2022 Year in Review
Rick Travis, 2018
2022 was an eventful year for the Blackland Prairie Master Naturalist Chapter! The Covid scourge FINALLY began to loosen its grip on us, and as the year progressed, we began transitioning back to in-person chapter meetings, classes, and volunteer activities. Online meetings helped keep us stitched together in 2020 and 2021, but (in my humble opinion) there’s no substitute for in-the-flesh gatherings.
Thinking back about this year, I’ve organized my thoughts into a handful of buckets: “New Blood”, “Member Achievements”, “New Programs and other Innovations”, a couple of “Special Mentions”, and, finally, gazing into my MN crystal ball, “What 2023 will Bring”. Here goes…
We added a great new group of Master Naturalists this year with the graduation of the Class of 2022. There’s a wide variety of skill sets found in this class, and I’m confident there are numerous members within this class that will assume leadership positions and/or make major contributions to our chapter and community. As of this writing, 22 of the 33 that graduated have achieved their initial certification, with several more of the graduates slated to hit that milestone before years-end.
And…enter stage right…the Class of 2023! Due to high demand, we’re enlarging the class size for 2023 to 42. Even with the increase in class size, this class was full within 10 hours after registration opened on November 1. Desire to become a Blackland Prairie Master Naturalist is in very, very high demand.
Recognitions and Achievements:
I wanted to call out some special recognitions and Achievements that occurred in 2022.
One of our key partners, the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center, was featured in the February issue of Texas Highways magazine. The article included a great pic of BPTMN member Nikki Lefebvre. The article was well-deserved exposure for the Raptor Center, which has experienced exponential growth since its inception in 2004. The center is now equipped to handle up to 8000 raptor patients annually. Hats off to all our members that volunteer in the rescue work, education programs, or site maintenance at the Raptor Center!
Our chapter was well represented at the 2022 Annual Awards presented by the Native Plant Society of Texas. Carol Clark was the recipient of the 2022 NPSOT Fellows Award, which is presented to individuals whose work enriches the Society at the state, regional or chapter level. Carol received this award for her native plant conservation education work especially related to Monarch’s. In addition, The Blackland Prairie Chapter was awarded the NPSOT Native Star Award, given to an organization or agency for a specific act of conservation or public service. Our chapter received this award for planning and executing a large-scale Milkweed Rescue on soon-to-be-developed property in Frisco, in 2019.
And we can’t forget the 15,000 service hours milestone hit by Karen Mitchell! A rare accomplishment indeed. Congrats to Karen!
New Programs and Innovations
We added several important programs and innovations in 2022 that will help make Blackland Prairie a more diverse, inclusive, accessible, and effective volunteer organization in 2023 and the years beyond.
A new program to conduct educational nature excursions that are accessible to all, called NatureAbility, was launched this year. The NatureAbility team has conducted several successful outdoor events in the latter half of this year. In addition, team members Charlise Hill-Larsen and Cristina Araiza shared their experience forming and executing the NatureAbility program with other TMN’s interested in starting up a similar program in their own chapters, at this year’s Annual State Conference in Houston. Special thanks to the founding and current members of the NatureAbility team for making this program happen: Charlise Hill-Larsen, Cristina Araiza, Sam Crowe, Sue Makuta, Jean Suplick, Sally Evans, and Stephanie Cleveland.
Asian American Outreach
The chapter also created a new team within the Outreach organization, which is tasked to find ways for our chapter to better reach our area’s Asian American population. This demographic is under-represented within our chapter, and I believe a more representative mix of Asian Americans within the Blackland Prairie membership will enrich our chapter and increase the chapter’s effectiveness within our communities. This team’s work is ongoing, and I’m highly confident they’ll tap the right venues and methods that will increase our chapter’s visibility and garner interest within the Asian American community. Many thanks to the following BPTMN members participating in this initiative: Rhonda Sanchez, Balaji Devarajan, Shravan Sirivolu, and Sumi Srikanth.
BPTMN Chapter Grant Program
Need some $ for a chapter project? Well, there’s a new program launched in 2022 that enables you, as a BPTMN member, to apply for a chapter-funded grant up to $500 to support your project! The first set of grants was awarded to two projects this fall. The application periods will run twice a year, in the spring and fall, in 2023. My thanks to the following founding (and current) members of the Grants Committee: Michelle Norris, Page Schreck, Cindy Napper, Ernie Stokely, Jean Suplick.
