Tuesday, March 15, 2011

They belong

My capstone seminar students have decided to mount an effort to protect the Jewel Moore Nature Reserve in perpetuity.


Building on the work of my second-semester freshman students in 2010, they are educating the campus about the Nature Reserve's benefits and its threatened status.


Publicity will focus on answering common questions and addressing skepticism about the Nature Reserve, with the goal being to help community members recognize the Reserve as a neighbor and fellow citizen of UCA. Our motto is "Nature Belongs," a play on the current marketing slogan for the university, "You Belong."


At today's kickoff event, part of UCA's "Green Day" sponsored by Student Government, we handed out braided bracelets. Wearers show their support with the symbolism of a green strand surrounded by the purple of UCA, the campus embracing the Nature Reserve.


A student signs a petition asking the Board of Trustees to permanently protect the Reserve. When the Biology Department brought a similar proposal last year, the Board opted to guarantee only the Reserve would not be encroached upon for the next five years. This is not enough protection to allow biology faculty to secure long-term grants for research in the Reserve. It is not enough protection to keep the Reserve as a central part of the curriculum in Biology and Environmental Sciences. It is not enough protection for the only remaining piece of unplowed prairie that once covered the Conway area, through which the Trail of Tears once ran.


Many students, staff, and faculty members believe that because the Reserve has a name, signage, boundaries, and official designated uses, it is permanently set aside and legally protected. Not true. The Reserve exists only because the trustees and administration of UCA continue to agree that it should exist. The moment a more compelling use for the property comes to the foreground, the Reserve could cease to exist. Once it is gone, its unique heritage and history are gone forever.


Over 700 signatures were collected today. The campus is mobilizing behind this effort. You can help by liking us on Facebook, by attending one of our future petition drives, by wearing our symbol, by talking to your student government representatives, by contacting members of the administration and trustees, and by spreading the word about the Jewel Moore Nature Reserve's essential role on campus.


Join us from near or far!

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