The Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Annual Dinner, held virtually on August 27, 2022, was a celebration of Missouri’s prairie legacy. During the event, the 56-year-old prairie conservation organization and land trust paid tribute to four awardees.
“Missouri’s remaining prairies are rare and priceless treasures,” said David Young, Missouri Prairie Foundation President. “Protecting and promoting them requires dedication and commitment from many people. Our award program recognizes individuals who have made or are making a positive difference in the conservation of Missouri’s prairie legacy and in the promotion or protection of native plants.”
2022 Bill T. Crawford Prairie Professionals of the Year Award: Dana Ripper and Ethan Duke of Marshall, Missouri
As co-directors of the Missouri River Bird Observatory, Dana Ripper and Ethan Duke are driven by both scientific rigor and love of birds. They focus their bird surveys and monitoring on Missouri’s rarest habitats, which are prairie, wetlands, and bottomland forests. In addition to gathering important data in the field about birds for groups like the Missouri Prairie Foundation and the Missouri Department of Conservation, Dana and Ethan also encourage the sharing of data among many conservation partners to best manage for birds and other species on grasslands and other habitats.
Through their educational programming, Dana and Ethan also address broad environmental challenges, including the prevalence of plastics in ecosystems and the need for more sustainable food systems. Their young birders program, nature camps for children, and programming for adults, from their base in Arrow Rock, Missouri, and beyond is expanding the conservation ethic among Missouri citizens.
2022 Donald M. Christisen Prairie Volunteer of the Year Award: Richard Crabb of Independence, Missouri
Richard first volunteered for the Missouri Prairie Foundation on a prescribed burn in December 2020. Since then, he has helped with well over half of the Missouri Prairie Foundation prescribed burns every year. As a retired firefighter for the City of Lee’s Summit, Richard has invaluable knowledge of fire behavior gained over his long career in public safety. He oversees portions of each burn he volunteers for, keeping conditions safe and efficient, with excellent communication with other volunteers. In addition, Richard’s consistently positive attitude makes him a pleasure to work with.
2022 Dick Dawson Prairie Pioneer of the Year Award: Barbara Van Vleck of Lee’s Summit, Missouri
The Dick Dawson Award is presented to an individual, group, or business in recognition of outstanding contribution as an early promoter or leader to the cause of prairie conservation.
Barbara has a sincere devotion to saving prairie. A Missouri Master Naturalist with the Osage Trails Chapter since 2008, she reached out many years ago to The Nature Conservancy’s Dunn Ranch Prairie near Bethany, Missouri, to express her interest in volunteering. Since then, Barbara has organized Missouri Master Naturalist volunteers to participate in monthly native seed collecting in July, August, September, and October.
In 2015, Barbara took on a leadership role with her chapter, through which she has contributed more than 5,000 hours of service. In her messages to chapter membership, she emphasizes the urgency of involvement in prairie protection activities, and promotes the personnel enrichment of a day spent on the prairie.
The August 27 program also included announcement of an award from the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s 22-year-old Grow Native! program:
2022 Grow Native! Native Plant Protector Award: Bill White of Jefferson City, Missouri
To enjoy the benefits of native plants in the native plant industry, the original habitat of native plants must be protected. Over this 34-year career with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Bill has been responsible for exemplary plant and animal habitat protection and restoration efforts on thousands of acres of both public and private land in Missouri. Bill began his MDC career in 1988 as a Wildlife Services Biologist. He has been with the agency’s Community & Private Land Services Branch since its creation in 2000, serving for the past nine years as its chief. This branch, with more than 23 private land and community conservation biologists under Bill’s leadership, has worked with hundreds of individual private landowners and communities to protect remnant natural communities and create habitat through native plant establishment. Bill has also been a key part of many partnerships over the years, including the Missourians for Monarchs & Pollinators Collaborative, for which he serves as the Monarch Habitat Working Group chair.
The Missouri Prairie Foundation is a 56-year-old membership organization and land trust that protects and restores prairie and other native grasslands through acquisition, management, education, and support of prairie research. The organization currently owns 30 properties totaling 4,300 acres of prairie across the state, and, with partners, inspires the conservation of thousands more. The Missouri Prairie Foundation is also home to the Grow Native! native plant education and marketing program and administers the Missouri Invasive Plant Council.