I have even heard a quail out here,” he said over the phone during our first conversation.
A century farm with potential for wildlife
John’s farm lies in Osage County. The farm has been in John’s family for more than 100 years. The farm was primarily used for grazing cattle. Groner Brothers Farms persisted for many years, but eventually the farm was divided between John and his brother. John’s brother elected to continue to graze cattle on his half of the property; however, John decided to work on improving wildlife habitat on his half.
My first opportunity to work with John came in early April. John contacted me explaining that he “wanted someone to come out and tell me if I’m on the right track.” John explained that he had been reading about Eastern redcedars invading open areas and unfortunately had two