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You can help Mother Nature fight back

By Susan and Biff Andrews

Mother Nature, who had recently showed signs of recovery after a century of abuse, is once again under assault. The Clean Air Act, clean water standards and vehicle emissions standards are all being rolled back. Budgets for environmental agencies are shrinking.

Mother Nature needs help — from YOU.

You can join the Virginia Master Naturalists. The old slogan “think globally, act locally” has never been more apt. Our organization cannot save the planet, but we can help with our piece of it — Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Surry, Sussex and so on. We can do what we can do.

Who are we? We are a group of concerned citizens — stewards of nature trails and gardens, observers and conservators of birds and reptiles and insects, citizen scientists — educating kids and adults about what needs to be done and then doing it.

We tend bluebird boxes and record occupancy and birth numbers. Some do backyard bird counts and help with bird banding. Other members create and maintain pollinator gardens, helping out monarch butterfly and bee populations.

Members study big trees and plant little ones. Some study fossils. We’ve set up bird feeders at old age homes.

There are those who seek new species of salamanders and others who do salamander egg mass counts.

Citizen scientists among us experiment with ways to get rid of invasive plants, monitor bacteria counts in local lakes and rivers and cooperate with state researchers looking for rare species of plants and animals and insects. Some work to maintain nature trails or local state preserves.

This program is coordinated by the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office through Virginia Tech. When you sign up, you take 40 hours of instruction in many areas — horticulture, icthyology, mammalogy, archaeology, insects, meteorology, ornithology and so on, all taught by local experts in their field. There is a fee, which primarily covers field trips and field manuals.

To become a certified member, you must perform at least 40 hours of volunteer work, as well as participate in continuing education programs around the area, from Virginia Beach to Richmond.

Virginia Tech tracks all your volunteer hours and course time. Once you are a certified member, you can propose and carry out your own project, with help from caring friends. It’s an eye-opening experience, and you’re helping out your Mother Earth with every hour.

To sign up for this year’s class group, contact Bev Ruegsegger at bevruegsegger@gmail.com. Visit the website “vmnhistoricsouthside.org” and click on the “Training” tab for an application and more information.

And love your Mother Earth.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.