Friends of Shirley Heinze Land Trust Gave Presentation in Cuba

By: Shirley Heinze Land Trust Last Updated: February 11, 2013

Blooming-prickly-pear-cactus-at-Miller-DunePeg Mohar, co-chair of Friends of Shirley Heinze Land Trust, presented a program to the Cuba Botanic Society in Havana, Cuba on January 19. The Pacific Horticultural Society sponsored a "people-to-people" trip to Cuba on January 18-27 with a botanic emphasis. The meeting gave opportunities for a two-way exchange of horticultural and botanic ideas and experiences between the Cuban members and the American participants.

Peg's program educated the Society members about not-for-profit land trusts which do considerable conservation work in the U.S. They heard about the programs of the Heinze Trust in particular including land acquisition, stewardship and education. Pictures of wetlands, deciduous forests, oak savanna, tall grass prairie, and dune and swale were shown as examples of ecosystems the Trust has preserved. The Cubans were particularly interested in the FOSH native landscaping award program "Bringing Nature Home." This program rewards gardeners and landscapers in NWIN who use native plants in their plantings. The native plants encourage the return of natural ecosystems which have largely been replaced by development and non-native plant species. The Cubans said they are experiencing the same problem of lack of awareness of the importance of native plants as we are the US. They requested detailed information about the program in order that they might create a similar one.

The Cubans informed the group that over 20% of Cuba is protected land. Half of their native species are threatened; so there is a movement to protect ecosystems which harbor these plants.

The American government has essentially limited sanctioned travel to journalists, academics, government officials, those with immediate family members living on the island and others licensed by the Treasury Department. In 2011, these rules were amended to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba as long as they are taking part in a "people-to-people" tour. This Pacific Horticultural Society tour was the first with this botanic emphasis since these rule changes.

Shirley Heinze Land Trust has been protecting natural land in the southern Lake Michigan watershed since 1981. It manages nearly 1,200 acres in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties. Included in the Heinze Trust’s holdings are examples of the entire spectrum of natural communities in this area: tallgrass prairie, high dune, oak savanna, boreal flatwoods, dune-and-swale, woodlands, marshes, swamps, ponds, fens, and riparian habitat. Five Heinze Trust properties are dedicated Indiana State Nature Preserves. Shirley Heinze Land Trust is a well established organization preserving these natural areas for present and future generations to enjoy. For more information on Shirley Heinze Land Trust, consult its website and like them on Facebook.