Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Trip to the Woodshed

I’ve been the co-steward at Bluff Spring Fen since the mid 1908s. In that time, I have only run afoul of the agencies that oversee activities at the site once. The incident involves this plant species, the downy yellow painted cup (Castilleja sessiliflora).

DYPC grows on morainic hills, much like the kames that we have at the Fen. There are a series of really fine examples of these hill prairies out near Rockford, Illinois. DYPC is a rare plant in Illinois. In fact, the plant is formally listed as endangered in Illinois. One of the Rockford prairies where it grows, Rogers Prairie, is a beautiful example that remained unprotected well into the 1990s. In addition to a fine, diverse plant community, Rogers Prairie is home to a remarkable array of rare prairie insects. This rarity is not limited to prairie butterflies- Rogers is home to rare moths, leafhoppers, spittlebugs, and grasshoppers. As a result, a number of prairie entomologists were out doing inventories and surveys prior to protection of the site.

One day in about 1995, a friend and I were getting together. She was distraught. Somebody had bulldozed a single rut, one blade wide, up the side of the hill prairie. Naturally many folks were concerned. Fortunately this would be the extent of the damage that was incurred. My friend was lamenting the rich plant community that was damaged, and mentioned that there was even DYPC there. The plant was setting seed while she was there, so she gathered some from the dirt thrown up by the bulldozer. Having collected the seed (which she just happened to have with her), she now had no place to put it. My friend knew full well that I was on the management team of a site that had perfect habitat for this species.

I was in a quandary. We did not have permission to bring this species onto the site. Worse yet, it was a listed species, so the regulations are stricter. I decided that it was unlikely that anything would come of the seed. Rather than throwing it away, I took it off her hands and scattered it on one of our hill prairies, expecting that to be the end of the story.

Two years later, the first blooming DYPC showed up at the Fen, right where I had scattered the seed. It was healthy, vigorous, and located in a very prominent spot where everyone saw it. At that point, I really had to let people know that this was the result of a deliberate species introduction rather than a spontaneous emergence from the seed bank. My trip to the woodshed was quite mild (I was told to keep good records of this sort of thing, and not to do it again without permission). Fortunately for me, when it came time for me to request official permission to bring another endangered species, the swamp metalmark butterfly, onto the preserve, I received it with no hesitation. So apparently my transgression was not held against me. Today, we continue to have a population of DYPC at the Fen. It’s in bloom this week

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At 12:01, Blogger Floridacracker said...

It's easier to apologize than get permission.

At 18:07, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

Sometimes rules are laid out with good intentions and good reasons. Occasionally, necessity and good sense will just happen.

The way I heard it is, "It's better to ask forgiveness, than to ask for permission".

"All's well that ends well"


At 19:49, Anonymous pablo said...

Keep fighting the good fight, I say!

At 02:48, Blogger Marvin said...

I never suspected you had a dark side, Doug.

At 05:37, Blogger cedrorum said...

I agree with fc, unless you're moving federally listed species to a federal property. Great story. Is this federally listed or is it a state endangered species? I'm glad things worked out in the end and no bias has been held against you. Politics has no place in science.

At 05:48, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

No good deed goes unpunished! ;)

At 23:42, Blogger Ur-spo said...

what you needed at the time was discipline, a lesson in humility to strenghten your charater
alas, it is too late.

At 05:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Didnt anyone ever tell you.

"Regulations are for the Obedience of fools and Guidance of wise men."

At 13:52, Blogger Gary Lee Phillips said...

Umm, really? Since the mid-1908s? You really have aged well, Doug. Most post-centenarians are considerably more... well, wizened.

At 15:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Makin' It In Rockford!

At 15:31, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had that entire album downloaded for months now, Doug. It's a riot.

At 15:41, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Thingfish- I'll have to check it out. It took me a minute to figure out how this connected...oh yeah, Rockford. On the highway into town there's a billboard that says (basically) Home of Cheap Trick. I live about halfway between Chi-town and Rockford.

At 10:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is just weird. There's some hullaballoo around here about our inept and insane public schools board and one of the members was just put in the hospital for a heart attack. In the comments section, under the original story, the usual cast of weirdos have cast their leavings - no surprise there. But one of the most vocal people on the 'blogs, a person that the other commenters were asking "where's commenter X?", finally chipped in her 2 cents along with a link - the one above. She says "scroll down the page and you'll see my picture, and who I am". Then I follow the link and it's about Rockford Freakin' Illinois. Coincidence? I think not. I believe this is some string theory, alternate universe sh*t going on here. I'm creeped out. Get out of my HEAD, DOUG!

At 10:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh - the original story, by the way, was posted in the online version of our local newspaper. Just thought I should clarify that...

At 10:49, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK - well, it's not ABOUT Rockford, but Rockford is mentioned prominently since, apparently, our school superintendant was hired here after mucking things up REAL GOOD there.

That is all.


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