NURTURING NATURE IN NOTEWORTHY WAYS Several of Elgin County’s nature organizations have been active for many years and their members, active or retired, can be credited with having contributed enormously to conserving our natural surroundings, fostering appreciation for them and providing opportunities for their enjoyment. They have helped restore lost habitats, maintained trails, counted wildlife, banded, documented, inventoried, photographed, created resources, volunteered on boards, and helped raise funds. They have kept watch and understood what we stand to lose without constant care and vigilance. Many of today’s Elgin County naturalists have played invaluable leadership or mentoring roles.
Some of them have even received a little welldeserved recognition in the form of awards at local and higher levels. It would be difficult to name all of these people in this short article; however, we thought it might be interesting to highlight some of the naturalists of the past who, no doubt, served as inspiration to the generations which followed.
William SteWart (1923-1997) Many naturalists devote countless hours to activities which nurture the world of nature. Much of their work is accomplished by going into the field to observe, discover and record what they find. Bill Stewart was an Elgin County naturalist who, along with his wife Eileene, covered Elgin County, photographing plants, collecting specimens and writing about them. Historian George Thorman was attempting to highlight the value of writing done by passionate local researchers when, in a 1978 interview with Stewart he posed a leading question, “Why is it important to study all the plants of a district the size of Elgin County?” Thorman continued, “Now you’ve spent most of your life doing this and you’ve published a book which can be purchased, “A Guide to the Flora of Elgin County, Ontario” by William Stewart and Lorne James. This is a book that no one would ever make any money on. It involves a tremendous amount of work. You’d have been better to write a sex novel; you know they sell in the book stores. A couple of oversexed women, a couple of oversexed men and all kinds of adventures and you’d make a fortune. Maybe even make a movie out of it. No one will ever make a movie about the flora of Elgin County...”
William Stewart examines one of the over 100 mushrooms collected and identified in Elgin County, circa 1975 (Elgin County Archives, St. Thomas Times Journal Fonds)
One can only guess what went through Stewart’s mind upon hearing these comments, but he proceeded to humbly explain how his efforts would play a role on a national scale at a time when a flora of Canada was yet to be published.
RELISH ELGIN FALL 2015
Relish Elgin promotes the people, places, businesses and events that make Elgin County and St. Thomas, Ontario unique.