Earth week was a busy week to say the least. The culmination was on Earth Day, April 22nd, Joe Meyer of the Laudato Si’ Project was interviewed on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air. The interview consisted of not only explaining how to Live Laudato Si’ but also describing the various parish and school ministries of the Laudato Si’ Project. We have been blessed to have been on Relevant Radio twice already in 2016 and thank them for their great work. If you missed the interview, Listen Here
Joe and Nathaniel Meyer at the Menominee River Clean-up
Families helping to clean up the Menominee River
Laudato Si’ Project also partnered with Milwaukee RiverKeeper on Saturday to clean-up rivers in the Milwaukee River Watershed. We had groups at 3 locations in Southeast WI, joining 100’s of other volunteers to clean our waters. We all had a blast and thank everyone for their hard work and for Living Laudato Si’.
Waukesha County holds a great multitude of state treasures: small towns, lake country, and the southern Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Laudato Si’ Project is proud to be part of the formation of a Green Alliance in Waukesha County. The Green Alliance will work toward moving Waukesha County in a sustainable direction. The Green Alliance is made up of several dozen organizations, schools, church groups, municipalities, and civic leaders. The Green Alliance looks to promote sustainable environmental practices within schools, businesses, and towns in Waukesha County. If you are interested in taking part in the Green Alliance, the next forum meeting is on May 20th at 6:30pm in Oconomowoc, WI.
“A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.”
We are happy to share that the Laudato Si’ Project has partnered with St Gabriel Parish and School in Hubertus, WI. We will be helping plan and teach St. Gabriel’s after-school program called “nature club” for kindergarten through fifth grade. It is a great way for students to experientially learn all about the wonders of nature and get them outside. The next nature club program will be in May. We are also starting a Laudato Si’ Project Team at the Parish. Any parishioners interested in learning more about the encyclical and working to better the parish and school through sustainability and education projects can join. Learn more about Parish and School Partnerships Here.
Today was the first day of the spring prairie burning, Prairies are ecosystem types dependent on burning to renew the nutrients and stop primary succession. Another added benefit to burning at this time of year is that it knocks back the cool season, non-native grasses that often compete in prairies. This is a small 1-acre section on the Meyer property. The now black earth will warm quickly and cause our native grasses and wildflowers to wake up. Prairie fires were common in southern WI because of Native Americans starting the prairies and oak savannah’s on fire to attract wild game to the fresh grass shoots. Lighting fires were more common in northern WI. Prairie plants have extraordinary root systems and are unharmed by fire. Laudato Si’ Project will be burning approximately 8 acres this spring.
The Mid Kettle Moraine Partners is a collective impact partnership of over 2 dozen organizations ranging from land trusts, townships, county supervisors, regional planners, and outreach organizations like Laudato Si’ Project. The Goal of the MKMP is to bring greater awareness to the importance of the Mid Kettle Moraine ecologically and economically. In the 1930’s to the 1960’s, a lot of land was set aside for conservation and recreation that resulted in the beautiful Southern and Northern Kettle Moraines (much of which is State Forest or State Natural Areas open for public use). In the 1960’s the funding dried up and land acquisition ceased resulting in a 40 miles stretch left unprotected- The Mid Kettle Moraine. Conservation will ensure that the Mid Kettle Moraine stays protected for water quality, recreational opportunities, educational use, habitat, and because it is the right thing to do!
Many groups at the meeting do a lot of conservation work in the Mid Kettle Moraine. For example, Laudato Si’ Project uses lands in the Mid Kettle Moraine for educational, stewardship, and recreational projects. We are even helping plan and plant an 8 acre prairie in the Mid Kettle Moraine this summer to increase pollinator habitat and water quality of the Oconomowoc River.
As far as the new look, the Mid Kettle Moraine Partners now has a logo. This is thanks to Laudato Si’ Project graphic designer and artist, Andrea Meyer (wife of director Joe Meyer). The MKMP has also launched a new website to help people discover and explore the Mid Kettle Moraine. Along with this is the completion of a NEW map which will show all the public lands, Ice Age Trail, preserves, canoe/kayak routes, and scenic drives in the Mid Kettle Moraine. When these maps are printed in the next month or so I will mail them out to Laudato Si’ Projectmembers. The efforts of Laudato Si’ Project and the MKMP will hopefully bring about a green future for this “Gift of God and the Glaciers”
Click Here to see the Mid Kettle Moraine Partners new website.
