All year, we here at The Nature Conservancy in Missouri carefully track our progress, writing down the acres of land revived by prescribed fire, miles of streambank restored, partnerships built and dozens of other metrics that guide us toward our conservation goals. And yet, this time of year, a time to reflect on the past 12 months, always feels like a marvel. It is our annual reminder of how much a group of dedicated people can accomplish in a short amount of time.
We hope you take pride and ownership in those accomplishments, especially after a year like 2022. It was one for the books, with new staff hired, exciting new properties saved for conservation and the close of a campaign whose success will fuel work far into the future.
Our Missouri state director, Adam McLane, recapped seven highlights of 2022 in the latest episode of our podcast It’s in Our Nature. It is far from everything that happened, but it is a great reminder of the ways your support helps people and nature thrive.
2022 Year in Review—The Podcast Episode
Adam McLane recaps seven conservation highlights from 2022.
Hi everyone. I'm Adam McLane, Missouri state director for The Nature Conservancy, and today's episode will be a little different. I don't have a guest to banter back and forth with because for this episode I want to talk directly to you—the people who make our work possible—our supporters. Whether that's financial support, volunteer hours or just generally following our work and telling your friends that they should follow us too.
It all adds up. And we've had quite a year, one for the books in a lot of different ways. And so as I look back on 2022 and everything that's taken place over the past 12 months, I am so grateful, I'm so proud, and sometimes I'm really shocked at what a determined group of people can accomplish together.
So today you get just me and a whole lot of good news! I will say that producer Kristy said that makes for better editing because I don't laugh really hard, and she has to tone that down when I'm interacting with another guest. So, we have that going for us too. I'm running down seven highlights for 2022.
Why seven? Number one, importantly, it's my favorite number. And number two, if we went any higher in this podcast, it would last a lot longer than anyone would probably be willing to listen. So before you get too excited though, this isn't going to be like a music countdown kind of thing where we save the best for last.
These projects are in no particular order. In my mind, that'd be like picking my favorite kid, and I've committed to never, ever making that mistake again. It was hard enough to narrow the field to seven highlights, so ranking them would be impossible. Nevertheless, I hope you feel pride and ownership in today's episode.
And once again, I want to thank each and every one of you for being a supporter of The Nature Conservancy here in Missouri. So let's get this fun started. We're going to start with a project that has a, has had a great impact on me personally. I've been a part of many amazing projects during my career with The Nature Conservancy, but I have to say this one is truly special and will have a lasting.
Beyond the conservation benefits, our first highlight is our partnership with the Intertribal Buffalo Council and the transfer of TNC bison back to tribal land. So a little bit of background on it. ITBC—30 years ago, Intertribal Buffalo Council initiated the Buffalo Restoration Movement, and since its inception, ITBC has restored more than 20,000 buffalo across a million acres of tribal lands.
In 2020 ITBC began partnering with TNC through the transfer of our surplus buffalo from TNC herds to Native Nations. So each year our herds on our properties have a carrying capacity, and so when we have calves, we have surplus animals. In the past we would take those to auction. We would do a variety of different things with them.
Now they have this incredible purpose when they leave our site, they're going somewhere else to drive conservation, community and a whole bunch of other great stuff. So, the importance of the Buffalo Surplus Program to member nations includes a variety of things. Spiritual, cultural revitalization, ecological restoration, conservation, food sovereignty, economic development, health initiatives, you name it. It's like so layered with what it does, with what those animals do when they reconnect to these communities.
Each animal return to Tribal lands represents much more than its physical presence on the landscape. It signifies a restored web of relationships that had been broken for hundreds of years, but also this like amazing triumph resulting from Tribal efforts to maintain and rekindle the preservation of historical, cultural, traditional, and spiritual relationships for future generations.
During the next two years, The Nature Conservancy will transfer 1,500 buffalo to ITBC member tribes, including more than 800 I think, this fall. So our 2021 stats from Missouri itself, we transferred 50 animals, which were released to the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapahoe nations in Wind River Reservation, near Lander, Wyoming. So it was 25 animals each. There's a really cool story about that too. This year we transferred 15 animals to a tribe in South Dakota.
So the amazing story in the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho is that they adjoin each other, their reservations adjoins each other, and they had started small herds on both sides.
And these two, these 25 herds on each side, they really wanted to take that fence down and unite that herd of bison across that landscape. And these animals, since they know each other and have grown up with each other at Dunn Ranch, and then they were getting separated into these two different tribes. They really felt like these animals were going to lead that reunion. Make nice across the fence and be able to bring that fence down and join the herd, which is just a really, really powerful moment and something to think about.
So definitely a highlight of the year and something we are excited to continue investing in. So thank you for your support of it.
So for our second highlight, we're going to switch gears to a few projects that benefit a significantly smaller species than bison. So from bison to fish. But these projects go beyond the. The fragmentation of rivers is a big issue here in Missouri and around the world.
So when rivers become fragmented by dams, culverts, other barriers, as is the case for I think more than two-thirds of the world's major rivers. It can have a devastating effect on all these habitats and the people and wildlife that depend on them.
So a couple things that I wanna highlight as in terms of projects around fish passage.
The first is the area of Shoal Creek, and these are ongoing. So TNC is finalizing plans for a pair of fish passage projects that replace two low water crossings, which are kinda like the, you know, a concrete slab in the bottom of a river or gravel that they replace so you can drive through and not get too wet with your vehicles.
And replacing those with free-span bridges that sit above that system that allow the fish to swim underneath people, to travel safely across the top. So Drew Holt, who works in southwest Missouri for us and also around the state on rivers is expecting work to begin in spring of 2023. It has funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Fish Passage Program.
It compliments a suite of projects that TNC and partners are working on in the Shoal watershed. And then in that same geography is Lim kiln dam. In November, Neosho officials and their partners celebrated the replacement of dangerous low-head dam with Rocky Rapids that opens up the stream to fish as well as kayakers and people wading.
TNC didn't do the construction work, but it provided technical advice and that included Steve Herrington and Drew providing input on engineering plans and all that good stuff. So it starts to get pretty technical to figure these things out for people and for the fish that are relying on them in all the habitats.
Another one, the final one that I'll cover is Little Creek fish passage, and that finished in June. So Little Creek has the headwaters are all up on Dunn Ranch, where we've got this incredible prairie restoration. Bison, prairie chickens...that whole mix that you've heard about before. It's all up there.
And then it's flowing down and in there are Topeka Shiners. It's home to Topeka Shiners, which is an endangered minnow that lives in prairie streams. So Little Creek then passes under an old state and it used to fall like it was a big culvert, concrete culvert. It used to fall six feet from the top of that culvert where the water was coming down to the new creek bed, which had suffered a lot of erosion that came up to that spot, like a head cut.
So that waterfall was cutting off the shin from food and breeding grounds. And the project fixed that by creating an underwater ramp that raises the water level, eliminating the plunge and reconnecting five miles of habitat. I long dreamed of seeing like a tiny little two-inch Topeka shiner going like salmon-style and like spinning its way like leaping with all its might up that six feet and getting into the culvert and continuing forward. But that just couldn't happen. And I always kind of pictured like these tiny little prairie bears, they would roam and get into that spot on top of the rock and wait for him to come by. But that didn't happen either. So we fixed that.
This project reconnected federally endangered Topeka Shiners in the native fish population to over five miles of stream channels upstream within Dun Ranch, and it reduced a bunch of sediment and nutrient pollution from the stream erosion near the culverts.
So rebuilding the stream banks with tree roots and live plantings also helps because it reduces erosion, filters, runoff, and improves the health of the stream. And this stream actually goes all the way down, I believe, into Bethany, forms a lake and becomes a drinking water source for a community there.
So there's benefit to these projects for people and nature when designed correctly. And we're really proud of them and it's something that we spend a lot of our time, energy, and funding on to try and transform what the future looks like. So it was a big highlight for the year.
Okay. Best drum roll sound, da da da da da. Number three. This is something that's in our DNA. I'm excited to talk about. It's land protect.
So permanent protection of critical landscapes has been a priority of TNC from the beginning. In fact, our organization launched into land protection on Christmas Eve, 1954 when neighbors of a 60-acre forest in Bedford, New York were given the ultimatum: bid on the wooded ravine or see it developed.
They chose to bid on it, collectively, they pooled money together, they bid on the wooded ravine and made it in a nature preserve. And TNC, in many ways was formed. And that's a critical part of our DNA, is how do we collectively come together, purchase things from willing sellers. To protect it in perpetuity.
This year we've had two great purchases and one amazing gift that fall into that land protection category. So the first is Roubidoux Creek in Pulaski County, Missouri, 612 acres. We purchased it in September of 2022. So a couple of highlights. This property is on a tributary to the Gasconade River and it provides an opportunity to protect approximately two miles of repairing corridor. Hundreds of acres of forest of the Roubidoux creek watershed and it includes a cave, which is awesome. And I've explored it and it's cool and a little scary. And I started crawling down one of the spots. And then the person that was selling it said, well, we've had some mountain lions back in this area that sometimes, and I quickly started coming right back out the same way backwards.
