CHAPTER VIII. INCREASING DISSATISFACTION AMONG THE FIELD BOTANISTS
Even though the Bulletin did not reflect the changes in the growing concern for our environment, the growing number of jobs opening amidst private organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and programs such as that of the New York Natural Heritage began to increase the local number of people interested in field botany.
In 1982 Dr. Richard Stalter, Director of the Environmental Studies program, St. John's University, Jamaica, New York, was the Chairman of the Field Committee. Karl Anderson remarked that at that time TBC was only running about 14 field trips per year and many of these trips had been repeated year after year and were getting low attendance. In addition, many of them were to relatively uninteresting sites in or close to New York City, and, frankly, some of the leaders were no great shakes. Nice people, but not very knowledgeable.
One of the members of the Field Group, Naomi Dicker, doctoral graduate student at Rutgers University who became a member of the Field Committee in 1984, took on more and more of the responsibilities of the field section. Ms. Dicker had noticed a growing interest in field botany in the greater metropolitan area. Her evidence was the steady increase in attendance at the Torrey Field Trips, thanks in part to her, the formation of the Long Island Botanical Society, the initiation of a New York City Parks flora, and the success of recent field workshops.
Dr. Robert Zaremba of the New York State Heritage program had made a suggestion to Ms. Dicker that among the various environmental groups there should be "better means of communicating, of sharing their experiences, exchanging and pooling their knowledge, and drawing support from the interested public." (Letter of announcement of a December 8, 1988 meeting). In 1988 Ms. Dicker organized a meeting of Metropolitan Area field botanists with some idea of initiating a local flora project.
Andrew Greller, the then TBC president, recounted (in a e-mail to the author) that he remembered that two members of the Field Committee, Naomi Dicker and Karl Anderson, approached him about redoing the TBC/Norman Taylor 1915 Flora of the Vicinity of New York City. "I was enthusiastic about it and sent out notices far and wide to invite potential flora contributors to a meeting sponsored by TBC. Since I was Chair of the Local Flora and Vegetation Committee that became the venue of the meeting. The meeting came about early in the administration of Alice Belling's presidency. It was held at the NYBG auditorium and the place was packed. Richard Mitchell was there as well as LIBS people and Steve Tim of BBG."
Among the attendees: from the TBC committee came Karl Anderson, Naomi Dicker, Richard Stalter, and Thomas F. Schweitzer; from the TBC Council came the president Dr. Andrew Greller and president elect Dr. Alice Belling, as well as David Hammond and Paul S. Mankiewicz; from the Long Island Botanical Society came president Orland J. Blanchard, Jr. and from the Philadelphia Botanical Club came President Ted Gordon; from the New York City Parks and Recreation Department came David Abelson, Dirk Burhans, Michael Feller, Helen Forgione, David Kunstler, Cecile Lumer, and Christopher A. Nadareski; from The Nature Conservancy came Chris Mangels and Robert Zaremba; and from the New York Natural Heritage Program came Steve Clemants and from the New Jersey Natural Heritage Program came David Snyder.
Other participants included Susan Antenen, Rob Bernstein, Kerry Barringer, Joe Bridges, Judith and Joseph Caruso (Protectors of Pine Oak Woods), Margaret Conover, Julie Downey, Edward and Regina Frankel, Larry Fernandez, John Gillen, Bill Greiner, Joan Hansen, Gregg Hartvigsen, Eva Hawkins, Velta Houben, Eric F. Karlin, Vicky Kilanowski-Ledowitz, Eric E. Lamont, Lori Leonardi, Carol Levine, Ila G. Miller, Arthur Mundree, John J. Murphy, Patricia O'Malley, Rick Radis, Steve Reed, Abe Schwartz, Kristin Westad, and Susan Yost.
After much discussion, it was agreed that the Local Flora Committee should set up the new project. Greller wrote "Immediately I resigned as Chair, to give taxonomically trained younger members control. Richard Stalter was elected Chair then. At the same time Dr. Stalter became the TBC's Chairman of the Local Flora and Vegetation Committee, Karl Anderson became the Chairman of the Field Committee. Apparently, Stalter was involved in other projects and did not have the time to devote to taking the initiative on a local flora project." In an e-mail to the author, Karl Anderson doubted if NYBG ever even heard of the flora project idea.
But Steve Clemants did want to run with the ball and so Stalter was succeeded by Clemants after a few months. Clemants began the New York Metropolitan Flora study at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Andrew Greller in an e-mail to the author said "It was clear that the project had to have a home' and BBG provided the home. Steve Clemants had been hired by BBG specifically to head up the project there, at the urging of Steve Tim. BBG committed the money, space and energy to the project."
Steve Clemants told the author that when he was deciding to become the TBS Local Flora Chair he asked members of TBS if they wanted to become an authority on the local vegetation. He related that he was told that they had no plans to become the authority on the local flora of the area and that he was welcome to have the project at BBG. It seems a sad response from TBS for some of its council members and possibly other members to say they had no plans for the local flora. Whether or not he asked Naomi Dicker and Karl Anderson is not known.