Today, the Laudato Si’ Project visited the Urban Ecology Center at Washington Park, in Milwaukee. Marquette University High School students learned about the history and mission of the Urban Ecology Centers and helped with several projects. The Urban Ecology Center first began on the East Side of Milwaukee at Riverside Park. Concerned citizens organized after proposed building plans were brought forward for Riverside Park. What was discovered through the years was that if an urban park is kept in good condition, facilities are present for neighbors to use, and educational programs are established with local schools- crime and vandalism decrease in the park. Couple this with recreational opportunities for visitors and benefits to wildlife and water quality through restoration- and you have created an urban ecological gem.
The Urban Ecology Center at Washington Park has grown tremendously in the last few years. Within the 125 acres of Washington Park, there is Lagoon with restored shoreline (the lagoon is a remnant of the old Milwaukee Zoo), woodlands in the process of restoration planting, an ephemeral pond, prairie plantings and rain gardens, and even an orchard.
Rachel teaches us about collecting sap to make Maple Syrup
Removing Maple Syrup equipment from Sugar Maples
Removing Maple Syrup equipment from Sugar Maples
Our initial plans for doing some prairie planting and garlic mustard removal were changed due to the snow and below freezing temperatures. We instead swapped out all their winter rental equipment, snowshoes and cross-country skis, with their summer gear of kayak and canoe paddles. A few students built chair dollies in their wood shop, and others took out the remaining maple syrup spiles and collection bags from their Sugar Maple trees.
Helping make chair dollies in their wood shop
Helping transition out the winter rental gear
The Urban Ecology Centers at Riverside Park , Washington Park, and Menominee Valley (next to Miller Park), are hosting a wide array of Earth Day volunteer opportunities on the weekend of Earth Day, April 22nd. The Laudato Si’ Project will also be visting the Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park this Spring to learn about and assist with the migratory bird banding.
The Laudato Si’ Project is proud to announce two new partnerships- St. Bruno’s Parish and School in Dousman and The Schoenstatt Sisters Retreat Center in Waukesha.
St. Bruno’s Parish has a vibrant “Green Team” that has been Living Laudato Si’ in various ways. They have dedicated members that have conducted Laudato Si’ studies, had an energy audit done for the parish, helped create a school garden, and they even hold educational presentations for parishioners. As the Laudato Si’ Project continues its ministry in parishes and schools, we are happy to have the St. Bruno Green Team as a model of what can be done by dedicated parishioners.
The Schoenstatt Retreat Center is run by the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. They have a beautiful campus, a great new building, and they host local, state, and international visitors. An integral part of a retreat at Schoenstatt is walking around the several hundred acre property of the retreat center. The Laudato Si’ Project has partnered with the Sisters to assist them in increasing the ecological value of the land while improving the experience of a retreatant. Some of the present and future projects include: oak savannah restoration, trail creation and maintenance, bluebird nest box installation, educational signage, prairie plantings, and conservation planning for the lands now in agriculture.
“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.” Laudato Si’ (223)
The first week of April brought snow and strong winds to southern WI but that did not keep the Laudato Si’ Project from working on the Milwaukee Audubon Society’s Kolterman Prairie near Horizon Marsh, WI. Members from the Audubon Society and Marquette University High School met on Saturday to learn about the ecology of this unique property, help restore some of its Oak Savannah, and explore the geology of the Niagra Escarpment.
Less than 1% of WI’s original prairie remains and much of southern WI was a mix of prairie and Oak Savannah (scattered trees with prairie underneath). As you head North and East through WI, you move through the Maple-Basswood Forests of the Mid and Northern Kettle Moraine and finally up to the mixed forests of the “Northwoods”. The southern prairies and savannah’s were kept from succession and subsequent invasion of forest species through fire, mostly started by Native Americans to bolster hunting grounds. The Kolterman property supports prairie, savannah, woodland, and even a creek. This diversity of habitats makes it a valuable site for a multitude of bird species and is the major reason why it is preserved today. Volunteers removed, not just invasive species, but tree species not typically found in a savannah with and emphasis on saving Mature Oak and Hickory trees. Jim Urinak of the Milwaukee Audubon Society, taught students about the ecological workings of these ecotypes and showed them how to help with a savannah restoration on the property.
Jim Urinak of the Milwaukee Audubon Society teaching about the ecology of the area
A creek through the woodland
Removing the unwanted tree species from the savannah
To finish the afternoon, students were able to explore a unique geologic feature called the Niagara Escarpment. The Niagara Escarpment is a 1000 mile long rock formation that is made of the same rock as Niagara Falls. Read more about it HERE