Page 8 - April 20, 2022
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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  APRIL 20, 2022                                                                                                                                                                                                                             APRIL 20, 2022  |  { 9 }
              THE GREAT OUTDOORS

     One Man, Many Trees                                                                      founded a national movement to save wetlands.
                                                                                                   Author traces her roots to a great-uncle who

     NATURE AROUND US                                                                                             J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River

         n 2018 I went on a trek to Minnesota                                                                      feeling a bit nostalgic and a tad dramatic
         along with my husband and my                                                                              myself. Yes, it runs in the family.
     I89-year-old uncle Bob. It was an                                                                                My great-uncle joined the Minnesota   Richard J. Dorer, left, large in stature as well as
                                                                                                                                                     achievements, with presumably other Minnesota
     excursion that I had waited a lifetime to                                                                     Department of Conservation in 1938 at   DNR staff/collaborators.
     make. My uncle Robert “Bob” Morton                                                                            the ripe age of 48. He ultimately lived
     was and still is sharp as a tack but the                                                                      until 84 and my grandmother lived to 99.
     trip seemed to be a now-or-never deci-                                                                        They were both active until the end of
     sion. It was about roots—my roots.                                                                            their lives. In fact my octogenarian uncle,
        The story starts with my grandmother                                                                       a big man in stature, legendarily took
     Mollie E., who throughout my childhood                                                                        a would-be convenience store robber
     would mail us copies of The Conservation                                                                      to his knees by holding the wrist of his
     Volunteer, a publication by the Minnesota                                                                     gun-wielding hand until the scoundrel
     Department of Conservation (now                                                                               relinquished his weapon. He simply said,
     the Minnesota Department of Natural                                                                           “Son, I don’t think you want to do that.”
     Resources, or DNR).  She would send                                                                           Little did the young man know that this
     us wetland stamps and handwritten                                                                             bear of a man was a decorated veteran
     notes about one man’s efforts to restore                                                                      who also planted thousands of trees to
     a destroyed river valley. The man was                                                                         restore a forest. One can only imagine the
     her brother, my great-uncle Dick. By her                                                                      crush of his huge labor-honed hands.
     estimation he was the greatest conserva-                                                                         Like much of our nation the slopes of
     tionist ever, and he was the founder of   Author, left, with Sara Holger of Minnesota Department of Natural Resorces, on a visit to the   the Whitewater Valley were deforested
     the “Save the Wetlands” program in the   Richard J. Dorer Pools, wetlands that Galetto’s great-uncle was instumental in restoring.  for lumber, cordwood, and farming in the
     United States.                                                                                                late 1800s. The invention of the tractor
        My grandmother was great at evok-   When my husband, uncle, and I      Bellaire, Ohio he went on to West   later allowed farming on steeper slopes
     ing hyperbole to tout the achievements   arrived at the Richard J. Dorer Memorial   Point. He was classmates with Dwight   to a greater extent than with horse and
     of our family. My cousins who swam   Forest, Whitewater Valley Visitor Center,   Eisenhower and was also a decorated   oxen. Then when crops were switched
     were all just on the cusp of becoming   the DNR staff had arranged for a tour   war veteran, serving as a captain on the   to corn from wheat, erosion intensified
     Olympians and I was a great scholar. The   guide, Sara Holger, a woman whose role   battlefields of France in WWI and earn-  since corn doesn’t hold soil as well.
     latter was proof that she was prone to   was one of educator. I remember her   ing a silver star, two French war crosses,   The steepest of slopes could not be
     exaggerate our greatness by many mag-  to be very personable. Her park ranger   the French military award Croix De   farmed but they could be grazed. Cutting
     nitudes. But I admit that her dramatic   cap dwarfed her stature but in no way   Guerre, and a Purple Heart. He was said   and burning of vegetated slopes opened
     stories of her brother captured my inter-  affected her enthusiasm. She took us   to be most proud of a citation for gallant-  up greater areas to pasture. The over-
     est. And conservation was one of the first   to the Beaver Creek Cemetery where   ry signed by General John J. Pershing.   grazing of cleared hillsides killed the
     multi-syllable words that I learned to   Uncle Dick was interred. There we read   For his conservation efforts he was   remaining vegetation. The deforested
     spell. Had you been one of my childhood   a lengthy description of some of his life’s   awarded a Nash Conservation Award and   slopes could only absorb a three-inch
     tutors, or even my current proofreader,   accomplishments on a metal plaque   the Valley Forge Foundation Medal.  rainfall in one hour without runoff. This
     you would understand this statement   that was affixed to his headstone and   The story I hope to relay is what   compounded erosion problems, allowing
     to have greater import than one might   engraved with some highlights of his life.   I learned at the Valley Visitor Center   more water and soil to be transported
     assume!                                After graduating high school in    about the Richard J. Dorer Memorial   downhill.
        In later years I worked on a state task                                Hardwood Forest. In part it is the story   By 1900 the Whitewater Valley expe-
     force to draft the current wetland laws                                   of American settlement. At the Winona   rienced its first land-use-related flood. In
     for New Jersey. That prompted me to                                       County Historical Society on the banks   1938 Richard Dorer arrived on the scene
     write to the Minnesota’s DNR for materi-                                  of the Mississippi River, not far from   at the Minnesota DNR. In that same year
     als about my great-uncle Richard “Dick”                                   the forest, we received additional his-  the town of Beaver had flooded 28 times.
     Dorer. These materials recounted that                                     torical context about the destruction of   In fact we visited once-existing towns
     he was not only the champion of wet-                                      America’s woodlands. The Valley was   long since buried under many feet of soil.
     land preservation in Minnesota but also                                   once a great lumbering area.        One church’s steeple was the only visible
     the father of the “Save the Wetlands”                                       Why tell this story now? Well, we   remnant of a vanished village.
     program nationally. The more materi-                                      are nearing Arbor Day and in truth I’m   Though many valley residents did
     als I perused about my great-uncle, the                                                                       nothing to cause the erosion and sub-
     clearer it became that he was indeed a                                    Dorer was an outdoorsmen and is pictured here   sequent flooding, they were the most
     man of greatness.                                                         headed out to do some fly fishing with a friend.   severely affected.
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