published August 27, 2012

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Myrtle Head Savanna – We did it!


A year ago, in the August 2011 issue of Orchids, as part of an overview of the Conservation Committee’s activities and our efforts to advance orchid conservation, we introduced the concept of crowd funding, a collective approach to fundraising where individuals could directly support specific conservation projects. Our first project offered to the AOS membership was a proposal from the North Carolina branch of the Nature Conservancy to help them in their efforts to provide long term protection of the Myrtle Head Savanna and its special ecosystem, rich in native orchids and other unique threatened plant species. They were seeking financial support to underwrite the cost of conducting a managed burn in the habitat as part of a complex restoration and management strategy where periodic wildfires, a vital natural process that keeps vegetation and trees from crowding out other species have long been suppressed. As of June 30, we were able to reach our goal of $10,040 which was raised from a total of 77 donations, reflecting the generosity of 57 individuals and local orchid societies around the country.


As one might imagine, conducting a controlled burn on 72 acres of forest and wetlands demands careful consideration of many factors to make sure this effective management tool does not have disastrous consequences; scheduling a specific date is not arbitrary or decided months in advance. Throughout the spring, and even after achieving our fundraising goal, there was only an approximate idea of when the burn would be able to take place. Finally, we received confirmation from Sara Babin, the Conservation Coordinator for the Southeast Coastal Plain office of The Nature Conservancy, that the burn was successfully conducted during the last week of July


It would be easy to assume that the specific actions of an organization as large as The Nature Conservancy would not depend on a fundraising effort such as this, but that is just not the case. Increasingly, their actions and management efforts, like every other conservation initiative, directly depend on the kind of generosity our membership brought to this project. Even as the AOS and the Conservation Committee work to present other important orchid conservation projects that need our collective support, theirs remains an ongoing need and we will continue to monitor and keep you updated on the efforts at Myrtle Head.


Finally, I want to applaud and thank all of you who have embraced this project and emphasize the significance your generosity has had in preserving orchids in the wild. In challenging financial times, I am exceedingly proud that our membership could step up and see the value in helping protect orchids in the wild. I hope this will be the first of many successes and encourage all of you to participate and support these necessary efforts.

Dave Horak, Chair, AOS Conservation Committee