A Model for Conservation
Dana Livingston started simple. Soon after moving to Dubuque in 1995, he began volunteering his time to restore a local natural area – and then others. He served on a couple of conservation committees – and then many more. Three years ago, Dana and local partners launched Future Talk, an innovative program that helps inner-city youth experience and protect nature.
In honor of Dana’s diverse conservation efforts, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation presented him with the 2010 Hagie Heritage Award on Sept. 26. Endowed by the children of Lawrence and
Eula Hagie, the award includes $1,000 and a hand-carved acorn sculpture.
“Dana appears to be a force of nature in his own right,” said Mark Ackelson, INHF president. “He’s a full-time Spanish professor at Loras College. He has a family. And yet he’s donated countless hours to protect nature and to train the next generation of its protectors.”
Livingston was nominated for the award by Wayne Buchholtz , park ranger at DNR's Mines of Spain; Bev Wagner of the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency; and Jenny Ammon with Dubuque County Conservation.
“I have never met someone who works as hard to advocate for kids and the environment as Dana does,” said Ammon.
Based out of Dubuque’s Multicultural Family Center, Future Talk serves at-risk teens, mostly ages 13-14. During summer break, the students are paid to work nine hours per week in local natural areas and parks. They spend additional unpaid hours on job and education skills, community service projects and – new in 2010 – producing their own videos on topics ranging from teen violence to recycling.
The outdoor work can be hard and hot, but “by the end of the summer, these kids start feeling like they have a stake in this town,” Dana says. “They’re no longer just living here; they’re helping to create this community.”
The program also incorporates time for outdoor fun and adventure. “Until
now, these kids had never camped, never spent time in Iowa’s woods or prairies,” added Livingston. “Now they’ve heard a coyote howl. They’ve heard an owl hoot.They’ve fished and canoed.”
Livingston credits the program’s success to its diverse partners: the
Multicultural Family Center, AmeriCorps, VISTA, Mines of Spain State Recreation Area, Dubuque County Conservation, City of Dubuque, The Nature Conservancy, Dubuque Art Center, INHF and many others.
“The elements of this program work well together: meaningful work for a stipend, the educational component, the service component,” said Dana. “It’s
a strong, repeatable model that could serve conservation really well. I’d love
to see it adapted to other communities and populations.”
Photo courtesy of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation