Celebrating and conserving natural landscapes has always been crucial to the mission of Dyck Arboretum in Hesston. On Saturday, many of the ideas behind the foundation of the arboretum will be on display as it hosts the "Living the Land Ethic in Kansas" symposium.
Focusing on key environmental elements like Kansas soils, prairie vegetation and native wildlife, nine speakers will discuss the full impact they have in our society and how Kansans interact with the land.
"It's connected to all of us," said project director Brad Guhr, "in our food and how we view our whole environment, so that connection is there."
Speakers featured will touch on topics ranging from botany and biology to archeology to ranching, highlighting the permeation of the land in so much of people's lives. Part of that focus is drawn from biologist/ecologist Aldo Leopold's 1949 book on conservation, "A Sand County Almanac," and its chapter on land ethic.
Guhr, also the education coordinator at Dyck Arboretum, noted that piece of literature plays a significant role in the establishment's history (impacting the vision of founders Harold and Evie Dyck) and was decided upon as a focal point in events during the Arboretum's 35th anniversary year.
Other activities that have been going on or are scheduled include a Leopold book club, participation in a prescribed burn, native plant sales and more, but Guhr said the "Living the Land Ethic in Kansas" symposium is the centerpiece of it all. The all-day event will focus on the relationship between the people and land so crucial in conservation, something reflected in Leopold's writings.
"The writings of the Sand County Almanac really implore us as people to make deep connections with our natural landscape," Guhr said. "Collectively, 'the land' in Kansas represents an immense array of natural resources for which we are very fortunate to be temporary stewards. Appreciating the value of these resources, educating ourselves about their complexities and vulnerabilities, learning how to be good caretakers and making it a priority to pass them along in good shape to our children and grandchildren should be important to all Kansans."
Now in its 11th year, Guhr noted a constant theme of symposia past and present has been viewing humans' interactions with the land through a critical lens, something especially key in Kansas with a prevalence of farmers, ranchers and educators.
With the lineup of speakers slated for Saturday's symposium, the progression of the discussion will start by telling the story of the resources available around the state and later broach practices of stewardship and protecting those resources. Additionally, Guhr hopes the symposium will inspire others to be stewards of Kansas' natural and human resources and spread a message of optimism to make things better in the future.
Getting individuals to help spread the message was rather easy, Guhr admitted, as a passion for the topic already existed among speakers like Jason Schimdt and Michael Pearce (both from Harvey County), as well as MacArther Fellow Wes Jackson.
Over the course of six months, Guhr and staff have been preparing for the symposium. With the event nearly here, Guhr is excited to see the turnout, given the early feedback he has heard. As of Tuesday, 85 attendees had registered, with Guhr hoping to get 100 out for the symposium on Saturday given his own passion for the topic and Leopold's message.
"His foresight of combining ecology and agriculture is so profound as an important message of sustainability for humanity in the future, and I feel that it is his multi-layered connections to the humanities that make his message so profound and lasting," Guhr said. "The prairie soils, vegetation and wildlife of Kansas are critically important to our sustenance and identity as people. We conserve these natural resources for survival in the moment, but also as conservation stewards that will benefit future generations."
Attendance is open to anyone and the symposium is something Guhr said should be of interest to everybody, considering the role the land plays in our lives. The event will start at 8 a.m. Saturday at Dyck Arboretum (177 W. Hickory, Hesston). More information can be found at online at www.dyckarboretum.org or by calling 620-327-8127.