Hagie Award Winner 2002: Mike Meetz
Hiking through 38 acres of restored prairie northeast of Ames, it's easy to forget what century you are in.
Surrounded by tallgrass and pale purple coneflowers that once dominated Iowa's landscape over a century ago, Michael Meetz kneels to point out a black-eyed Susan to his young neighbor.
Mike Meetz's prairie and wetland reconstruction project near his home in rural Ames, as well as his inexhaustible efforts to educate Iowans about the environment, earned him this year's Lawrence and Eula Hagie Heritage Award. This award is one of the largest conservation awards in the state of Iowa.
The Hagie Heritage Award is given annually by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) and recognizes Iowans who devote outstanding personal service and commitment to improving the quality of Iowa's natural environment. As this year's winner, Meetz will receive $1,000 and a hand-carved acorn sculpture donated by Dennis and Linda Schlicht of Center Point, IA.
"INHF and the Hagie daughters created this award to recognize people like Mike, unsung heroes who protect this state's natural resources by personal example," said Mark Ackelson, president of INHF. "In a state like Iowa, where 98% of the land is owned privately, Mike's personal responsibility and dedication to his land provide an outstanding model for others."
Meetz (pronounced "Metz") and his wife, Linda, used local ecotype seed when they decided to reconstruct the 38-acre prairie/wetland pothole site three years ago. Today Meetz has identified over 50 species of native prairie plants growing at the site, plus another 30-40 he has not yet identified.
"Mike has spent many hours working on this land, and it serves as an example of his personal dedication to conservation, as well as an example to others of what can be done on one's own land," said James Dinsmore, professor of animal ecology at Iowa State University and one of Meetz's nominators.
Mike and Linda Meetz feel it is important to share the prairie reconstruction with their community; children from the surrounding cities of Ames and Nevada often visit the site.
"By bringing kids like Evan here, I hope it helps keep them interested in the environment," Meetz said, as he helped one of his youngest neighbors identify a flycatcher's nest on his property.
He grins. "I think we're going to make a naturalist out of this guy."
Meetz's efforts in conservation extend far beyond prairie reconstruction. He helped the Story County Conservation Board create the first Master Conservationist Program, a program that teaches private citizens how to become conservation leaders. The program was so successful that ISU Extension has expanded it to other parts of the state.
Each summer, Meetz volunteers as an instructor at the Iowa Youth Hunter Education Challenge for 150 youngsters at the Iowa 4-H Camp. He was named Instructor of the Year in 2000. Meetz has been extensively involved with numerous conservation organizations, including the Story County Conservation Board, Story County REAP, Pheasants Forever, the Izaak Walton League of America, the Ames Chapter of the Big Bluestem Audubon Society and the Ames Quality of Life Committee.
Meetz balances his unending list of conservation commitments with his career as a virologist at the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine, where he has worked for 25 years.
"Mike Meetz demonstrates a deep commitment to the land in all aspects of his life. All who have shared time with Mike have been influenced by his conservation ethic," said Steve Lekwa, director of the Story County Conservation Board and one of Meetz's nominators. "He is the kind of person the Hagie Award was created to recognize."
Meetz was among six Iowans nominated for the 2002 Hagie Heritage Award. Other nominees included Ed Fallon of Des Moines, Diana Horton of Iowa City, Erwin Klaas of Ames, Gary McVey of Ft. Madison and David Williams of Villisca.
The Hagie Heritage Award was established by Jan Hagie Shindel, formerly of DeWitt, IA, and Ila Jeanne Hagie Logan of Moville, IA, in honor of their parents, Lawrence and Eula Hagie. This is the thirteenth year that INHF has presented the Hagie Heritage Award.