But it's a really neat cave. The whole property is very, very cool. So in terms of its conservation significance, because cool things like caves and neat visuals don't always translate into conservation significance, and we're driven by that conservation significance. So Roubidoux Creek lays in the Gasconade River Hills subsection of the Ozark Eco Region.
Large blocks of mature timber occupy nearly 500 acres of the property with many mature walnut, white oak, black oak species. The rest of the property is river and flood plain. With excellent potential for stream bank restoration, improved management to reduce downstream flooding and improve water quality.
So it's got all this stuff packed into 612 acres. That makes it really, really neat and a geography that we think is really important. TNC has these tools that help guide those decisions. One of them is called a Resilient Land Mapping Tool that helps us think about across the state of Missouri, which areas are going to be resilient to changes in temperature, climate, rainfall, you name it.
So that as we're building things for the future and we think about perpetuity of protection, we need to take those things into account and really make our decisions wisely about where we invest in owning land. This stacks up really high in terms of climate resiliency, biodiversity, landscape diversity and landscape connectivity.
So it's cool. So a little bit more about this cave. The property contains, it's called York Cave, and it's adjacent to MDC’s Great Spirit Cave, which is this biologically important site priority one, gray bat maternity site, and Indiana Bat hibernaculum. It also historically had Northern longear bats. Little brown bats, tricolored bats. You're a bat. You love this place. And a few cave-adapted creepy crawlies also call the cave home.
Roubidoux Creek then provides foraging habitat for the summer colony of gray bats using Great Spirit Cave. The site provides foraging habitat for swarming Indiana bats in the spring and fall. So super cool. Property's really neat. It took a lot of energy to work our way through that whole process make the acquisition and protect it in perpetuity forever, the site. So we're excited about it.
Number two, Little Blue River. In Jackson County, Missouri, so kind of over by Kansas City. This property's adjacent to the Little Blue River near Kansas City and was identified as a top-tier candidate for our Missouri mitigation banking program.
We've done a podcast on that with Wes Hauser. So if you've heard that, then this makes a lot of sense to you and hopefully you're going woohoo and celebrating that we got this deal closed. The reason it was such a great candidate for that is because based on its location in a watershed with high mitigation credit demand and the site’s excellent potential for stream in wetland restoration.
Again, conservation significance. We ask ourselves that question all the time. Well, this property includes approximately 4,000 linear feet of perennial tributary to the Little Blue River, as well as two marsh areas that are ideal candidates for wetland enhancement.
So this is going to allow us to initiate our mitigation program, start to work our way through that, try and make transformative change in that system and that's going to be awesome, and we're excited about it. So if you are going, what is a mitigation bank and how does it work? Then listen to our podcast episode with Wes Hauser.
The property's also, I'm gonna throw in one last tidbit about it. It's located next to Little Blue Trace Park and a walking/biking trail runs along the property. So this is awesome, we get to partner our investment with parks department investment across the little blue where people are recreating already and trying to find ways to get more eyes on conservation and more people fall in love with our work. So that's just an added bonus.
Last but not least is the Missouri River Center, as we call it. Some people know it as Katfish Katy’s in the Columbia area. This property is a, it sits on a scenic stretch between the Missouri River and the Katy Trail. It's 169 acres, and it was donated to TNC by Larry and Brenda Potterfield.
The property's going to be owned by TNC and operated in partnership with Missouri River Leaf. It was a really, really neat place. So it also needs some restoration. It's got about a mile of Missouri River frontage, which is awesome, but it had a lot of agricultural use in it and a variety of other things.
So our plans are to conduct a high-quality restoration of natural habitats across the property. It's probably going to include stabilizing the riverbank with natural materials, plantings, and then rejuvenating these onsite wetlands and planting native vegetation.
It also has a boat ramp—huge bonus. It allows, again, if you hear a theme in those two between the last one and this one is how do we connect people to nature to allow them to get out and enjoy it, fall in love with it, and be willing to support it in all the ways that are possible.
This property includes a boat ramp to the Missouri River. It was previously only accessible through memberships. So, once we took ownership of the property, we immediately opened up the gate, made the ramp open to the public. Since then, we've partnered with the Missouri Department of Conservation who now lease and managed the boat ramp and its access road.
So opening that ramp will allow people to connect to the river, and that was a big priority for us.
It's also got something else going for it with some infrastructure, but I'm going to save. As our segue into the fourth item.
So the segue to highlight four. We have these amazing properties that we can learn from, that others can learn from. How can we help boost research and data to inform our conservation strategies and those of others?
And this is where our centers for conservation innovation or CCIs come into play. CCIs we launched a new program in the fall of 2021 to create demonstration and research facilities on our properties to help boost the type of scientific innovation needed to protect the land and water Missourians depend on.
These centers are focused on education, research, outreach, and conservation. And I think that list can even grow as we think about humanities and art and a variety of other things. We're just at the beginning phases of what these things become for the state, and we're really excited about them.
The program started with Little Creek Farm, so it was a renovation of a house and conversion of pastures to paddock system, new cattle watering systems, a whole bunch of stuff. So all of a sudden up at Little Creek Farm we had a location that had infrastructure that could allow people to stay there, researchers, all of that. And then surrounding them were all these different things that they could study, they could monitor, we could learn from, we could fail at and share those learnings with other people to help them avoid that.
So we've got rotational grazing with cattle on an area that was traditionally fescue that we're going through conversion with native grasses on over time. We have scales there where we're doing weight gain as they come in, as they come so we can get all the economic data.
Across the road sets an incredible prairie restoration, tallgrass prairie restoration in Dunn Ranch that we know a lot about. We've studied over the years, we know what our applications of different things were over time so that we can understand the different impacts that come from that.
We also to the north of Dunn Ranch or on Dunn Ranch, the northern portion of it, we have a grass bank where we are exchanging the ability for cattle to come over from neighboring lands to graze on that at certain times of the year in exchange for restoration and management improvement on the private land that has those cattle. That can be studied.
We already talked about the little, tiny mini fish that are jumping up and little mini prairie bears are eating them as they go over the six foot hump and we've solved. But we can also learn from it and see how it's working. So all of that is like within five miles of each other and has a place that's anchored down in it.
So it's this iconic flagship that we want to use to leverage grassland restoration across the state of Missouri and beyond it. Beyond our borders as well.
So that got us thinking about where else do we need that around the state. And that had some big developments in 2022. So I already referenced the Missouri River Center, so Larry and Brenda Potterfield donated this 164 acres outside of Columbia.
It was formerly Katfish Katy’s, so it was a restaurant and music venue that sat there. Really nice infrastructure, parking lot, et cetera. And then it has this 160-acres and mile of Missouri River frontage in an incredible location near Columbia, near the institutions, educational institutions. And Columbia has invested a lot in trying to get kids connected to the outdoors, et cetera.
So our partnership with the Missouri River Center will help us build that out as one of these cornerstones one TNC Center for Conservation Innovation Program. It offers opportunities to advance these scientific studies along the Missouri. River, but it's also going to be a great place for educating the public about river and conservation.
Thanks in part to Missouri River Relief's partnership with us.
The second Mill Creek, so it's the third leg of TNCs CCI program. Now it has an onsite staffer, Matt Nugent, who's overseeing the build out of facilities on the property. Matt started with us, with TNC in April. So that's down in the Ozarks in the current river watershed, couple hundred acres.
It's had a lot of private lands work done on it prior to our ownership. A lot of fire, a lot of glade restoration, et cetera. But as we come in there, we start learning about these, the stream that's there, the forest management, that’s they're the fire program that can be there. And then we look outside of the walls of those, not walls, fences, I guess, of the 200 acres.
MDC, Chilton Creek, U.S. Forest Service, all this stuff is down there, State Parks, and they're engaging in conservation, and we're forming teams across those borders to learn from each other. So it's again, this epicenter of momentum. About conservation in a woodland context. Pretty cool.
So throughout 2022, broader planning has taken place to create a vision for the CCI program, aiming to boost important research, offer nature-based solutions, and create places for the public to learn how conservation is important for both people and for the environment.
And two big gifts, including $150,000 from Clayton and Odessa Lang Ofstad Foundation, and $250,000 from an anonymous donor will provide a huge boost to the CCI program in 2023 – allowing us to make really strategic early investments in driving these programs forward. So definitely a highlight of the year.
All right. Our next highlight number five. It’s newer in relation to TNCs 66 years in Missouri.
In 2018, we launched a cities program in St. Louis. The goal of our cities program is to work with communities to grow equitable nature-based solutions to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life—for people and nature.
While the city's program was not new in 2022, it grew a lot. So a couple of those things. First, we expanded our city staff. In June, Gabe Ouroboros joined TNC as our cities coordinator. She helped drive forward a couple of great projects that we invested in heavily and are really excited about.
