ISC-Audubon

 
 
 

Broadcast Audubon

Life Lesson From a Little Green Heron

A Nature Based Leadership Essay

 Little Green Heron

©2016 (SJones)

Steve Jones; 2.28.16

My list of lifetime regrets stands at 49. No, not every “I should not have said, did, acted, or behaved the way I did.” Instead, these are the ones of significance that have traveled with me, some for four decades and more. Ones that hurt someone, or something; not those that simply made me look dumb or feel stupid. I started the list probably twenty years ago. I lost it once and rewrote it. When I found the one I had lost, the new one matched perfectly. These regrets are deeply etched, as are their lessons.

Not to worry, I am not about to recite all 49. Just one of the regrets and corresponding lessons relevant to my thinking about nature based leadership and the Nature Based Leadership Institute we are creating here at Antioch University New England.

I grew up in Cumberland, Maryland at the western terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, constructed in the mid-19th Century, its eastern terminus in Georgetown near Washington D.C. Dad maintained an entire menu of fishing holes within an hour or so of home. Battie Mixon, a restored and re-watered section of the canal just 18 miles away, offered sunfish, bass, catfish, and a few other species. We fished there 5-10 times every summer. Dad could fish and allow me the freedom to wander the shoreline staying in sight. Once I reached adolescence he no longer insisted I stay within view. Steve little green heron 1

I was perhaps 12 or 13 one day when the fish weren’t biting enough to command my full attention. Just to the right (south) of the towpath (see photo) a linear depression (where canal construction engineers took additional fill for the elevated towpath and the next lock a half-mile from the photo point) also held water, but shallower than the fishing hole and being reclaimed by sediment and emerging vegetation. I often watched that wetland for turtles, snakes, and birds. This day I saw a wading bird that I can identify today from the remembered image as a little green heron. I did not know its identity at the time. I did know that at 100 plus feet distance from me the bird offered a tempting rock target to the adolescent Steve. I found the perfect rock and without considering the consequences, aimed and threw at the impossibly small target.

I hit the beautiful little green heron in the head; the bird toppled. I waited for it to regain its footing, or rise and fly. It did neither. I did not celebrate my accuracy nor congratulate my “lucky” throw. I stood stunned, suffering silently for the foolish act I had just completed. I close my eyes today, fifty years later, and I can see the image clearly, and I feel the regret as though I had just this moment slung the rock.

I did not tell Dad; in fact I told no one until this writing. Yes, I’ve killed birds since then, upland game birds as a licensed hunter: woodcock, pheasant, ruffed grouse, quail, and turkey. But no more errant rocks. Such birds as the little green heron are protected by law, and now safe by virtue of my own awareness of unintended consequences. My guilt and shame live on, fueling a palpable regret, unabated by time.

The shallow, warm-water slough surface was green in spots with filamentous algae that day; I still see the bird’s floating, delicate corpse as I walked closer, hoping against hope that my missile had done less than mortal harm. Not so. I suppose my lament relates more to the symbol of the bird than of the actual death. I brought to an end the life of a creature that brings magic to an otherwise dismal setting – not dismal to me, yet few people see the beauty and wonder in the stagnant, algae-coated warm water he fished. I found magic in the setting even then, the sunning turtles aligned on fallen logs, the dragon flies darting just above the green surface, the muskrat tracing a ‘V’ through the still water. The little green had stood there fixed, and transfixed, watching for edible life, waiting patiently, fearing nothing. Steve little green heron 2

My projectile came without warning. Evolution had not alerted his nerves, sensors, and reflexes to adolescent-heaved stones. I robbed a vibrant ecosystem of a precious participant for no purpose other than to test my arm. Perhaps I am further saddened because that selfish act of violence and waste symbolizes my own species’ careless disregard for so much that is nature and natural. We tend too often to ask of other life, “Does it add material value?” If not, then go ahead, toss a rock its way. So much of what we do is blind to the intrinsic values that economics ignore. Isn’t it time we gain awareness, learn to attribute real value, and stop throwing rocks to test an arm?

I ache for that individual little green heron, and always will. I paid the deep price of guilt, humility, and shame to learn and accept a life-lasting lesson. Every action yields consequences. Nothing should be done for which consequences are not apparent.

I also now know that a conscience doesn’t develop from reading a manual. I learned that late summer afternoon the power of recognized guilt and responsibility as soon as the heron fell. I’ve held myself accountable for fifty years. A cog in the wheel of life is connected to the whole. No little green heron stands alone, separate from all else. How can our Nature Based Leadership Institute open many more eyes to such lessons of interconnectivity, responsibility, and consequences? How can we discourage rock-slinging in all its metaphorical dimensions? How can we illuminate the consequences of every decision? Perhaps most importantly, how do we instill an Earth Ethic (a disciplined self-awareness and conscience) in every business, NGO, organization, and individual? How do we successfully encourage, develop, and instill an obligation to be responsible Earth stewards?

