Land conservation, economic growth, among topics at Raven Society annual meeting
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Economic growth and the preservation of rural, natural and historic resources were the topics of the annual meeting of the Raven Society held at the Blount County Public Library Sunday afternoon.
Alex Wyss, director of conservation programs for the Nature Conservancy, and Mike Butler, CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, served as the keynote speakers. Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor was scheduled to be the third speaker, but was not in attendance.
Wyss discussed partnerships he has with organizations and local governments.
“We work in a variety of different ways,” Wyss said. “A lot of our work is best described as finding ways to develop energy or urban development, forestry practices, and development activities that are compatible with protecting the natural environment.
“It’s really relevant to your discussion today, because that’s the reality of conservation to do this work of these economic times,” Wynn continued. “Conservation is not only good for the environment, but also good for business. I think that is grossly overlooked by the general public and the conservation community. I think we need to understand the significance of conservation to economic development, and we really need to channel it.”
Butler, who has been the CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation since 2002, said the since organization’s debut in 1946, its first purpose for existing was to take the politics out of natural resource wildlife management.
“We teamed up with (former Tennessee) Gov. (Gordon) Browning in 1949 at the time and introduced game and fish legislation,” Butler said. “That became the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Association). Along that road, we were instrumental in conservation, which became TDEC (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation).
“We have to face the realities of how relevant conservation is in today’s society,” Butler continued. “We have to be exact in our application of thinking through this. My mom always told me your priorities will be determined on where you spend your money. We can all relate to that. We have six million Tennesseans. Between a million and a million and two buy a hunting and fishing license. That represents one-fifth of the population engaging in activity outdoors.”
Butler said further, “We have fewer people going camping. We always hear the numbers of hunters and fishermen is in decline, but in Tennessee, the population is relatively flat. It tells us the majority of the population is putting their mind and their money into things that have nothing to do with the outdoors.”
Meanwhile, three Blount County educators were honored with Conservation Educators of the Year Award during the meeting, including:
• Fred Goins, principal of Carpenters Elementary School. He and his teachers were recognized for their vision of developing an outdoor environmental classroom on the school’s 16-acre woodlot, stream, spring, wetland and open field. More than 200 species of native plants and animals have already been found on the school’s nature area.
• Becky Stone, principal of Eagleton Middle School. She and her teachers were recognized for their vision to begin conversion of a rather barren fescue law campus landscape, including two rainwater retention ponds, into an outdoor learning center for classes. The multi-discipline approach to student learning is being enhanced by a campus-wide landscaping plan designed from an ecological perspective.
• Erich Henry, director of conservation for the Blount County Soil Conservation District, helps educate the general public working with agricultural, suburban, commercial and public land users to help implement on-the-ground conservation practices designed to improve soil, water and air quality. He has been instrumental in helping develop outdoor environmental education classrooms at Carpenter and Eagleton schools, and hopes to do the same at other schools in the future.
“The health, welfare and quality of our lives depend upon our ability to care for our environment,” said Billy Minser, vice chairman of the Raven Society. “The foundation for all of these depends upon well-grounded education of our children, and that is what the awards recognize in these community educators.”
Created in 2000 by a group of county residents concerned about the county’s future, the Raven Society lists its goal as to preserve the quality of life by protecting the county’s natural and historic features.