So the first is Community-based Air Quality Monitoring Program. So this was led by the Metropolitan Congregations United and the local Interfaith Environmental Justice Task Force. The Nature Conservancy and Washington University in St. Louis are partnering to equitably, scientifically, and strategically site air quality monitors at congregations throughout North and South St. Louis to fill the air quality data gap throughout the region.
So the data collected by these monitors feed into the AirWatch Stl website, which is updated hourly. It provides updates and information about pollutants that researchers, residents and community leaders can use to address health problems that have plagued historically disenfranchised St. Louis neighborhoods for generations.
The second is we expanded Treesilience. So Treesilience is a national initiative. It was led and created by The Nature Conservancy to address barriers to healthy canopy through free tree removals and replacements, mature tree maintenance and the improvement of planting conditions.
So we focus on areas where the canopy is either threatened or already lost, and partner with local communities that stand to gain the most from more resilient urban forest.
So this program was initially launched in November of 2021 in North St. Louis County working on private property. But in the fall of 2022, the program was expanded to include St. Louis City where we're working with the city of St. Louis Forestry Department on public properties, including many city parks to remove dead, dying or hazardous trees and replace them with new trees.
So the city's expansion includes a focus on ash trees. Obviously. A lot of them are dying. Emerald ash borer it's a thing and it's having impact.
So these ash trees are susceptible to the emerald ash borer. It's caused millions of dollars in damage across Missouri since it's discovery in 2008. So we've honed in on that, in partnership with the St. Louis Forestry Department and are working to replace that—replace those trees and gain all the benefits that come from it.
Again, this, the cities program is reinforcing our strong belief that people in nature are connected and they're not separate from each other. It has impacts, and we're making investments there, and we're really excited about the momentum that grew in 2022, thanks to your support.
Highlight number six takes us back to our roots again. Prescribed fire.
TNC as an organization celebrated 60 years of good fire this year with the first controlled burn conducted in 1962 at Helen Allison Savannah in Minnesota.
In Missouri we'll celebrate 40 years of fire in 2023. And if 2022 is any indication…it’s going to be a great year. So, two things that I want to talk about expanding our fire and stewardship team.
The first is Habitat Strike Teams. The second is DEI training.
So the on the Habitat strike Teams. These were designed to increase fire management and stewardship practices that cross boundaries. So jurisdictional boundaries, state, private land ownership, all of that good stuff. And coordinate fire and stewardship activities so that we can take a step back, look at the landscape in a holistic way. As opposed to focusing within our respective boundaries and just kind of having redundancy all over the place.
So our Strike Teams work with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, National Park Service and private landowners. Launched in 2021, we hired Megan Alkazoff as the Western Ozark Fire and Stewardship Coordinator. She focuses on the Bennett Springs area.
But in 2022, we got grant funding in March that allowed us—it was from the U.S. Forest Service and their Cohesive Strategy Cross-Boundary grant kind of program.
This funding brings approximately $1.4 million to Missouri to allow us to coordinate three fire training exchanges or TREX—a pretty cool name. I wish I had a t-shirt that said like TREX—events over the next four years. Ryan TREX shirts. Ryan Gauger a TREX shirt will be awesome. Thanks, bud.
Next four years and develop statewide fire needs analysis that will help Missouri fire managers not just TNC, but more broadly, develop fire goals across the state that are going to meet the ecological and social goals.
So we hired some new staff. We hired Matt Nugent, he's the Eastern Ozark Fire and Stewardship Coordinator. I don't think he's related to Ted, but I've been scared to ask him. He's stationed at our Mill Creek Preserve in Van Buren. And on October 22, we hired Isaiah Tanner as our Osage Plains Fire and Stewardship Coordinator. And so he's based out of the El Dorado Springs area.
So collectively, that team is looking at these Strike Teams and how do we deploy them across the state to have all these broad. It's huge. It's awesome. And it's a great partnership between all those different agencies and the private landowners that allow us to come on and partner with them.
So in terms of upcoming fire trainings, TREX will take place in March, and then Fire Science training will take place in April. So we're excited about them.
A training that already took place that we're really proud of was DEI training. So diversity, equity and inclusion, prescribed fire training. So TNCs, DEI Fire Training Workshop was held in Missouri and it was designed to increase opportunities for women and minority colleagues to further their fire leadership knowledge and qualifications.
The training took place throughout the end of February in into April of 2022. And we hosted seven participants from all over the place. So two were from Minnesota, two from Oregon, two from Illinois, and one from South Africa. We had them for six amazing weeks of learning, networking, and getting fires back on Missouri's landscapes.
This year, we even had a CNN crew join us for our burn in Bennett Springs Preserve when that crew was here. So the crew was highlighting the work of Kelly Martin, who's a burn boss with TNCs North America Fire Program, and her efforts to train the next generation of fire leaders. The segment aired in March and was part of the “Represented by CNN” series, which highlights women who are breaking down barriers in typically male-dominated careers.
So we recorded a podcast about this with Kelly Martin and Kylie Paul, who is the participant from South Africa. If you haven't already listened to that episode, please do. It's pretty great. They're amazing. And the work those two do are incredibly inspiring.
We've made it to our final highlight. Thanks for hanging with me.
So this one's a little different, but is really important part of every single thing that we've talked about so far, and that's support. So in 2022, we closed out our five year campaign and had some very impressive numbers to report. These numbers represent the collection of individuals, foundations, companies, and others who see our vision and support our mission.
We're incredibly grateful for this trust in helping us move our conservation goals forward together.
So here's some numbers. First, I'm going to start with the big one. The grand total raised in that five-year campaign was $106,000,300, wait, how do I say, a hundred and six…three, nine, nine, nine, two, zero. $106,399,920. I'm not used to saying numbers that big, so I had to think about the commas and where they were at and all that good stuff.
So let me give you a little breakdown. So seventeen million roughly was raised for work in Missouri. That's going to impact our Missouri work and drive toward our priorities here. Sixty-six million was raised for work outside of Missouri, and this is really, really important.
We think about our work in the context of what are we doing in Missouri and what are we doing as Missouri. So we have things we need to do and drive in Missouri towards conservation and a better future for all everybody that's living here. But we also play this really important role and are impacted by all the stuff that happens outside of our chapter.
And so thinking about how do we show up as Missouri and drive conservation beyond our borders. That's equally important and we treat it that way and so do a lot of our donors and supporters, which is remarkable. That outside of Missouri stuff went to other state and regional programs. There was about $4 million of priorities in other areas in North America, and then $62 million went to global priorities that are really, really meaningful.
So a couple other things that were really cool in the campaign. We had new Legacy Club members—83 of them. So Legacy Club are people that have made a planned gift to The Nature Conservancy. They've said “as part of my IRA after I'm gone” or “in my will, I'm leaving this percentage of income to you” or “part of my insurance.” There's a whole variety of mechanisms.
Each one of them are really meaningful because there's somebody saying, “whenever I go, I want to see that you or this organization is taken care of and the things that I was investing during my life. I want to continue to invest in after my life,” which is touching.
And so each one of those people making that commitment, 83 of them during the campaign, was remarkable. That brings our current total of Legacy Club members in Missouri to 412.
So how do we bundle that into dollars that are actually been committed to in the future, which will make sure that we can sustain ourselves long into the future?
There's about $22 million is included in that campaign number from these planned gifts that we won't see for a while, but if the past is any indication, those come in at remarkable times. Sometime, somehow they find this way of showing up when we need them most to drive some incredible opportunity that sits in front of us. It's really, really neat how it works.
And then one of the other things I want to point out and thank our trustees. So we have about 22, 23 trustees in Missouri that help really deeply. As volunteers, they help us think through our strategies, where we're spending money, what our team looks like, all of the good, this good stuff.
They invest dollars and they invest time and expertise and relationships to help us be successful. Well, they raised over $800,000 during the summer of the pandemic, so that was on top of commitments that they had already made to our five-year campaign.
When the pandemic came, we were a little worried about what donations were going to look like and whether we were going to have to step back, whether we were going to have to trim down on staff, any of that stuff, that's really scary to think your way through at that time. They leaned in, they didn't lean out, and they said, here we're going to each make additional commitments, and you can use that as a matching gift program of unrestricted dollars to try and encourage other people to lean in as well.
It's remarkably successful and we're so, so very grateful for it.
As I look back and think about, you know, beyond the numbers dollar-wise and how many donors and all this I kind of think about one, the stories that came through the campaign that I just treasure and then we all kinda hold dear and taught us new lessons.
And then also just the fun facts that are outside of the numbers of dollars. So, there were 140 new donors to Missouri. Ten of our 21 trustees are new since the beginning of the campaign. And we had three matching gift programs and that resulted in over $2.3 million for Missouri conservation. So really cool stuff.
And then some of the stories I think about…I'll go nameless on these things, but just to give you a flavor for the people that we get to interact with and how awesome they can be.
