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A Place Called Home

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer readers are among the most loyal the DNR could ever hope to find. Your commitment to this conservation magazine shows up year-round, especially in spring when your donation envelopes land in our office daily.

Why do so many Minnesotans respect and care for this magazine? Most of all, I believe, you read the Conservation Volunteer because it's all about home -- our natural world and its communities of critters and plants.

Home is central to our past, present, and future. Nothing is more immediate than our daily lives here, where we find food and shelter. Home is also a place of origin -- our natural heritage that makes possible the present and future. It's the base we return to: The number of times we reach home safely counts, and so does its condition when we return.

Perhaps no one appreciates home as much as someone who has had to leave it. I've been corresponding with Cmdr. Jim Sellner, Civil Engineer Corps, U.S. Navy Seabees. He left his position as DNR mining/geological engineer in 2006 to serve as deputy director of the oil sector program in the Gulf Region Division of Iraq. In a letter by e-mail in August, he wrote: "It was an interesting trip just getting here on 2 August. It's hot, with daily temperatures between 115-120 degrees. We drink lots of water and Gatorade. I miss home and family. I miss my hobbies. I will miss hunting season this fall. [Brothers] Gary and Mark are heading for Canada tomorrow for our annual fly-in fishing trip. I'll miss that too. I'm not complaining. I know that this is part of being in the military. I just hope there will be others in the future willing to serve."

The first week of November, he wrote: "I sure miss deer hunting! I have missed only 5 opening days of deer hunting since 1976. All missed openers were due to military commitments. You don't miss what you never had. So I don't miss lots of money, fame, expensive vacations, etc. That's OK, though. I like the simpler things in life."

In December he sent the picture you see of him here, reading the Sept.-Oct. 2006 issue "in front of Saddam Hussein's main Palace, now housing the U.S. Embassy." He said: "Thanks for sending the Volunteer. It's popular reading here."

Picking up this March-April issue, Cmdr. Sellner and other soldiers will have a chance to imagine a spring day in Minnesota, calling wild turkeys, listening to songbirds, or casting a line into a coldwater trout stream.

Every issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer is a kind of inventory of things you'd miss if you were not here. This storehouse of natural resources information -- on everything from agates to roving boulders, from ancient cedars to slime molds, from caddisflies to flycatchers -- can serve as a starting point for getting to know Minnesota's outdoors and seeing the beauty in it.

In my 17th year of editing this magazine, I'm still surprised to learn about what's here. Everyone stands to be amazed by watching nature. Farmers know their land well. Yet a recent issue of The Land Stewardship Letter told how some farmers have learned to watch grassland birds as "biological barometers" of how their land-use practices play out ecologically.

Knowing what's present, we can begin to see what's new, what's missing, when things change, and how we might make a difference on our land and waters. We can commit to making Minnesota a great place to come home to.

Kathleen Weflen, editor

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