Perhaps most importantly, how do we apply nature’s lessons to living, learning, serving, and leading? That afternoon years ago I looked at the little green heron. Blindly, I looked, yet did not see. I did not see the life and its place in the wetlands ecosystem, nor the wetlands and its place on the landscape. I saw only a target to serve me in a brief moment of self-absorption and shameful entertainment – a contest of sorts to, again, test my arm. Only after I exacted the toll of death to the bird did I both see and feel. I saw the act for what it was and I felt the consequence and harm from my foolish throw. I could not undo the deed. Instead, I decided to learn from that day, and to apply the lesson time and time again.

Now, I am embedding the lesson in the fabric of our Nature Based Leadership Institute, and sharing this tale for the benefit of those engaged and for the many we hope to touch. All lessons distill to stories. I will take the little green heron to the end of my life’s journey, telling and retelling my story and the fateful role he played.

About the Author: Steve’s PhD is in Natural Resources Management (1987). He practiced forestry in the southern forest products industry for a dozen years prior to pursuing his doctorate. He has since served eight universities, including three as CEO (2004-present). He is currently President, Antioch University New England (AUNE). He also chaired the Governing Board of the University of the Arctic 2005-08. Steve believes that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or inspired compellingly by nature. Steve co-created AUNE’s Nature Based Leadership Institute in 2015 (http://www.antiochne.edu/community/nature-based-leadership-institute/). Reach Steve at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

Migratory Bird Conservation

migratory birds Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced recently that the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved spending more than $3 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to protect an estimated 1,600 acres of waterfowl habitat on 3 units of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Commission also approved $23.5 million in federal funding for grants to conserve more than 139,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitats in Canada through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).
  
“Protecting North America’s wetlands ¬ – which provide so many ecological, economic, and social benefits – is crucial,” said Salazar, who chairs the Commission. “Besides providing habitat for fish, wildlife, and a variety of plants, wetlands are nurseries for many saltwater and freshwater fish and shellfish of commercial and recreational importance, and they provide hunting, fishing and other wildlife viewing opportunities for millions of Americans.”
  
The NAWCA Standard Grants awarded today will support six Canadian projects to benefit ducks, geese, and other migratory birds on more than 139,000 acres in 12 provinces and territories. Partners will contribute more than $23.5 million in matching non-federal dollars toward these projects.
 
A presentation summarizing 45 projects that were previously approved for funding by the North American Wetlands Conservation Council under the NAWCA U.S. Small Grants Program was given to the Commission. These grant awards total more than $3 million in federal funds. Partners will contribute more than $12 million in matching funds toward these projects, which will protect and enhance 26,050 acres of wetlands and associated habitats in 24 states from Maine to California.
 
Each year, the Commission pre-approves the total amount of funding to be distributed to Small Grants projects in the next fiscal year. Final project selection authority is delegated to the Council, which then reports its selections back to the Commission. For fiscal year 2011, the Commission authorized up to $5 million to fund projects under the Small Grants program.
 
Examples of projects funded with NAWCA Small Grants in fiscal year 2011 include:
 
Arkansas: Arkansas River Valley Wetlands Restoration Phase I
Grantee: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
This project will restore two highly degraded bottomland hardwood forests totaling 1,412 acres within the Arkansas River Valley. Partners will restore a 411-acre bottomland hardwood forest block in the Galla Creek Wildlife Management Area in Pope County, and 1,001 acres of bottomland hardwood forest in the Nimrod Lloyd Millwood WMA in Yell County. This project will benefit species such as mallard, wood duck, prothonotary and Kentucky warblers, and American woodcock.

California: Grasslands Wetland Enhancement
Grantee: Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
This grant project will enhance 397 previously restored acres and an additional 123 acres of seasonal wetlands by installing a water delivery pipeline that will allow habitat managers to independently flood certain wetlands while conserving water. Species that use this habitat include mallard, northern pintail, green-winged teal, great blue heron, great egret, black-crowned night heron, and marbled godwit.
 
Minnesota: Madrena WMA Addition
Grantee: Pheasants Forever, Inc.
The purpose of this project is to protect key wetland-grassland complexes and provide waterfowl and grassland birds with high-quality nesting cover. Pheasants Forever will acquire 160 acres and subsequently donate the property to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for enrollment in the DNR’s Wildlife Management Area System. This area provides critical staging and migratory habitats for lesser scaup, canvasbacks, ring-necked ducks, and other waterfowl.
 