We approached somebody that had been a former trustee and boy did they give us grief over our choice of phrases We have a tendency to use a bunch of acronyms and crazy explanations for what we're going to do in the next five years is going to be redundancy resilience to this, that, and in the face of X, Y, Z. And it just ends up sometimes being jargon and she called our bluff on it and said, “what the heck does this even mean?” And just gave us a lot of grief and like red marks on the case statement, which was funny at the time.
And then she became one of the first gifts to the campaign in a really significant way that gave us momentum. And when we asked if she'd like her campaign gift to go to anything specific, she said, “You know, I don't give like that. You all know that my gift will be unrestricted to the Missouri chapter because I trust you to do good things with it.”
So that, that is that gives us power and energy as a staff to move forward on these projects and was really neat.
And then somebody else, another former trustee that doesn't want to be on the board anymore, but said anything other than being on the board again, because just time constraints and other things. Anything else you need me to do, I'll do it. So they participated in planning for us. They made an early gift, which was remarkable. They hosted two events and then they helped us engage with other donors who have also become really engaged in our work. And so those are the kind of people that make things tick around here and we're really, really grateful for them.
So just very cool. Those are stories of giving. The campaign is about that giving and dollars a lot of times. But each of you listening, I also want to say, does remarkable things for us that might not show up in that dollar total. But your volunteer efforts, your communication with us, your feedback on a project that we have, or “have you thought about this,” showing up to events and telling staff “good job” and “keep up the good work” all of those things really, really add up. And, cumulatively over five years, they brought us to a spot where last year in 2022, we have these seven highlights to celebrate. And there's a bunch more that we could go on for hours and hours. We just know you don't want to listen that long.
So thank you to all of you for doing those things, and I hope you enjoyed the highlights.
So that's kind of the recap of number seven. And that brings me to closing. I just want to again say that 2022 was a great year, and I feel like we're set up really well for 2023. It's going to be even better. And thank you for joining us today and for your support throughout the year. I can unequivocally say your energy keeps us going. It's making a difference for nature and all who depend on it.
And if you want to dive deeper into any one of these projects, please visit our website, it's nature.org/missouri. You can read our Year in Review where we'll have additional links and photos to these projects that I've rambled on about. So thank you.
I'm wishing you all the best for 2023, and thanks again and take care.
Bison Transfer to Tribal Lands
The InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) has restored more than 20,000 buffalo across a million acres of tribal lands since it began the buffalo restoration movement 30 years ago.
In 2020, ITBC began partnering with TNC through the transfer of our surplus bison from TNC herds to Native Nations. In 2021, we transferred 50 bison from Dunn Ranch Prairie to the Eastern Shoshone and Arapahoe Nations in Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. In 2022, we sent another 15 to a tribe in South Dakota. It’s part of an effort across TNC to support ITBC’s work, and it’s only growing.
By 2024, TNC is poised to reunite approximately 1,800 buffalo with more than 20 Native Nations across the lower 48 states. In the past, those bison might have gone to auction, but now they contribute to a larger purpose. Each animal returned to tribal lands signifies a restored web of relationships and benefits, including spiritual and cultural revitalization, ecological restoration, improved conservation, food sovereignty, health initiatives and economic development.
The fragmentation of rivers is a big issue here in Missouri and around the world. When rivers are chopped up by dams, culverts and other barriers—as is the case for more than two-thirds of the world's major rivers—it can have devastating effects on the habitats, people and wildlife that depend on them.
A common problem is the wide use of low-water crossings, basically slabs of concrete or gravel placed in streams and rivers to allow people to drive across. They cut fish off from their food and habitat, and they put people at risk when the water rises over the road. In 2022, TNC and partners made important progress on a plan to replace a pair of low-water crossings in 2023 with free-span bridges over Shoal Creek in southwest Missouri, thanks to funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Passage Program.
We also wrapped up a project on Little Creek in northwest Missouri that reconnects five miles of habitat for the Topeka shiner. The little minnow is a native of prairie streams, but the destruction of its habitat landed it on the endangered species list. TNC has worked to reintroduce shiners at Dunn Ranch Prairie, and Little Creek is part of that. It flows from its headwaters on Dunn under a state road, where the stream used to plunge six feet off the lip of a culvert, preventing the shiners from swimming back upstream.
An extensive restoration included rebuilding the eroded streambanks as well as creating an underwater ramp that raised the water level and eliminated that shiner-blocking waterfall at the culvert.
Permanent protection of critical landscapes has been a priority of TNC from the beginning. It is how the organization began in the 1950s, and it continues to play a big role in our efforts today. We had a big year on that front in 2022 in Missouri. We've had two great purchases and one amazing gift that fall into that land protection category.
The first is Roubidoux Creek in Pulaski County, Missouri, spanning 612 acres. We bought it in September of 2022. It sits on a tributary to the Gasconade River and provides an opportunity to protect approximately two miles of riparian corridor and hundreds of acres of forest in the Roubidoux Creek watershed, which is in the Ozark Highlands ecoregion. We have to take a lot into account when deciding where we can wisely invest in owning land to advance conservation goals. We use tools, such as TNC’s resilient land mapping tool, to help guide those decisions. The Roubidoux property is one of those important places. It even includes a cave adjacent to the Great Spirit Cave, a crucial spot for bats.
The second big property purchase in 2022 was in Jackson County, outside of Kansas City. In December, we closed on about 270 acres adjacent to the Little Blue River after identifying the property as a top-tier candidate for our new Missouri mitigation banking initiative. The property includes approximately 4,000 linear feet of perennial tributary to the Little Blue River, as well as two marsh areas that are ideal candidates for wetland enhancement. It is also next to Little Blue Trace Park, and a walking trail runs along the property. For more on mitigation banking, listen to our podcast with TNC’s Wes Hauser.
Last but not least is the Missouri River Center, as we call it. Some people know it as Katfish Katy's in the Columbia area. This property is 169 acres, located on a scenic stretch between the Missouri River and the Katy Trail. It was donated to TNC by Larry and Brenda Potterfield. TNC owns the property, and we will operate it in partnership with Missouri River Relief. It has about a mile of Missouri River frontage, and we plan to conduct a high-quality restoration of natural habitats across the property. There is also a boat ramp that was previously accessible only through memberships. We immediately opened the ramp to the public. We've since partnered with the Missouri Department of Conservation, which now leases and manages the boat ramp and its access road.
Centers for Conservation Innovation
We have these amazing properties that we can learn from and that others can learn from. How can we help boost research and data to inform our conservation strategies and those of others? That’s where our Centers for Conservation Innovation (CCI) come in. These centers are focused on education, research, outreach and conservation. In the future, they could grow to include opportunities for humanities, art and a variety of other pursuits.
In 2022, TNC began the process to build out the program. We have received two big gifts that will play a major role in moving it forward: $150,000 from the Clayton and Odessa Lang Ofstad Foundation and $250,000 from an anonymous donor.
The program started in 2021 at Little Creek Farm, where TNC created a paddock system out of cattle pastures to test out sustainable practices with a local farmer. It also included the renovation of a house on the property to create facilities for visiting researchers. The farm is across the road from Dunn Ranch Prairie, where dozens of research projects have been conducted over the years. As we realized the potential to leverage the site and facilities as a tool for conservation innovation, we began to look for opportunities to offer similar opportunities around the state.
Remember the Missouri River Center from above? That will become one of the cornerstones of the CCI program, offering a place where people can see conservation in action, kids can learn about restoration techniques and researchers can conduct individual studies or possibly connect to other ongoing work already underway along the river. There are great facilities onsite from its former life as a restaurant and music venue. Education and outreach are expected to be big components of its future, thanks in part to TNC’s partnership with Missouri River Relief.
The third leg of the CCI program is Mill Creek. It’s 163 acres and fits within a patchwork of biodiverse properties around Van Buren in the Ozarks. Previous owners had invested in restoring the glades, woodlands and fens on the land. In April, TNC based its new Eastern Ozarks fire and stewardship coordinator, Matt Nugent, at the site. He’s overseeing renovation of facilities and conservation work there, and there are lots of opportunities for research, education and outreach in one of Missouri’s unique landscapes.
Building Healthy Cities
In 2018, we launched our Building Healthy Cities strategy in St. Louis. The goal of our Cities program is to work with communities to grow equitable nature-based solutions to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for people and nature. It reinforces TNC’s strong belief that people and nature are not separate from each other and that they thrive together. While the city's program was not new in 2022, it grew a lot. In June, Gabriel Ouroboros joined TNC as Cities coordinator and has already helped drive forward a couple of great projects that we are really excited about.
The first is an air quality-monitoring program led by Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU). AirWatch St. Louis provides updates and information about pollutants that researchers, residents and community leaders can use to address health problems that have plagued historically disenfranchised St. Louis neighborhoods for generations. The monitors, installed by MCU and researchers with the Jay Turner Group research lab at Washington University, help close a data gap that residents, environmental justice groups and researchers can use to inform policies.