Hybrid In-Person+Online Chapter Meetings
Our new hybrid chapter meeting approach was a significant achievement this year. After a few bumps experienced in our first couple of hybrid meetings (let’s call them learning moments), the AV team developed an approach, supported by new digital technology procured by the chapter, which has consistently delivered a good experience for both the in-person meeting attendees and the online at-home participant over the last several meetings. We fully expect to continue this in-person/online hybrid approach consistently for our chapter meetings in 2023. This hybrid approach was clearly what chapter membership wanted, based on the poll we took on this topic in the spring, as it gives a member flexibility to attend (and participate) in our meetings in-the-flesh at the SRC, or if they have issues reaching the SRC for a particular meeting, they can still participate from home, out-of-town, etc. A huge shout-out to Michelle Connally for being our point-person and having the perseverance and problem-solving skills to make hybrid happen!
New Chapter Events
As the Covid pandemic began to wane, we added a couple of chapter events in 2022 intended to provide safe opportunities to gather in larger numbers in the great outdoors. We held a Nature interpretation Workshop in the spring, and in late summer we held our first annual nighttime mothing event at the Connemara preserve. Both events had good attendance, provided a great chance to learn, and were a terrific opportunity to see folks we hadn’t seen in-person for an extended period.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a singular sad moment our chapter experienced in 2022, which was the passing of Gailon Brehm in the fall. Gailon was a great person in so many regards…he’s missed.
To the Future, and Beyond!
What will 2023 bring. Well, the last few years have been pretty darn whacky and full of surprises, but there are a few things under our umbrella we can count on:
- The chapter will have 3 new appointed Directors on its Board:
- Jean Suplick will be the Chapter outreach Director.
- Heather Fell will be our Chapter Volunteer Management System (VMS) Director.
- Paulette Platko will be our Chapter Membership Director.
- I’m very pleased with these appointments. I know all three will do a wonderful job in their positions, and I really appreciate their “stepping up” to assume these leadership roles in our chapter.
- I’d also like to thank the outgoing Directors: LuAnne Ray, Rhonda Sanchez, and Liz Brown, for their work in 2022. LuAnne, Rhonda, and Liz were wonderful partners, and an immense help to me this year. Thanks y’all for continuing your leadership roles from the previous year into 2022. We’ll miss you…and don’t hang up if I call you for some help and advice in 2023!
- Our chapter will also have 2 new elected Officers in 2023:
- Michelle Connally will assume a new role as Chapter Vice President
- Michelle Norris will assume Michelle Connally’s previous role as Chapter Secretary.
- Michelle and Michelle will be great in their VP and Secretary roles in 2023. However, they will need to get used to yours truly calling them by their last name. You can safely bet on my mixing their names up in 2023.
- I also want to thank Charlise Hill-Larsen for her contributions as Chapter VP in 2022. Charlise took on the Veep position in early 2021 as an urgent/emergency replacement, and she did an excellent job providing enriching monthly meeting speakers and Deep Dive talks for our chapter during her term. Thanks much Charlise for “doing your time” for the chapter as Vice President.
- We plan to update some current programs and create new innovative approaches in the coming year that are intended to help our chapter’s ability to serve the very, very rapidly growing Collin/Hunt County area. Stay tuned!
To wrap this summary in a nice holiday bow, I’d like to share the following. I’ve shared this quote before, but I think it’s worth re-visiting occasionally. This was written by author Candace Savage, from her excellent book Prairie: A Natural History. I really like what she says here…personally it helps me keep focused on the job-at-hand as a Texas Master Naturalist in the DFW metroplex. Also, for me, while her quote is prairie-centric, it also applies to woodlands, aquatic systems…any of our natural areas.
“There are two mantras for prairie conservation. The first is to protect and enhance wild prairie wherever it still exists, whether as large, connected landscapes or, where no alternative is left, as one-of-a-kind fragments. The second, often overlapping priority is to manage the working landscape for wildness so that it not only serves the interest of people, but also supports a diversity of swimming, flying, walking, and crawling forms of life.”
“There is no way to hold back the future. But we can shape the course of events by engaging – fully, deeply, and passionately-with the present. The survival of the wild prairie and its creatures will depend, in no small part, on our ability to ensure their well-being right now. By protecting and enhancing wild prairie, and managing the working landscape for wildness, we can strengthen and enhance the ecosystem, in all its diversity and abundance, both for our sake, and for those who come after us. This approach is sometimes referred to as a strategy of “no regrets,” because the work is worth doing now, no matter what happens next.”
One last thing…. Hope to see you at the Tuesday, December 13 meeting and party at the Heard SRC (There’ll be fooooood at the gathering)!
Lastly, it’s been my pleasure, my honor, serving as your Chapter President this year.
2023, Here we come!!! Remember…our work as TMNs is really important but be sure to have fun doing it!