Nature in the Neighborhood
“I have clean air to breathe because someone somewhere manages a healthy forest,” explained the kindergarten teacher, as I walked through the nature center one morning.
I was struck by her insight and by how surprising the obvious can sometimes be.
Kindergarten teachers have a way of putting things in terms that even, well, kindergarteners can understand.
Efforts in the Missouri Ozarks to manage for healthy forests benefit urbanites like myself, as does work throughout the state on prairies, wetlands, and glades. More of our growing urban public is recognizing the connection between conservation practices and their quality of life and are supporting land managers. It is this combination of citizen support and sound resource management that ensures conservation success.
Community Stewardship Program
Natural communities are scarce in most urban centers. Where present, these small islands of the natural world possess a significance out of proportion to their size because of what they represent: the promise and presence of nature, however limited, in the midst of turf, concrete, and millions of people. Great efforts are undertaken to restore or reconstruct habitats on a small scale, to recreate a piece of that natural world, because of the importance of nature in our all-too-busy lives.
The Community Stewardship Grant Program, funded and administered out of MDC’s Wildlife Division, has supported urban conservation efforts in the St. Louis area since 2007. The Community Stewardship Program is a competitive grant opportunity for nonprofit and government organizations to receive restoration funds for urban habitat improvements in the metropolitan area, from bush honeysuckle control and replanting with native vegetation to wetland construction and cave restoration.
The three broad goals of the program are, in order of priority:
- Provide support for terrestrial and aquatic habitat improvement and community land stewardship;
- Build partnerships between MDC and similar organizations that share the common goal of improving urban habitats and supporting community conservation efforts; and
- Engage urban residents in community conservation through volunteer efforts to improve habitat.
While the funds come from MDC, the real work for these projects is accomplished by partner organizations and their hard-working staff and volunteers—folks like Tim Wood and Paul Emily.
The College School
Tim Wood, a teacher by trade, is now the caretaker of a 30-acre tract of land in the LaBarque Creek watershed in Jefferson County about 30 miles southwest of St. Louis. The property was purchased by The College School, a