October 2, 2015

Thanks to Margaret Metcalf, HMU Tutor, who wrote today's blog about her recent visit to The Ridges Sanctuary in Wisconsin.

It is dramatic to see the Hine’s Dragonfly stalk its prey with those large emerald-green eyes with almost 360 degree vision (with the exception of directly behind them). Their magnificent pair of metallic green wings spans over three inches and some say it is like watching a ballerina perform in the sky as they make loops and fly backwards. Ancient fossils record a wingspan of over two feet. How disheartening to know that this ancient insect, dating back over 300 million years, is rarely seen now. I intentionally chose the word “rarely.” Are you aware that it is illegal to harm, harass, collect or kill the Hine’s dragonfly without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? The Hine’s emerald dragonfly is on the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There is place called The Ridges Sanctuary which is located at Bailey Harbor on the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin that is acting as a stewardship of natural areas toward the preservation, education, and research of many diverse species of which the Hine’s dragonfly is only one. Today, Wisconsin is one of the few states where the Hine’s dragonfly can still be found. The Ridges Sanctuary has been able to preserve 1500 acres of land with the help of agencies such as the Nature Conservancy, the Door County Land and Trust, and well known advocates for conservation efforts including Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and the patriarch of The Ridges, botanist Albert Fuller. Upon arrival, however, it was not evident that beyond the Sanctuary’s doors there would be an immense recovery effort.

Shannon Pump, a naturalist at the Sanctuary, led me through a forest of bogs, sand dunes lining the shore of Lake Michigan, and over boardwalks that cross wetlands. Shannon told of how each area was devoted to the specialized habitat conditions necessary for a particular species to survive. Many species being restored at the Sanctuary have had the lifeline to their natural habitats cut off due to competition of invasive species, man’s development for use of land, and changes in tree canopy due to climate changes. The Hine’s dragonfly needs a very special habitat in order to survive and its habitat’s greatest threat is the destruction of the wetland and shallow streams by pesticides and other pollutants that contaminate the spring-fed shallow water where they breed. Man has destroyed much of the wetlands for commercial and urban growth.

Why should we care about the Hine’s dragonfly or dragonflies in general? First of all, their ancestors go back to a time before dinosaurs and that should prompt historical value. They are a very important predator in eliminating mosquitoes, biting flies, wasps, ants and gnats. And, in their nymph stage, they are important in the food chain for large aquatic animals such as fish. I could tell you more interesting things about the dragonfly, like the unique way they breathe, but you likely wouldn’t believe me so I’ll leave that for you to research on your own.

Through research, preservation, education and outreach, the Sanctuary has been working over 80 years as stewards with these guiding principles for protecting and determining the best ways to improve and manage endangered species. Each of us has seen the beautiful antics of the dragonfly or perhaps another species which makes one reflect upon nature’s beauty.

Many of us can practice a stewardship of nature. You can do this in many ways. One way is how Shannon Pump does it – by her love of telling others about a beautiful gem in Bailey’s Harbor. Or, you can be a steward of land conservation efforts such as those of Nature Conservancy by asking them to help you plan a stewardship gift through your estate planning. Get involved in local programs or fundraising efforts. But, most of all, enjoy nature!

More information about The Ridges Sanctuary can be found on their website:


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