Another development for the Cities program is the expansion of Treesilience into the City of St. Louis. Treesilience is a national initiative. It was led and created by The Nature Conservancy to address barriers to healthy canopy through free tree removals and replacements, mature tree maintenance and the improvement of planting conditions. It first came to Missouri in November of 2021 in north St. Louis County with partners Beyond Housing, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri and Davey Tree Expert Company. The 2022 expansion into St. Louis city will focus on public properties, including many city parks where ash trees are vulnerable to the emerald ash borer, in coordination with the city’s forestry division.
TNC as an organization celebrated 60 years of good fire in 2022; the first controlled burn was conducted in 1962 at Helen Allison Savannah in Minnesota. In Missouri, we'll celebrate 40 years of fire in 2023. And if 2022 is any indication, it’s going to be a great year.
In March, we learned that we had been awarded a Cohesive Strategy: Cross Boundary Grant from the U.S. Forest Service to expand our Strike Teams. This funding will bring approximately $1.4 million to Missouri to allow us to coordinate three Fire Training Exchange (TREX) events over the next four years and develop a statewide analysis of fire needs that will help Missouri fire managers develop fire goals across the state that will meet ecological and social goals.
So, our fire team is growing. We hired Megan Alkazoff as the Western Ozarks fire and stewardship coordinator in August 2021. In 2022, we hired Matt Nugent in Mill Creek and Isaiah Tanner, our Osage Plains fire and stewardship coordinator, based out of El Dorado Springs.
We’re also working to fill the gap of fire management practitioners in and out of TNC, emphasizing the need to diversify the workforce. Between February and April, we conducted a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion prescribed fire training. It was a reboot of a training session we canceled in early 2020 because of the pandemic. Participants came from all over, including South African Kylie Paul, who had previously led an all-female fire crew in her home country.
A CNN camera crew joined the group in Bennett Springs, interviewing Kelly Martin, a burn boss for TNC North America, for the “Represented” series about women breaking down barriers in professions traditionally dominated by men. Missouri's state director, Adam McLane, also caught up with Kelly and Kylie for an inspiring episode on TNC's podcast, It's in Our Nature.
Lighting the Way—Podcast Episode
We talk with two female trailblazers in the fire world to talk about breaking barriers in a male-dominated field.
Opening: You're listening to It's in Our Nature, the podcast that celebrates the connections between people and nature with host, Adam McLane, The Nature Conservancy's Missouri state director. For more information, visit nature.org/missouri.
Adam McLane: Hi everyone. I'm Adam McLane, Missouri State Director for The Nature Conservancy. Thanks for joining us today. I'm being joined today by two women who have recently spent time here in Missouri, helping us conduct a training on something that's very important to our work...fire. Specifically controlled burns. We hear a lot about the destructive power of fire, but there's another side. It's actually key to rejuvenating forests and grasslands, many plants and animals depend on it for survival. This year, TNC is celebrating 60 years of putting what we call "good fire" on the ground. What started with a controlled burn on The Nature Conservancy's Helen Allison Savannah in Minnesota on April 26th, 1962, a date that I just pulled out of the top of my head, cause I have it memorized—I don't really it's written down for me—has evolved into a robust fire program that now spans the globe. I could probably spend, and we could, this whole episode talking myself about fire, but you're here for my guests. So I'll get to introducing them. Here in the hot seat with me—get ready for all kinds of fire puns today—is Kelly Martin. Kelly was Yosemite National Park's, chief of fire and aviation for more than a decade. And I believe the first woman to hold that position. Am I right, Kelly?
Kelly Martin: That's correct.
Adam McLane: Wonderful. Well, she retired in 2019, but apparently couldn't stay away. So TNC lured her back to work as a burn boss on our national fire team. So welcome, Kelly, very much to the podcast.
Kelly Martin: Thank you, Adam.
Adam McLane: Next, we have Kylie Paul, who by far has the distinction of traveling the farthest of any of our guests on the podcast so far, we'll try and top it, but Kylie is from Cape Town, South Africa, where she's a wildland firefighter. She's visiting us in Missouri to take part in TNC's training, which we'll talk about as well. So thanks for joining us, Kylie.
Kylie Paul: Thanks, Adam. It's good to be here.
Adam McLane: All right. Well, before we jump into the burning questions, see there I go again. I request for our listeners. If you enjoy this podcast, please share it with others. Maybe it will spark their interest. Okay. Kelly, (laughs) let's start with you. I'm done. I promise I can hear everybody that just started the podcast. Just turning it off. And the dad jokes already and being like, I'm not interested.
Kelly Martin: No, I would've done the same thing.
Adam McLane: Well, let's start with you, Kelly because you have one of the greatest job titles of all time, I think. What exactly is a burn boss?
Kelly Martin: Huh? You know it's one of my favorite jobs titles. Yes, I'm a qualified burn boss working for The Nature Conservancy and I'm super excited about this new role after retirement. I really get to go all over the United States and my recent trip, like you had mentioned in Missouri, to really help people learn how to burn. I think about the date that you said when The Nature Conservancy first started in 1962, I have to tell everybody, okay. So, that was a year before I was born. So really super excited to be part of this celebration and helping people put good fire back on the ground. And I think that that is probably, I, I look at this as probably the highlight of my career and the capstone of being able to give back to local burners, local people that really wanna learn how to burn. And I can pass my skill and expertise along to people in Missouri for example. Just really was very, very thrilling part of my job for sure.
Adam McLane: Well, that's great. And I know we are certainly appreciative of that effort within TNC, but more broadly throughout the conservation community. Thank you for that work. It, it means it means a lot. Well, my first question is I mentioned in, in my opening that we often focus on the destructive force of fire. You've spent a lot of years fighting wildfires. If you could talk to us about controlled burning, like what role does it play? And if you could kind of describe for our audience who might not know, what exactly is a prescribed fire or as it's also called a controlled burn.
Kelly Martin: Sure. A kind of a good analogy is to hold a coin in your hand and you see the one side, you see the one side of fire that's on our TVs every night and really that, that destruction of people and property. And, and yes, that's a very, very bad side. It can be a very bad side of fire, but flip that coin over, and I want you to envision the good side, the good piece, the good fire that is so essential for healthy ecosystems, resilient ecosystems, biodiversity. This is really truly the emerging work that really needs to be done because we have over a hundred years of fire suppression pretty much nationwide and worldwide. I'm sure Kylie can speak to that as well, but to get to help people understand that this is such a precious element on the landscape, that's absolutely essential for biodiversity and healthy landscapes and clean water and recreational opportunities. And, and to me, that's the, that's really the side of the coin that I really like working on that I really wanna promote more because there is a lot of people that already have the experience of wildfire. But now it's our turn to really tell people about the other side of the coin.
Adam McLane: That's great. And as a follow-up question, you mentioned fire suppression. So what can you describe what that word means or why we would, why we've historically suppressed fire and what exactly that looks like, and what some of the reasons were for that over time?
Kelly Martin: You know, there's always gonna be a balance there's whenever life and property is at risk around major developments. And we're seeing that more and more is that because of the success of fuel buildup and because of the encroachment of urbanization in the, these wildland environments, we will always need some kind of fire suppression. So that's not going away. That's been instilled in our culture since the early 1900 when we were massively suppressing began a major suppression effort because of World War II and the need to protect commodities, both grazing, timber harvesting. So it became very much culturally ingrained that fire suppression has to be done in order to protect natural resources. The only thing we didn't really understand is that element by trying to exterminate that element has really caused unintended consequences. Yes, we will always need the ability to suppress fires when human life and property is at risk, but then we also need to say, okay, when that threat is over, we also need to put good fire back on the land.
Adam McLane: Yeah. Wonderful. Thank you very much. Well, I'm gonna bring Kylie in here. So Kylie what has been your experience with prescribed fire? And I noted that you're, you're coming to us from South Africa. Is it a common practice in South Africa?
Kylie Paul: I think the trend is pretty much global of what we're seeing in America. We also see in South Africa we also went on the suppress, suppress, suppress mission where we put out every fire and fire was the big, bad guy and we had to fight it. I don't even like the term firefighters to be honest. And yeah, I have six years of suppression behind me. So I've, I've seen that side of the coin as Kelly explained the analogy. I've been on that side of the coin, the majority of my career, but when I became a professional, wildland firefighter, I worked for an environmental firm. So I got to actually see the other side and I got to be involved in a couple of prescribed burns, and I, I fell in love. It was just, it's a, a good classroom. You can teach people about fire. I've learned so much, I feel like a student every time you don't have the stress of protecting property or life. So you can take that time to really engage with fire and, and try a few things you've always wanted to try. And yeah, and I've seen the goodness when you come back to land after you put a good fire through it, and it's just, it's a beautiful thing.
Adam McLane: That's awesome. Why have to ask too, since you said you don't like the term firefighter, do you have another phrase that we could coin right here today on this podcast fire manager? Or what, what do we, what should we call it? What, in your, in your what you would like to it called? What would it be?
Kylie Paul: I mean, fire manager has a, a level of leadership to it, so maybe fire practitioner.