For whatever reasons, the TBC and NYBG dropped the ball in this area. And it was the BBG that benefited from TBC's lack of personnel willing to work on local botany. It could be that one reason for this is that most of the NYBG personnel are working on the flora of the tropics and are just not very concerned with local vegetation. TBC may have had the personnel involved in local field work, but without support from the academic section, there was little hope that TBC would take advantage of increasing monies being made available for studies of local flora.
To make a successful study of the local flora, a combination of the academics and the field personnel needs to be effected. The two different perspectives of the two groups could have been worked out to make a better whole for there are some real flaws with the traditional flora studies. Frankly, these studies are not very helpful. For instance, the 1915 flora of the NY vicinity by Norman Taylor gives you no idea of how widespread or thinly spread the vegetation might be. It just tells you a plant is found in this county or that county -- well, in a county any given plant could have severely declined from occupying a total acreage space of 100 acres to a few remnants in two preserves.
Another problem is that there is no ready way for the findings of the TBS Field Section to be input into the block data of BBG. Without a proper fit there is no way the two sections can effectively work together for the betterment of our understanding of the local flora.
LOCAL FLORA COMMITTEE
At the March 20, 1888 TBC meeting, N. L. Britton said that a new section should be added to the club, namely the Local Flora Committee. "This Committee shall take charge of the preparation of complete lists of the plants of this area in such style and in as much detail as it shall determine and to this Committee shall be referred all reports of plant stations for verification." He also added that there should be 16 members on the committee and it should be divided into many sub-committees. There was, for instance, a sub-committee devoted to the Cryptogams.
Then at the April 10, 1888 meeting the statement was made that the Local Flora Committee should not only make and keep lists but they should "have such lists published with as much description and illustration as they shall deem best . . ."
The Local Flora Committee failed miserably in this task. In a letter dated June 14, 1955 and addressed to Dr. David E. Fairbrothers of Rutgers University, an unknown writer wrote back to Dr. Fairbrothers saying that he had asked Dr. Gleason of the NYBG about the Local Flora Committee and found out from him that "For a considerable number of years the Committee has had, apparently, no function."
He added that "When Dr. Svenson was Chair they used to meet on Saturday or Sunday, either here or at the BBG, for what amounted to a lecture and discussion on a genus or other small group of plants. Dr. Svenson would lay out representatives of the various species" and discuss differences and similarities. But, obviously, that was some time ago.
It is not fair to single out the Local Flora Committee for failing to keep all our plant lists. The Field Committee is just as guilty. In the TBS archives there should be literally thousands of plants lists collected by the members of the TBC/TBS over the more than 140 years the society has been preparing plant lists. Unfortunately, there is but a handful of plants lists saved in the archives and that largely by accident (with the exception of the plant lists gathered by Dr. Patrick L. Cooney and in his archives in the 1990s to the present time).
This failure to save plant lists was a real tragedy. In the field trip descriptions many references were made to the effect that the plant lists were being saved in the Torrey records or by the Local Flora Committee, but this was really not true. They may have been saved for a short while, but they obviously were not saved permanently because we have very few plant lists. We should have thousands of plants lists that today could help us realize what plants we have lost over time and what plants we have gained over time.
This failure to save plant lists is a testimony to the short sightedness of everyone in the TBC/TBS organization. The academics were just interested in producing their local flora studies (and who needs the original plant lists after the study is published, they must have argued?) And the field botanists were just as non-historically oriented and as short-sighted as the academics. They also did not take any real pains to save the plant lists. This hopefully will change!!!!!
INCREASING GEOGRAPHICAL LIMITATION OF THE TBS
The Torrey area used to be 100 miles around New York City. This now seems an incredibly large area. There are numerous things that have happened to make this 100 miles seem so large. The increasing urbanization of the area has meant that many areas have been effectively cut off to local field botanists. The traffic on the highways has become so immense that getting around the area, even with a car, became a hassle.
Long Island was the most obvious victim of these traffic patterns. It is very difficult to get on and off Long Island these days. The traffic, put simply, has become somewhat of a nightmare. And because of this, botanizing patterns have shifted immensely.
The present day pattern seems to be this. Long Island people are cut off and so they naturally wanted to take advantage more of their own local flora and hence eventually wanted their own botanical society. New Jerseyites especially don't want to go to Long Island. They simply do not want to face the traffic headaches. And many Westchesterites feel pretty much the same. They are willing to go to New Jersey and north to Putnam and Duchess Counties, but they want to avoid Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the rest of Long Island.
The end result is that we have seen a constricting of the geographical area that TBS can effectively cover. If TBS tried to expand more in New York City and Long Island, the result would be disaffection among the members from New Jersey and Westchester/Putnam.
CREATION OF THE LONG ISLAND BOTANICAL SOCIETY
Three botanists were very interested in founding a botanical society on Long Island. Responsible for establishing such a society goes to (in order of importance) Bob Zaremba, Joe Beitel, and Eric Lamont. It was during the winter of 1986 that the first discussions took place on the need for Long Island to have its own botanical society. A group of botanists and naturalists met at the Museum of Long Island Natural Sciences (Stony Brook University) on May 1, 1986.
Out of this coming together arose monthly meetings and field trips. By September 1986 the group unofficially identified themselves as the long Island Botanical Society. Bob Zaremba was the LIBS's first president, while Joe Bietel served as Vice-President.
Included among the founding members were Joseph Beitel, Jane and Skip Blanchard, Karen Blumer, David Brandenburg, Barbara Conolly, Margaret Conover, Steven Englebright, Louise Harrison, Jane Hoar, Carol Johnston, Eric and Mary Laura Lamont, Robert Laskowski, Betty Lotowycz, Travis MacClendon, Chris Mangels, Vincent Puglisi, Glen Richard, James Romansky, Steven Jay Sanford, Paul Stoutenburgh, Rosalie Talbert, James Thomson, John Turner, Perry and Ray Welch, and Kim Zarillo.
RESPECTING EACH OTHERS BOUNDARIES
It seems to the author that the societies are respecting each other's boundaries. TBS covers mid- to northern New Jersey, while the Philadelphia Botanical Club (PBC) covers southern New Jersey (at times coming into central New Jersey). The TBS mostly stays out of Connecticut leaving it mostly to the Connecticut Botanical Society (with a few forays into southwestern Connecticut). The TBS occasionally goes into New York City but tends to stay out of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which is covered by the Long Island Botanical Society (LIBS). TBS does not go into the Catskills or northern Shawangunks and does not go into Northern Dutchess County. This is largely the area of the New York Flora Association (NYFA).
So effectively, because of traffic problems, to have a happy field section the area has to be somewhat limited. To venture too far afield is to risk losing your field base.
If local floras are to be done by the Societies/Clubs along parks/preserves line, they will probably be doing it within these boundaries.
Speaking of each Society doing its own local flora, LIBS established a local Flora Committee dedicated to the production of a new Flora of Long Island. The committee first prepared a checklist of Long Island vascular plants, past and present; the list consisted of approximately 1800 species. Monthly flora meetings began in 1990 and the current status of each plant species was discussed and recorded on data sheets and distribution maps. (LIBS Newsletter)
FIELD COMMITTEE CHAIR KARL ANDERSON
Karl's parents were Swedish immigrants, both from Smaland, the Swedish province from which Linnaeus came. He wrote: "I missed being born in Sweden by just a couple of months, my parents had both been here long enough that the language at home was English; except, of course, when something was being said that I wasn't supposed to know about. My father wasn't around much. We lived on East 58th Street, Manhattan; it wasn't exactly a slum but it wasn't Park Avenue either. When I was a little kid, my mother used to take me to play in Central Park, in a weedy, stream-bordered field where the Wollman Skating Rink is now." When he grew older, he spent a lot of time in the Museum of Natural History; "those were the days when a scruffy little kid could get in without paying admission."
Education was NYC schools: P.S. 59 and Stuyvesant High School, plus a couple of credits at CCNY. He started working as a junior draftsman (what was then called a tracer or an inker) in 1953, while he was still in high school, and he just kept doing it.
He married soon after turning 18 and moved to Oakland, New Jersey, in 1960. He soon joined New Jersey Audubon, which had its office in Franklin Lakes. Around 1969 or thereabouts he and his family moved to West Milford, New Jersey. He worked for a company that manufactured a variety of electrohydraulic components, mostly for the military, but by 1972, after 19 years on the drawing board, he realized that he had gotten about as far as he could get in the engineering field without having a college education (and he did not want to be an engineer). He thought about becoming a high school biology teacher, so he entered William Paterson College, which he attended part-time from 1972 to 1977. He left engineering for good in 1975.
He had always maintained an interest in natural history, birding, and field botany. He had led many field trips for local Audubon clubs, and for various other groups, and had taught a couple of adult courses. New Jersey Audubon hired him in 1975, as a teacher-naturalist, maintenance man, and editor of their magazine. He moved to South Jersey in 1977, so he could take on the job of Sanctuary Director of the Rancocas Nature Center, where he still is. He finally finished his education in 1980, with a degree in Environmental Sciences from Edison College.
Karl had joined TBC in the early 1970's when he lived in Oakland, Bergen County, but dropped out after a year or two because most of the field trips all seemed to be in the New York City area, the meetings were of little interest, and a long drive from home, and the journal was largely unreadable. He became a member of the Philadelphia Botanical Club in 1979 and started leading trips for them in 1983. He was President of PBC in 1985 and 1986. In the latter year he started leading trips for TBC, the first one to Lebanon State Forest on August 2, 1986.
In 1987 Naomi Dicker invited Anderson to become a Field Committee member. The two of them worked a great deal to expand the number of field trips and to have trips in more interesting areas. Anderson as chair improved the quality of trip leadership, kept the number of trips high, diversified the trip locations to include more New Jersey and Connecticut sites of interest, and avoided having the same trips repeated year after year.