New Hampshire: Pawtuckaway River Greenway, Phase II
Grantee: Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire
This project will expand a block of conservation land along the Pawtuckaway River by acquiring and protecting a large, unfragmented parcel of land. Protecting this parcel will preserve important wetland resources; protect diverse habitat for waterfowl, wetland birds, and other migratory birds; and provide public access for outdoor recreation, including hiking, skiing, fishing, and hunting. These shallow marsh wetlands and associated uplands provide nesting, foraging, and migratory habitat for mallard and wood duck and migrating American woodcock, among other species.

Examples of projects funded with NAWCA Standard Grants in Canada in fiscal year 2011 include:
   
Canadian Prairie/Parkland and Western Boreal Habitat Program
Grantee: Ducks Unlimited Canada
This proposal is the next step in a multi-year commitment by Ducks Unlimited Canada to contribute to achieving the goals and objectives of the Prairie Habitat Joint Venture. This proposal will secure 122,951 acres, enhance 7,411 acres of wetland and associated upland habitat, and influence another 4,637,887 acres through extension activities.
  
NCC Quebec & Atlantic: Protecting Wetland and Upland Habitat, Eastern Habitat Joint Venture
Grantee: Nature Conservancy Canada
Project activities will focus on preserving important breeding and migratory habitat, staging and molting habitat, and wintering habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, grassland, and colonial bird species. Priority waterfowl species directly benefiting from these activities include American black duck, green-winged teal and Canada goose.
 
The Commission approved the purchase of wetland habitat that will be added to 6 units of the National Wildlife Refuge System to secure breeding, resting, and feeding habitat. These acquisitions are funded with proceeds from sales of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the Federal Duck Stamp.

These acquisitions include:

NEW REFUGE BOUNDARY AND PRICE APPROVAL
Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon - This is the first time that Nestucca Bay NWR is coming to the Commission. Proposal is for boundary approval of 3,435 acres containing a mix of fee and easement acquisitions with 54 owners. Price approval request is for 21 acres in fee from one owner.

BOUNDARY ADDITION AND PRICE APPROVAL
San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Texas - Proposal is for boundary addition and price approval of 1,544 acres in fee from two owners.

PRICE APPROVAL
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia - Proposal is for price approval of 73 acres in fee from one owner.

For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, ninety-eight cents goes directly to purchase vital habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission oversees the use of Federal Duck Stamp funds for the purchase and lease of these wetland habitats for national wildlife refuges. To date, more than 5.3 million acres of wetlands have been purchased using more than $750 million in Duck Stamp revenue.

More information about the approved NAWCA grant programs and projects is available on the Web at: http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/Grants/NAWCA/index.shtm

The Commission includes Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Representatives John Dingell of Michigan and Robert Wittman of Virginia, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, as well as state representatives serving as ex-officio members who vote on projects located within their respective states.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov .


PDF

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE ENTIRE NEWSLETTER IN PDF FORMAT
References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles
www.audubonlifestyles.org 

The International Sustainability Council

www.thesustainabilitycouncil.org 

Sustainability Campaign
sustainabilitycampaign.blogspot.com

eNature.com
www.enature.com

Golfs Drive Toward Sustainability
www.eifg.org/sustainability

World Migratory Bird Day
www.worldmigratorybirdday.org

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
www.gcsaa.org

The United States Golf Association (USGA)
www.usga.org

Sustainable Golf & Development
www.sustainablegolfdevelopment.com

Sustainable Forest Initiative
www.sfiprogram.org

National Geographic
www.nationalgeographic.org

International Migratory Bird Day 2011
www.birdday.org

 

$25 Annually $100 Annually $250 Reg / $100 Annually


SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITY

Sponsors are a critically important part to the success of ISC-Audubon. As a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating sustainability, we offer all of our programs to our members free of charge, and are publicly available for download on our website.

ISC-Audubon is proud to extend the opportunity to select businesses and organizations to become sponsors of our sustainability education and advocacy programs. As a sponsor, your business or organization can realize significant value.

Click here to learn more about this opportunity. 

 
 

A Coalition for Good - Spreading the Seeds of Sustainability

ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

Funds generated through memberships and donations are used to provide fruit & vegetable seeds, wildflower seed mix, and wildlife feed & birdseed to urban and suburban communities around the world. These seeds are used by communities to establish fruit and vegetable gardens, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, and for the beautification of urban and suburban landscapes by creating flower and native plant gardens.

Read more

You are here: Home Broadcast Audubon Informational Broadcasts Life Lesson From a Little Green Heron