Adam McLane: Okay. I like it
Kylie Paul: Just be working with it.
Adam McLane: That's great. Well, I don't know that I'll be able to edit myself from saying firefighter throughout the rest of the questions, but I'm gonna try fire practitioner I'm on. Well, can you tell us a little bit...
Kelly Martin: Yeah, I was just thinking that you know, there, there's a kind of a developing group that wants to call themselves firelighters. And so there's, again, that two sides of the coin, you know, suppression and applying good fire and applying good fire is really the art and science of applying lighting good fire. So the, the terms matter words matter if you will. So the practitioners from the prescribed fire perspective are also wanting to kind of be recognized as, as good firelighters. So, so fire practitioners, firelighters, firefighters, it doesn't really matter to us. I think we're, we are very fluid through those different jobs and positions. For sure.
Kylie Paul: I wanna change my answer in vote for firelighters.
Adam McLane: (laughs) All right. We're settling on firelighters, world. Take notice. Kyle, can you tell us a little bit more about your background? How did you get into fire lighting?
Kylie Paul: (laughs) So originally, I was a, a primary school teacher and I discovered the volunteer wildfire services in my hometown, and I realized I could be a teacher and I could assist with wildfires. They're quite prevalent in my community. We live in a fire-adapted biome. So it's, it's feel like fire driven. So we need, we need the fire to regenerate our land as well. So it's really integral part of our society and I love serving my community. So I thought a great fun way to do that. And while I was a teacher making my way through that career, I actually got offered a job in the industry. And that's how I ended up in that environmental firm. At current, there is no real job opportunities for women and wildland fire professionally. So to be headhunted and offered an opportunity was a once in a lifetime. And I got to lead the first all-female crew in Africa. And that just opened up a whole bunch of doors for me to go into fire lighting and fuel break, fuel reduction, you know, the other side of fire where we can do more preventative and, you know, good work for preparation.
Adam McLane: Very neat. Well, before I move over to Kelly for that same kind of question about how she got inspired into this place, you referenced earlier and it's been sitting in my mind just wondering an answer to this, which is, it was really fun to be able to try stuff out in fire when life and property wasn't at risk. I wanna know something that you tried out in fire that like epically failed or was awesome. And it was like, that worked way better than I even thought it did.
Kylie Paul: So we get this formation of fire called a fire whirl. So you get your dust whirl and it picks up flames and you get a fire whirl and I've experienced a lot of those in suppression. And, you know, when we see those, we have to leave the line. It's, it's a threat to our lives, and it's a really scary thing, but I've learned when I'm lighting and igniting, you know, there's ways that you can kind of create these fire whirls accidentally on your own. So I've had two fire whirls that I've created myself and yeah. Fortunately, a safe space to learn those lessons, but also just how fire pulls together and how it starts rotating on you. So that was a really good way to learn what that's about.
Adam McLane: That's very neat. Thank you for that. Okay, Kelly, well, to the question of how you got into the field, what inspired you to pursue this path?
Kelly Martin: I get that question quite a bit as a matter of fact, and what I tell young people too, especially young men and women in high school is if you have an aptitude for sports and you like the outdoors, you're gonna be a natural fit as a wildland firefighter. And my parents always took us up to a cabin. My grandma taught me how to fish. My dad taught me how to hunt. So I was, I was always a natural outdoor enthusiast. I don't honestly growing up, I don't really remember spending a lot of time on indoors. I, I think a lot of that has changed now. And unfortunately, a lot of kids are on their iPhones and iPads and, and I'd love to feel like I've got maybe a little hand of trying to think about how we get kids back in the outdoors. So that was really, truly a love of mine that, that I developed at a very, very early age. I did track and field when I was in high school I went on to college. I got a criminal justice degree cause I thought I was gonna work in the woods as a game warden. And then I heard or figured out that I had to carry a gun. And I didn't wanna do that. So then I found Northland College, which was an environmental liberal arts college and got a degree in outdoor education in biology. And it was very much an experiential program of learning, which that's how I learned best is actually by doing things. And so that kind of really began my journey of really thinking about, you know, how do I mesh my love of the outdoors and experiential education, you know, with a job. And I started working for the National Park Service when I was still in college. And that really was the springboard of my career for the federal, working for the federal government. And then in 1986, my dad helped me buy a 72 Dodge pickup. He helped me pack up my teepee and all my worldly belongings in this 72 Dodge pickup—the color was red, by the way. And off I went to Grand Canyon and I ended up traveling to Grand Canyon by myself. When I was, you know, 21 years old, 22 years old. And I'll never forget that moment of like excitement, trepidation that I'm beginning my adult life if you will at this really incredible place. And that's really where I got started in fire. I mean, imagine as a 21 or 22-year-old flying in a helicopter over Grand Canyon and then getting dropped off on the north rim with three other firefighters and people telling you, oh, we'll pick you up in a week. And I'm like, really? I get to stay out here. Yeah, yeah. You gotta map the fire, you gotta take weather and, and sleep in the rocks. And I'm like, "okay!" So day seven rolls around. I get back into this helicopter and I'm flying over Grand Canyon. I'm looking to the west and the sun is perfectly setting in the canyon in the west. And right then, and there, that was the epiphany of going, I have to do this for a job. This is just this, this takes in everything that I love, that I admire, that I respect, that I care about. And that's how I started my fire career that, and I'll tell a lot of people, this is that you have to have that undying passion to do this work. You can't just kind of think that you're gonna come into this job. You know, do C-level work. It really demands you know, persistence and perseverance day after day, year after year to really be a good, solid firefighter, firelighter. But that early in my career was very, very pivotal moment of like, yep, this is what I know what I wanna do for a living now.
Adam McLane: Hmm. I can relate to that epiphany. And I think it's so important. Thank you for sharing that image of being in the helicopter too and seeing the sunset. So I think on radio and podcasts, it's hard to, sometimes you're just talking and it's hard to really get into that setting. And I think you just painted a wonderful picture. And I so many conservationists, I think, have those moments in their life that, that had them say that exact thing. Like I need this to be my life—for some reason, one way or the other. So that's really interesting. And then I have a follow-up question on your 1972 Dodge pickup. Do you, you don't still have it, do you? And if you don't have it, do you regret getting rid of it? Because I, my favorite car ever was a 1986 Toyota 4runner and I, so regret ever getting rid of that thing because I loved it dearly. And it sounds like you have a soft place in your, your heart for your 72 Dodge.
Kelly Martin: I do. I was not a mechanic. And so the hood was up more than it was down. And as a 20-year-old woman, I just was like, I can't figure out how to do this. So yeah. Do what do I regret it? So here's the deal. So it is still a part of my heart and soul because I have a Ram right now I have a newer Ram. So that Ram has stayed with me my entire life. So every time I've ever bought a pickup truck, it's always been a Dodge Ram. And it reminds me of that, that freedom and that, that just that euphoric feeling of like, ah, I get to be an adult now I got my own car and I'm moving away from my parents and my, you know, where I was born and raised. And, and so, yeah, it definitely has a special place in my heart.
Adam McLane: This segment was brought to you by Dodge Ram, please visit your local.... That's great. Well, thank you for that. OK. Well, I so the, so the piece of Missouri and the Missouri training, I wanna dig in a little bit more to that and have you both kinda comment on what that experience has been like and why we did this workshop. So you both recently spent a good bit of time in Missouri for The Nature Conservancy, DEI prescribed fire workshop. So diversity, equity inclusion. A little background on the workshop for our listeners working with others across TNCs prescribed fire teams, we saw the need and launched a new training in Missouri, to increase the diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fire field. So basically creating the opportunity for women and other historically underrepresented groups to further their knowledge of fire leadership, to work on their position task books, which is kinda how they get certified for higher management positions. And if I'm not explaining that correctly Kelly or Kylie please correct me. But to do that, we're hosting these three 2-week sessions where diverse participants come to Missouri and spend their time assisting on live burns and doing other activities and trainings that, that get them, the checkmarks that they need in that book is that, one accurate capture of the workshop. Okay. I get thumbs up. And then at this point we've completed two full sessions, and Kylie you've been here for it all. And Kelly, you were here for the first session Kylie questions for you other than a little snow and ice, how's it going in general?
Kylie Paul: Yeah. So the, weather's obviously a huge guiding point for these types of workshops. So it's kind of been burn, burn, snow burn, burn, snow burn. Your weather's wild out here, I gotta say. But we've been chasing the windows left, right, and center. So we've been to Mill Creek, we've been down to Dunn Ranch. We did a burn at Wah'kon-Tah on the prairie, so we've been chasing the burn windows, but I think, yeah, all the objectives of what you just read out, definitely achieved. A great diverse group of people came to through. I've learned so much. I felt like I went back to my first day of my first year. It's very different here and everyone's just been so wonderful and yeah, it's some amazing conversations, amazing growth. Just the support networks are growing and that's also really important in our industry is to get connected and to support each other. Realize a lot of what we are doing is very similar and we can help each other a lot. But yeah, it's been amazing with Ryan and Lindsey and some amazing birds, some really great I've just opened up my task books now because we don't have them in South Africa. We'll be just kind of working on that concept. So I've put myself into the system and I'm also trying to achieve what the, what the attendees are trying to achieve. And that was also really humbling and amazing. And think I'm almost done with my first two books.
