HMN Annual Meeting 2023

Past presidents Chris Bowlen and Brian Lux honor our newly elected Chapter President Peggy Plass with a crown and scepter on January 28.

Thanks to the organizational skills of our outgoing Vice President and Programs Committee Chair Mary Gatling-Finks, last Saturday, January 28, we celebrated our 2022 accomplishments with our first in-person annual meeting in three years. Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave graciously gave us use of their spacious meeting room in the Houff Student Center where we gathered for conversation, presentations, an election and a meal.

In addition to brief reports from other board members, Projects Committee Chair Pam Gray provided a look at last year’s work as compiled for our annual report that was sent to the state office on January 10. Our numbers show good chapter member engagement in a wide variety of activities. She highlighted a few of these, then shared about a new activity she is coordinating involving community outreach to educate about Living with Black Bears. See Andrea’s notes below.

Our annual election seated Peggy Plass as our new president, Carl Droms as treasurer, Lincoln Gray as Basic Training Committee Chair, and re-elected Adrie Voors to the Newsletter and Website Committee Chair position. Continuing in their Board of Directors’ roles from last year are Andrea Dono as Historian/Parliamentarian and acting Secretary; Jean Stephens, Membership Chair; Elaine Smith, CE Chair; and Pam Gray as Projects Committee Chair. Our Outreach and Vice President/ Program Committee Chair positions remain vacant. Contact a board member if you’re interested in filling either of these roles!

After an abundant and delicious potluck meal, Isaac Matlock of the Clifton Institute and founding member of the recently revived Shenandoah Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, provided a comprehensive look at his ambitious work in “Launching the Native Wildflower Seed Industry in Virginia,” with “Local Native Plants and Seed Collection,” and how we can help. See Andrea’s notes about this project below. Anna Maria Johnson, also instrumental in reviving the local VNPS chapter, gave us an update on her project of compiling a Ridge and Valley Plant Guide for VNPS. Our meeting concluded with a brief first meeting of our new board.

2023 is off to a great start! Among our other activities, we’ll be welcoming 22 new members comprising Cohort VIII!

– Adrie Voors, Cohort II, January 2023

Thanks to Andrea Dono, Cohort V, for her skilled notetaking on the presentations below! And thanks to Andrea and Carl for their photos, also below.

Pam Gray presents about an upcoming new bear project for HMNs.

Department of Wildlife Resources Living with Black Bears in Virginia 

Pam Gray, Volunteer Service Projects Committee Chair, and Shenandoah National Park Bear Patrol volunteer

  • Outreach project that helps educate the public on how to be bear-aware and how to live with bears. Focus is on residential areas. It just takes one food reward for a bear to start looking for easy rewards and breaking into homes, trash cans, bird feeders, etc.
  • 20,000 calories a day must be consumed before hibernation
  • Some bears can smell scents from 20 miles away
  • The growth of black bear population since the 90s has been significant even despite mange outbreak. We should see a boost in numbers in the SNP this year.
  • DWR wants to partner with us to train us to be educators. They offer Black Bear 101 training (which counts as CE) and teaches us the basics of bear behavior and what humans should do. This will be offered soon.
  • They would provide us with swag and informational materials.
  • The state’s black bear biologist will meet with the volunteer group for an intensive training. Then our volunteers will proactively reach out to community groups and festival organizers to begin doing outreach.
  • Pam is looking for folks to join her in launching this project for our chapter.

More about this from Pam HERE.

Isaac Matlock presents about native seed saving at our Annual Meeting, January 28, 2023.

Native Seed Pilot Project and Wild Seed Collection

Isaac Matlock, Native Seed Project Coordinator

  • He will submit a project for all chapters to consider but lives in Harrisonburg and is working with us first.
  • He is with the Clifton Institute that is a 501c3 that does education, research, and conservation based in Fauquier County.
  • Some of their work focuses on kestrels and foraging and nesting habitats, box turtles habitats, vernal pools research, and experimental grassland restoration.
  • Ecoregions are defined by abiotic and biotic patterns (geology, landforms, soils, vegetation, climate, land use, wildlife, and hydrology). Harrisonburg is in the mountains ecoregion (Alleghanies and Blue Ridge). The others in Virginia are piedmont and coast plain (swamps marshes flatwoods and river deltas). This is important as populations adapt to local sites. For example, switchgrass is influenced by the soil – the same species will look different in each of the three ecoregions.
  • Native seeds are used in meadow restorations, pollinator-friendly solar installations, roadside plantings. Many aren’t for sale commercially.
  • Small farmers (less than 5 acres) are participating in this new program.
  • Growing native seeds can be a high-value crop for farmers.
  • Target species: 18 plants including common milkweed, purpletop, narrow-leaf mountain mint – they aren’t spring ephemerals or hard to grow. The list is here.
  • Timeline for the project (in fall/winter)
    • Build database of seed collection localities
    • Develop seed collection protocol
    • Obtain permission
    • Clean and process seeds by Ernst Seed company pro-bono
    • Meet with prospects
    • Prepare plots for out-planting
    • Build greenhouse at Clifton Institute
    • Sow seeds for greenhouse in March
  • Spring /Summer
    • Grow seedlings
    • Set up demo plots
    • Meet with farmers and provide technical assistance
    • Weed
  • Probably won’t get seeds the first year.
  • They have a protocol volunteers will follow (permission, confirm positive identification, population size assessment, ensuring that plant has at least 50 in population producing seed so you can conduct a sustainable harvest, take photos).
  • There are many different types of seeds. Some examples are ballistic, fluffy, milkweed, shakers, beaks, shattering, hitchhikers
  • Seed maturity is important, you need to know when the seed is ready to collect. iNaturalist is a great resource to help you identify when a seed is ready and when it is too early or too late. Usually if you can squeeze a seed and it doesn’t break, then the timing is right. Old seeds also aren’t good to collect.
  • There are a lot of resources to help you identify plants and confirm they are native to Virginia as well as what a mature seed for each plant looks like.
  • There are specific ways to store seeds properly.
  • They hope to have access to DWR land for this project. Working on this now.
  • The national parks base their permits on research and this project is not research-based. This project probably won’t happen in national parks for this reason.
  • For now, you can use this form to get involved.

Logo for the Ridge and Valley Native Plant Guide. Artist Elise Lintelman.

Northern Ridge and Valley Native Plant Guide Project Update

Anna Maria Johnson, Cohort VII

Click on any image below to start a slide show of the photos and see captions.