Wednesday, June 27, 2007

News

Individuals, Organizations Honored At Annual Meeting

Rural Action honored three people and two organizations with Sustainability Awards. Ronda Clark earned the Sustainable Livelihood Award; Wil Chandler and Athens Realty earned the Sustainable Business Award; the Little Cities of Black Diamonds Council earned the Sustainable Partnership Award; and Mary Stoertz earned a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. The awards were conferred at Rural Action's Annual Meeting, held at Trimble High School on June 16.

In order to earn a sustainability award, a person or organization must be nominated for fulfilling three criteria: 1. they create new models for living with respect to the Earth and its systems that others can follow, 2. they have a generous spirit and willingly share knowledge, experiences and personal resources and 3. they leave the world a better place because of their personal and professional behavior.

Clark, a resident of Jacksonville, earned the Sustainable Livelihood Award for service with Peace Corps and AmeriCorps and for her work as the Executive Director of Community Food Initiatives. Athens Realty and Wil Chandler (owner) were awarded the Sustainable Business Award for their general support of the businesses and organizations working in the region, especially their assistance to start-up businesses and community groups. The Little Cities of Black Diamonds Council received the Sustainable Partnership Award for their promotion of the historical, cultural, civic and environmental assets of the region. Mary Stoertz received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with the Monday and Sunday Creek restoration groups. Also a teacher, she connected her students to the community groups that work to clean regional watersheds. Stoertz passed away earlier this year.

Nominations for the Board of Directors were also taken and approved at the annual meeting.

Rural Action Kicks Off Next 10 Years with Community Retreat
Submitted by Sara Peach, AmeriCorps*VISTA for Rural Renewal

Nearly 70 Rural Action members and friends gathered two Saturdays ago to begin brainstorming and planning for the next decade of Rural Action. The Retreat on Rural Renewal, held Saturday, June 16 in Glouster, was a community conversation about the future of Appalachian Ohio and Rural Action’s role in that future. “This retreat is an opportunity for people to come together and think about what we can do about issues in our communities,” said Interim Executive Director Mary Steinmaus of the event.

Retreat participants split up into seven “learning circles” to discuss specific topics of community concern, such as energy, health and cultural heritage. “If we have incredible air pollution and water pollution this will impact the health of the region and individuals,” commented a member of the health learning circle.

In coming months, learning circle members will meet regularly to research their issue in depth. Ultimately, they will develop a plan on how Rural Action, learning circle members and other organizations can approach their issues over the next 10 years.

Rural Action’s programs originally grew out of a similar community effort in the early 1990s, when our founding director, Carol Kuhre, facilitated a planning process involving hundreds of Appalachian Ohio residents. The concepts nurtured by those people developed into Rural Action’s current projects in sustainable forestry and agriculture, watershed restoration, arts and cultural heritage and other areas.


The learning circles welcome additional members. If you would like to get involved, please contact the appropriate person listed below. You can also check for updates at www.ruralrenewal.blogspot.com.

Learning Circles:

· Economic Vitalization - Bill Carroll (gsrector@gmail.com)
· Land Preservation/Conservation/Restoration - Mike Steinmaus (mcrp@mondaycreek.org)
· Cultural Heritage - Ivars Balkits
· Health - Linda Thornton (lindathornton@usa.net)
· Energy - Scott Miller (millers1@ohio.edu)
· Building Collaboration and Political Power - Merle Graybill (graybill@ohio.edu)
· Community Leadership &Youth - Kelli Bell (bellk@ohio.edu)


Invasive Plant Management Training Presents Challenging Viewpoints
Submitted by Tom Redfern, Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator

On June 1st, 20 Natural Resource Professionals gathered at Camp Oty Okwa, in Hocking County, to learn more about Invasive Plant Management. Participants included Ohio Division of Forestry personnel, extension educators, township maintenance employees, facilities management supervisors, students, Botanists, and landowners. Presenters came from Ohio, West Virginia, and New York, and represented many years of natural resource management experience.

Rural Action’s Sustainable Forestry and Agriculture Programs have been working on the issue of invasive plants since 2004. In a region with 60-70% forest cover, the state’s only national forest and large public and private tracts, the threat of invasive plants has been viewed by staff, members and partners, as a critical issue. The June 1st training gave us a chance to delve deeper into this issue, examining underlying causes, challenging accepted language, and critiquing common management strategies. Rural Action was able to provide a forum where professionals with opposing views could hear each other out, and where novices to the issue could gain critical insights.

Currently three basic scientific viewpoints seem to exist concerning invasive plants: 1) They are the major threat to native plant communities and need to be aggressively controlled. 2) Invasive plants can pose a threat in some situations, but whether or not they are reducing biodiversity is inconclusive. 3) They are merely a symptom of underlying problems, and taking out the invasive plant does not solve the problem, and can even exacerbate it. These three viewpoints were presented.

The Rural Action Forestry and Agriculture programs are committed to continuing to work on the issue of controlling invasive plants. We along with most of our partners view this as an economic, as well as a natural heritage issue. Personally I see our native plants as a defining symbol of our region and a priceless asset. Realizing however that the term native can be arbitrary, I think it is important to protect the plants recorded by George Washington and others, while at the same time not vilifying invasive plants but striving to control them rationally.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Ohio Invasive Plants Council, Ohio University, the Wayne National Forest, and our many other partners on this important issue. We are honored to be able to continue the Rural Action tradition of bringing different viewpoints “to the table,” so that we can all find common ground and ways to learn from each other.

Over 120 participants at 9th Annual Landowners Conference, June 2-3
Submitted by Elise George, Sustainable Forestry Coordinator

The 9th Annual Landowners Conference has come and gone once again. Despite a few small changes in the scope and format of the event it remained an enjoyable and educational experience for participants, volunteers and staff members alike. This year’s conference drew over 120 participants, 25 exhibitors, 27 accredited speakers, and offered over 30 workshop sessions and field hikes. We would like to extend a great amount of thanks to all of those folks, as well as this year’s major sponsors, which include: ODNR Division of Forestry, The Ohio Farm Bureau, The Ohio Tree Farm Program, The National Network of Forest Practitioners, The Ohio Premium Pine Cooperative, North Central Region SARE, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, the Ohio State University Extension and Roots of Appalachia Growers Association.

Paul Straus leads a medicinal herb identification hike.

There were many highlights of this year’s conference. As always the Contra Dance was a great success with caller David Mould, and old time music performed by the Stump Juice Trading Company. Once again the delicious meals served at the conference were sourced locally from sustainable or organic producers, which is always an enjoyable experience. The keynote address was given by accredited ginseng specialist, Bob Beyfuss, of the Cornell University Extension, which highlighted key aspects to preserving at-risk plants while obtaining income from your forest, as well as the implications of management at the national and international level. The Environmental Learning Program also held a successful Youth Conference with around 13 participants. In closing we all would like to extend our appreciation once again to everyone who participated and made this year’s conference possible!

AmeriCorps*VISTA Liz Drabik helped with the Youth Conference.

Monday Creek Watershed Daycamps

From Monday June 18 to Friday June 22, the Monday Creek Restoration Partnership hosted a daycamp for area youth. The camp was led by AmeriCorps*VISTA Matt Miller and summer VISTAs Jay Feitshans, Chelsie Arrowood and Phillip Vickers. Activities included nature hikes and activities by the Environmental Learning Program, arts and crafts, a hands-on snakes display by Dave Sagan of Hocking College and an excursion to Lake Logan for swimming and canoeing. Check out the pictures VISTA Matt Presutti snapped of the camp.


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