Adam McLane: Wonderful. That's great. You spoke to the similarities and finding similarities, which I think is a great part of the effort. I'm also curious about the differences. Were there did differences in fuels or topography types stick out to you in some way, throughout the different burns here in Missouri?
Kylie Paul: Yeah. So I mean, back in Cape Town, we've got fynbos, which is a really special, unique floral kingdom and it's, it's a very oily shrub-like low nutrient soil. So it's, it's vastly different in what we've been burning in here. We've done a good combination of prairies and, and wood-oak forests, two environments I've never burnt in. So that was very different. The fuel intensity and the family intensity was a lot lower than what I'm used to. So that was really nice. But you guys have all the toys, you just, you just have all the toys in, in the world, and I've just been like a kid in the candy shop.
Adam McLane: I hope Ryan Gauger hears that, and you know how lucky he is rather than just keep throwing more equipment in the budget each year, more toys, Ryan, just joking.
Kylie Paul: He takes care of his toys he takes care of. But yeah, so we, we, we often walk into fires. We don't very often have water. So yeah, I felt really spoiled in the experience.
Adam McLane: Hmm. That's interesting. Well Kelly, I'll, I'll go to you. So you've been in the fire field for quite a while. So our TNC training, isn't just about controlled burning. It's about kind of, who's doing the burning, right? I mean this diversity, equity, inclusion training, we're trying to make it easier for more women and people of color to enter what's traditionally been a field filled with almost exclusively men and almost exclusively white males as well. Is this helping, do you feel like these kind of things are really helping change the dynamic?
Kelly Martin: Oh, absolutely. And I'm, I'm so proud and grateful for The Nature Conservancy to really recognize that men in powerful positions really need to be deliberate, you know, for these types of opportunities. These don't happen they don't happen by me coming on stage and saying, "Hey, I wanna do a, you know, a DEI." It, it really is collectively at the top leadership that says, this is important for us to be productive, competitive, safe, relevant. And, and we want everybody at the table, we want all voices to be heard at the table. So really recognizing that, you know, as a, as a need for the company I think is just really, truly incredible and phenomenal. And I think The Nature Conservancy has just done a phenomenal job at, really promoting and creating this safe space and an opportunity for, for training and inclusion. And I, I'm just really excited to be a part of that. And, and really, truly the, the exciting piece of this for me too, is that this was probably more than likely developed by men and led by men. And I think we all know that that men are, will always be ever-present in fire both suppression and prescribed fire. But just to know that my colleague supports me and supports equity and inclusion just - I can't even begin to describe how that feels to be part of an inclusive team that really wants, you know, high performance and, and expects high performance because of the diversity of the team. So I think The Nature Conservancy is really onto something. When you're thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, it's not just checking a box that people are really committed to this because it's a, it's, we know this as good business practice. We become safer. I think we make better risk based management decisions when there's more voices at the table who don't look like us, that bring a different perspective. And that's really where I start to see teams really blossom is that people are given a voice. They're not oppressed, they're not humiliated, they're not bullied. And so when you feel like you're working in a safe environment, that is truly inclusive, you wanna give more, you wanna make sure that the team succeeds this isn't about "me"; it's about the team. It's about putting good fire back on the land. It's about developing trust and respect with the landowners. And it, it's just a, the magic really happens when you really see something like this really develop and, and come to fruition. So hats off to you for, or providing this opportunity for Missouri. And I, I have no doubt that you're creating it to template that can be replicated across many states.
Adam McLane: Well, thank you. And thanks for all the leadership in making it happen. It wasn't possible, but for you two. So thanks so much for that. And I couldn't help, but think about as you described that just there's very, I'm trying to think of parallel jobs within The Nature Conservancy where trust within the team mean as, as important as it is. I mean, you, you really are putting each other's, I mean, your life in other people's hands in lots of different ways. And if trust is not a huge part of, of that team, then I, that's high risk and that's the, where people aren't gonna perform their best. And so diversity, equity, respect, valuing of each other's differences, seems like it's so critically important for trust that I'm thrilled you pointed that out and that that this is happening. And then I also was brought to, I mean, I think one of the things that The Nature Conservancy takes the most pride in sometimes is exporting people and things out from our organization. So we love it. I mean, sometimes it's hard to recruit new people and hire on somebody new, but when, when people are within The Nature Conservancy, then they go to a partner organization around the world and help lead within there, that's a great thing for conservation success. And I think this is an example that we hope continues piloting out and, and having impact within the fire field well beyond TNC's team. I don't know. I was gonna say speaking of, excitement, I try and find, you know, transitions and I don't think we were talking about excitement. I'm excited about this project. Speaking of excitement an exciting moment, Kelly was we had CNN crew join us a Bennett Spring Savanna to film an upcoming of it's series Represented by CNN and Kelly. That was really a focus on your career in the fire field. Correct? Is that I think, yeah, but I think, yeah,
Kelly Martin: CNN found me you know, I don't, I don't go looking for I, I am in the media a lot. I'm on the internet at a lot, and I, I do a lot of advocacy work with as president of Grassroots Wildland Firefighters. It's a nonprofit group that's really looking to reform a lot of changes within the federal system. So I'm kind of wearing two hats, you know, working with The Nature Conservancy in doing their grassroots piece of that. So a lot of my work you know, is available on the internet. And so Chris found me and it's no big surprise, but in 2016, I, I did testify and, you know, before Congress regarding gender bias and sexism in the workplace within wildland fire I just really felt like I'd made it through most of my career, but so much of, you know, what I did was normalize some of the actions and behaviors throughout my career that I thought were pretty egregious, but I thought, you know, it was self-preservation, I really wanted make sure that, you know, I made it through my, through my career. So that was a piece of, you know, the piece that CNN was really interested in, but more than anything, I just, I've seen how, how amazing teams can be with women, but I've also seen how oppressive the conditions, you know, can be. And the behaviors that can be exhibited that sometimes people don't even know that they have implicit bias or, or sexism, you know, towards women, you know, on the team. And so I'm hopeful that, you know, CNN their series is called Represented and I hope I represent that well, that you know, TNC has been one of the progressive agencies or nonprofits to really include, you know, more women in non-traditional roles and career fields like fire and that we can help encourage more young women to pursue this as a career. And that dare, I say that the old-school way of having to remains silent and, and feel that you have to normalize, you know, bad behaviors in order to succeed and thrive in this organization. I'm hopeful that we can be this tipping point to kind of create this like new paradigms we go forward, you know, in climate change and worldwide need for fire, that we can understand that creating this, this environment and having women represent the, both the suppression and the prescribed fire of the good fire side of the coin is absolutely imperative for all of us in our, and for the health of our generations to come. So yeah, I'm, I'm excited for the CNN piece and excited for, for TNC, for being very open and accepting of bringing in national attention you know, through this effort.
Adam McLane: Thank you. And Kylie, I noticed you were, are nodding a good bit as Kelly was talking too, so I want you a chance to weigh in. What do you know if you had a hope for what a story like that can provide exposure for that leads to change? Would it be a lot of those same things or anything different on your mind?
Kylie Paul: Yeah, it's, it's definitely the same. I mean, my experience as a volunteer at the Volunteer Wildfire Services, we have 40% female or representation on the fire line. So when I started out in this world, I just saw, you know, these really cool women all around me doing the job. And I just kind of considered myself a firefighter. I never knew I was a female firefighter. And then on my first day on the job as a professional, and then I took a look around and I was like, oh where's everybody. And, and there was that stark that, oh, I'm a female firefighter. I'm now put in this box and this is a responsibility. So I think for me, it's just really about showing other women that it's possible. Because even in an industry where we have 40% females, if you look at the leadership side of it, we make up less than 1%. So I think we're getting the woman in the door in my country, but getting them into leadership is the next step. And I firmly believe that you need to show it being done. Words don't really carry as far as actually just being on the frontline, leading crews and showing that it's possible and that we actually, we are really good at it. So that's pretty much been my experience.
Adam McLane: Hmm. Well, you just touched on this a little bit, but other than sticking with you Kylie, other than kind of basic fear why, why do you think it's important to diversify the ranks, especially in leadership too, if you talk about 40% in South Africa in terms of the crew as a whole, but then leadership being a much smaller percentage, why do you think it's important to diversify that?
Kylie Paul: Because as you get stuck in that sentiment of, "well, we've always done it that way" or "that's the way we've always done it." And we don't have the same challenges we had when those were the ways that things were done. So just like the ecosystems and environments diversifying, we need to diversify and the healthiest ecosystems are diverse ecosystems. You've got different backgrounds, different experiences, different opinions, whether it's racial or cultural gender or anything, we all have something to bring to the table that's unique. And if we have unique solutions coming together, then we can, we can move forward in a really exciting way. But if we're gonna stick to the way it's always been done and we call it the mid-65-year-old-white-man's club we, we're not gonna progress anywhere and the industry's gonna stay the same, which we are all realizing is not gonna work for the future.
