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Profile: "Hub" Vogelmann

Founding the Vermont Chapter

In 1973, Hub Vogelmann led the acquisition of the first tract of land at Shelburne Pond, now a natural area of more than 1,000 acres.

University of Vermont Professor Emeritus Dr. Hubert “Hub” Vogelmann was a recent graduate and new to the UVM botany faculty when he was asked by botany chairman Dr. James Marvin to help start the Vermont Chapter. It was slow going, he remembers, with only a handful of people at the first meeting and a few more turning out for meetings in “bogs and marshes” around the state. Vogelmann, who had a doctorate in plant ecology from the University of Michigan, helped spark interest in the early days by presenting a slide show to Rotary and garden clubs around the state. “They had to have a speaker every month,” he laughs. “So I rode that wave.”

As the chapter developed, so, too, did Vogelmann’s work at the university, ranging from early acid rain studies on Camels Hump to collecting medicinal plants in Bogota and researching cloud forests in Mexico. For 37 years, he taught and conducted research in the botany department and also served as chairman.

Of all the land protected by the Conservancy in Vermont, Vogelmann says, Shelburne Pond remains at the top of his list of favorite places with its “diverse community of marshes, bogs and limestone cliffs along the edges – and no development.” It’s the place where he used to love to fish when he first arrived in Vermont. And it’s the place in which he encouraged philanthropist and Kodak heir H. Laurence Achilles to invest to ensure long-term protection.

Vogelmann fondly remembers the sparkling, blue-sky day when he introduced Achilles, then in his 90s and feeble, to the natural area that the old gentleman had already helped protect, and Achilles remarking, “ ‘Hub, this isn’t a pond, it’s a lake.’”

That day, Achilles enjoyed a boat ride in the captain’s chair, a friendly encounter with an angler and a picnic of fried chicken and wine in a little cove. At the end of the day, Vogelmann says, Achilles told him: “ ‘This is the happiest day of my life.’”

Professor Vogelmann lives in the farmhouse in Jericho where he and his late wife Marie raised their sons Andy, Jim and Tom. He is working on a book. Son Tom is a trustee of the Vermont Chapter and Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at UVM. Tom’s wife, Mary Neighbours, is also a chapter trustee.

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Vogelmann's article, "Planting an Acorn," reprinted from The Oak Log (Autumn 2010)

By Dr. Hubert "Hub" Vogelmann

The Vermont Chapter of The Nature Conservancy began at a time of increased awareness by the scientific community that we were losing irreplaceable natural areas to development and to other careless uses of ecologically sensitive lands and waters. The Nature Conservancy at the national level was an outgrowth of a nature conservancy began by the Ecological Society of America, a prestigious scientific group comprised of the leading biological and ecological scientists in the country. The Nature Conservancy originated with a concerned scientific group needing nourishment as an independent organization that could generate the support and give full attention to conserving the nation’s best ecological sites.

One of the founders of the national group was Dr. Richard Goodwin, a professor at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Dr. Goodwin, a plant physiologist, had a deep concern for protecting ecological sites such as bogs, marshes, old age forest, prairies and many other sites being destroyed on our landscape. As the first president of The Nature Conservancy, he set up office in his basement and began what was to become one of the leading conservation organizations in the country. In developing what was to become a very well-organized group, he felt it necessary to establish state chapters and develop a grassroots approach.

An avid skier, Dr. Goodwin would come to Stowe in winter to ski with his good friend Dr. James Marvin, chairman of the botany department at the University of Vermont. Marvin was a plant physiologist whose main interest was in understanding the sap flow mechanism in sugar maples. He was also concerned about the changes that were happening in Vermont with the development of ski areas, housing developments, loss of forest lands and other things changing the face of the state.
Goodwin came to Vermont and asked Marvin if he would start a chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Marvin was busy with his research and also with the responsibilities as department chair, but he did not wish to disappoint his good friend and accepted the charge.

The early days were difficult because Marvin had to identify people around the state who were not only conservation-oriented, but who were also influential in attracting members. In the early ‘60s, the environmental movement was in its infancy and most people did not know what the word ecology meant. As a recent graduate from the University of Michigan with my doctorate in plant ecology, I had a pretty good idea of what it was all about and fortunately for me, Jim Marvin enlisted my help in getting the chapter started.

We had people like Perry Merrill, Commissioner of Forests and Parks, Dick Brett, retired publisher from Macmillan Books, Kit Foster from Bennington College and Bird McCormick, an influential conservationist from Manchester…Bird McCormick said that we were too small to be an organization and with the help of Kit Foster set about to increase the membership. That was a turning point, because from then on, the chapter grew and grew…

The first land purchase was Molly Bog in Stowe…Botanists had long recognized the bog as a textbook example of a post-glacial bog with all the rare orchids and bog plants associated with a bog environment. The money to purchase the bog – $500 – came from a bequest from a member of the Bird and Botanical Society... Later, Molly Bog was to become a National Natural Landmark... It was transferred to the University of Vermont to be managed as a natural area for scientific and educational studies.

After several years as chairman of the Vermont Chapter, Marvin felt it was time to make a change and, using his persuasive skills, managed to have me elected chairman. And there I remained for many years, carrying out the business from my tiny office at the University of Vermont. Activities grew and grew, making it hard to manage my teaching, curating the herbarium, leading field trips and all the things new faculty people have to do. It was demanding but fun.

We ran the chapter on a shoe-string… Phone calls were charged to the botany account at the university and I used secretary time and stationery to carry on our business... I think it was all justified as we were protecting field laboratories for students to study. In the end, the university received more than half a million dollars worth of property that became part of the university’s Natural Areas System, one of the most diversified and complete university-owned and managed systems in the country.

 

 


 

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