Adam McLane: Hmm. Thank you for that. And as I'm not 65, but I am a member of the white men's club for sure. But I have a daughter that's 12, named Morgan, and I don't want that club to prevent her from doing whatever it is that she wants. So I'm so grateful to you too. And, and leaders like you when the leaders like you in the field of conservation in a whole suite of fields where the past and, and that's the way it's always been done is being tested and changed as a result of your leadership and courage. So thank you both very much for being willing to do that. The question for both of you kind of my next question is what makes a good, you know, speaking of diversity and people can bring different perspectives to fire lighting. What makes a good fire lighter? Kind of characteristics, I'm sure there's differences, but just in your minds, as you think of a, a quintessential somebody that you would, you would love to see as a firelight, what is it that makes that person potentially great. You talked, Kelly earlier about being athletic and loving the outdoors. Does that play a mix or what, what goes into that?
Kelly Martin: Yeah. You know, if I think about character attributes, I love you know, somebody that's a team player, somebody that's not snarky. You, you know, we're, we all have an opinion. And I think sometimes, you know, opinions are, are good to express, but not in a way that's negative towards the person, you know, or the team. I love it when people take initiative and they see something that they could do that they don't wait to be asked. I love that. I love the fact that people can feel like they can make mistake and I'm not gonna hold that against them and they can learn from their mistakes and I'll be there to support them, you know, through their growth and their learning. I love it when people wanna reach beyond what they even think is possible. And I think this is probably more relevant for women is that we hold back. We are afraid of making mistakes. We see men that you know, run into positions and, and they're given those opportunities because they have some of those character traits of really being assertive and, and progressive and forward. And, and if we do that, we're kind of seen as pushy or a steam roller. I can't even begin to tell you all the words that I've been described as, but don't let that stop you. You know, the, the other thing is you know, learn from others, you know, having a good mentor a coach, a sponsor, you know, all those become, you know, very relevant later on in your career. But I think that I look back if you can make it as a firefighter/firelighter for the first four years, we may have you for a career, but it's really those four first four years that are very, very formidable in terms of, do you really like being away from home a lot? Do you really like, you know, working in rough rugged conditions, do you really like being around a lot of smoke? These are, these are very harsh conditions and, and if you can, after three or four years say, you know what, this is something I wanna commit to, then those are, those are the folks that we're looking for, that we need that we're really trying to recruit for, because we know we're, we have a recruitment gap, we have a retention gap, we have a promotion gap. And so we're really looking for, you know, those folks. We know that we've gotta really increase opportunities for everyone, not just, you know, women to enter this workforce
Adam McLane: And in the face of a changing climate, I'm sure. It won't reverse itself in terms of how much fire lighting and suppression we need out there. So I hear you Kylie, any, anything you'd like to add to characteristics? I think I, I feel like Kelly described, gave a recipe for being a really great human being you know, good team player, all sorts of really good stuff. So...
Kelly Martin: You know, can we just have a conversation about what it's like to be just a good human being?
Adam McLane: Yes.
Kelly Martin: It's just like, man, then the magic really happens, you know, at that point. And it's pretty cool to watch, but anyway, go ahead, Kyle. Sorry. I interrupted.
Kylie Paul: No, I mean, you, you, you did cover it all. I would say attributes to our industry as being a good communicator. Communication is absolutely everything out there and definitely being a person who wants to learn. So I consider myself a lifelong learner, and I think if you are always willing and open to learn and grow this is the industry for you. If you think you've gotten to a point where I've been doing this for a few years, I know everything it's a dangerous position to be in. So lifelong learner. And then I think something uniquely female that I think we bring to the line is intuition. And I've definitely found that's, that's been my saving grace throughout my career is just trusting my gut and my instincts. And yeah, I think women do have a stronger intuition people, you know, so blocked by, you know, ego and all of that. So those are three good things, I think that are also important.
Adam McLane: Love it. Thank you both for that. Well, what's, as we kinda wrap up, what's next for both of you, Kylie, I'll start with you. So I think you're going to, where'd you say, Virginia next and doing some training there, or, and then as you go back, when you go back to South Africa, what are you looking forward to in the next several years?
Kylie Paul: Yeah, so I'm kind of at a pivotal place in my career where it could go any direction. I have a huge passion for prescribed burning, so I'm really investing in that right now. I'm gonna be traveling all over the country one of the Carolinas, Virginia, Minnesota for a month, Maryland. And then ultimately California, I'm hoping to go out and visit Kelly at her place as well in Idaho. So I'm, I'm getting around and I'm seeing all kinds of landscapes and meeting all kinds of people. So, I'd have to redirect that question to future Kylie in about five months’ time. I'm just really enjoying my opportunities.
Adam McLane: Sorry. I, I stepped over here. What I heard in that was that you could potentially be available for higher in Missouri in five months is what I heard. So name written down. Next 5 months, check in with Kylie. I love it. Kelly, how about you? What's next for you?
Kelly Martin: Yeah. So in about 10 days, Kylie and I are gonna meet in Virginia for the women in fire training exchange, which was really developed and promoted by The Nature Conservancy as a way to really think about, you know, how do we network as, as women fire practitioners. And, and I, I think I, I was with the original group in 2016, and that was just a shock to be able to walk into a room and see all these women in yellow shirts and going, oh my God, I've never seen so many women in one room as firefighters. I've dreamed of this day, my entire career that I, I could work in, in practice along other women. And it's, it's really been a very, very fulfilling and very enriching opportunity to be able to do that. So WTREX in the near future. And yeah, I think is you know, I'm, I really enjoy, I was working with Jeremy Bailey in Northern California for Indigenous cultural burning. I think The Nature Conservancy has a really interesting support for Indigenous cultural burning is really, really pretty powerful and very, very much needed. So excited to see that program expand, but I'm a very idealistic person. I'm a dreamer, you know, a lot of stuff doesn't stick, some things do. So who, who knows I'm, I'm excited to, you know, be a Nature Conservancy employee and helping people learn how to burn. So very proud to be part of this organization and, and you know, really proud to be part of women's history month here with Kylie and hosting so many really great events that TNC has been hosting and super proud to be part of the 60th anniversary of The Nature Conservancy burning program as well.
Adam McLane: You're here. Well, I, I think being dreamers served you both really well. I unserved the world well by, by letting you take on things that seemed like a big challenge. So thank you both for doing that. And I'm thinking back to my kinda opening statement that I could rattle on a little bit about fire you know, for a whole podcast, but boy, that would've been a terrible podcast. If it, if it was left to me to do that, because I feel like both of you have experiences that you could each write a book about - you really deep rich experiences. And so this conversation was so much better as a result of you two being willing to do this. So thank you very much for, for joining us today for sharing your stories and just doing what you do. I'll reiterate that. I think you, you are both an inspiration to young girls out there and others, quite frankly, who just see challenges and barriers, but keep on with the pursuit of their dreams. So thanks again to both of you and please stay safe on the fire line.
Adam McLane: And our listeners. If you enjoyed today's conversation, please share our podcast. You can learn more about TNC's fire program and read an in-depth story about the training on our website at nature.org/mofire. And speaking of that website that's also, if you're interested in watching the CNN episode that we referenced earlier that Kelly is featured within, we'll have a link to that at nature.org/mofire. So thanks for listening!
Five-Year Campaign Success
None of The Nature Conservancy’s work happens without your support. In no year was that more obvious than in 2022.
We closed out a five-year campaign with impressive numbers to report. These numbers represent the team of individuals, foundations, companies and others who see our vision and support our mission. We're incredibly grateful for this trust in helping us move our conservation goals forward together.
So, let’s start with the big number: The grand total raised in that five-year campaign was $106,399,920. That exceeded the goal we set when we launched this campaign, and within the total is a lot of good news. It includes $17,715,974 for work in Missouri. It also includes $66,261,909 from Missouri-based donors to fund conservation beyond the state. That’s important because problems of rapidly declining biodiversity and the effects of a changing climate span the world. Of that $66 million, nearly $4 million will go toward work in other state and regional programs, and $62 million supports TNC’s global efforts.
We have also seen a rise in Legacy Club members since 2016, topping 400 people who’ve committed more than $22 million to TNC through gifts and estate planning. These are people who recognize TNC’s work and have invested in pushing it forward, even after they are gone.
And, no surprise, our tireless trustees pitched in to raise more than $800,000 during a pandemic summer. This is on top of all the work they do to guide and support TNC through their time, effort and partnerships.
The five-year campaign is about giving and dollars, a lot of the time. But each of you reading do remarkable things for TNC that might not show up in that dollar total.
Your volunteer efforts, your communication with us and your feedback on a project help power our work. There will be plenty more to come in 2023.