Rural System, Inc.
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits

Nature Folks

Nature Folks is an independent, private, for-profit organization that allows people new opportunities to learn about nature and the wildlands, to encourage study of nature and natural resources, and to provide pleasant opportunities to learn and contribute to knowledge about the region and the objectives of Rural System, Inc. It has no voting membership. It provides an organization, supplies, equipment, materials, opportunities, and services to its members.

The intent of the group is to help people who love nature and who study it. Nature study is usually a very private, personal activity but occasionally it needs help, encouragement, or support. Many studies result in people gaining world-class knowledge, a wonderful resource that may even be shared or passed on to future generations.

Nature Folks is not an environmental or ecological "activist" or "fund-raising" group. It takes no "stand" and is not a political group. There are many other organizations available to meet these needs. In a related way, however, knowledge of a region can serve well in encouraging sound regional development, high quality of life, and diverse recreational and educational opportunities. Undoubtedly, contacts will be made through Nature Folks with people of similar interests in proposed development projects within the region. The group affiliates with local museums, the North American Association for Environmental Education, and other enterprises.

Nature Folks was created for people who do not already have major groups with which they can affiliate (such as the bird watchers, fishing or hunting groups). Perhaps there are groups that do not now meet their needs. It is especially for people often not having special interest or enthusiasm, but who are generally interested in local nature, the outdoors, and the working of natural things. It is for individuals, but corporate or organizational involvement in special projects is welcomed and encouraged.(Suggestions are available.)

It provides access and opportunities at relatively low cost to:

  1. Support and encouragement
  2. Some services (e.g., exact site location from a Global Positioning Satellite Unit)
  3. Leads to references
  4. Scientific reports and report writing assistance
  5. Safety and outdoor health advice
  6. Leads to potential cooperators in nature related projects
  7. Interesting meetings, tours, and trips
  8. Advice on needed studies and important specialty areas (a priority system)
  9. Access to an important study area where coordination and cooperation can have synergistic results
  10. Targets for highly effective volunteer work and contributions
  11. A unique trust and bequest program of current as well as lasting significance
  12. Hours of fun
  13. Limited regional part-time employment opportunities
  14. Many opportunities to encourage youth to study wildland ecology and for them to move into leadership within natural resource fields
  15. A means to preserve and pass on knowledge so we stop reinventing and rediscovering
  16. A list of nature-related consultants
  17. Unique hikes and tours
  18. Access to extended nature study expeditions within the region
  19. Sponsorship of unusual nature contests and games
  20. Sales of nature equipment
  21. Reduced membership fees to other nature groups
  22. Information about and unusual prices on outdoor equipment
  23. Opportunities to publish (See the Writers' Camps)
  24. Ever-changing opportunities on the Internet and World Wide Web.
  25. Access to unusual data bases and software
  26. Access to opportunities for meaningful, healthful, volunteer work
  27. Access to events combining knowledge of nature and high adventure
  28. Membership-limited photographic sites for special nature phenomena and events
  29. Unique access to unique nature (high canopy; caves; lakes)
  30. Access to an automated nature center
  31. Access to research of lasting importance
  32. Assistance to deserving graduate students and researchers
  33. Intensive education programs for summer camp nature instructors/counselors
  34. Cooperative 4-H, scouting, and related programs
  35. A unique court program for law breakers
  36. A unique old-growth/ancient forest analysis
  37. Horseback tours into bear country
  38. "Owl hoots", high adventure owl-related tours (see The Owls Group)
  39. Tours to observe endangered woodpeckers

There are many activities of the Nature Folks. There is an on-going communication of members by means of the Internet newsletter, Ooze. Publications and notes are made available. A museum is supported. Four field trips or tours, seasonal, are held. Occasional long expeditions are held. A variety of volunteer opportunities are made available. A portion of membership fees supports special study projects and involvement in planned, funded projects. Encouraging high quality wildland research is one mission.

Weatherfolks might develop.

Conserving observations of nature is an activity already being developed within our NatureSeen, an Internet site for members.

Improvements in the Rural Knowledge Base are a special area of work and interest.

Nature Folks is a diverse group. Some people prefer solitary work and enjoy the newsletter and web site. Others prefer more group-oriented work and social activities. Neither is emphasized over others and, in general, a "participant pays" policy operates. It is for everyone. There are no gender, age, race, nationality, or place-of-residence limits. The initial emphasis is on the region's wildlands and on their active, diverse, creative and non-destructive uses. There are literally thousands of potential topics of interest to members of Nature Folks. They are likely to change as knowledge is gained about them, as interests wane, as resources become available or are lost. Rather than name topics, broad interest or emphasis groups have been formed.

They are:

The Species People: Concentrates on one or two species of plants or animals, or soil types.

The Time People: Concentrates on phenology, the study of the change in biological events over the year (the migration of geese, the fall of leaves, the blooming of daffodils) throughout Virginia and the region. The BirdCast web site may provide a suggestion for a format for members to use to follow migrations.

The Place People: Find their greatest interest in unusual exciting places - bogs, ponds, seeps, forest stands, fern beds, caves, mines, talus slopes, cliffs.

The Layer People: Concentrate on the variety of interesting life in wildland layers, the neritic zone, deep ponds, pond surface, ground surface, the forest layers, even the zone above forests.

The Hyperspace People: Tend to go for it all, all of the above - and more - their interests are multidimensional, unlimited.

The year-around life cycles of invertebrates are essential knowledge for the stream ecologists of The Fishery, those interested in bats (the nighttime workers of The Owls Group), and the migratory forest birds as part of Avi. People interested in the coyote, foxes, and canids of the world join the subgroup called Coyote. New knowledge about the lives of invertebrates will flow from the Butterfly Band because of the capabilities and resources of the GIS of System Central. The Wildland Walkers are hikers who are interested in walking to see nature but also the practical aspects of woodcraft and wildland lore. The interests of The Plant People are unusually diverse. The enterprise is a membership, tour, visitor, publication, survey, museum, garden-interest, and photograph sales group. Its "profit-role" is in loss reduction and cost-effective services not available elsewhere.

A list of topics that members typically embrace may cause some people to reject the group and it may suggest priorities or emphases. Neither is intended. A list, nevertheless, may suggest the types of interests of members and study groups and themes for field trips. The people of Nature Folks are unusual. They are typically roaming off the beaten track and their topics (again, only suggestions of the scope and range of interests) are likely to include, for example only:

  1. The Minnows of Stream X.
  2. The Insects of the Oak Canopy
  3. Millipedes of the Area
  4. Land Snails: Where Do They Live?
  5. Horsehair Worms
  6. Succession in Artificial Peat Bogs
  7. The Ferns
  8. The Mushrooms of the Region
  9. The Shelf Fungi
  10. The Growing Season
  11. The Fire History of Area Z
  12. The Geological Differences in Area A and Area B
  13. Lunar Forces
  14. Lightning in the Wildlands

One project in which all members are encouraged to participate (there are few) is the Seasons Project, keeping a long-term record of when certain biological events occur (e.g., bird migration, flower bloom, leaf fall) and how they differ year to year. A web chatroom assists in continuing interest in the flow of the seasons across the US. This group's interest is akin to naturalists' of Britain interest in phenology.

Funding is anticipated through:

  • Memberships with newsletter (with advertising)
  • Access to the Internet and advertising or sponsorships
  • Software sales
  • Publication sales (by cooperative work, Nature Folks creates never-seen-before maps of actual or probable occurrences of biological phenomena in the region. It sells playing-card size identification aids and games)
  • Tours(see The Tours Group; U.S. and international)
  • Guided treks (see The Wildland Walkers)
  • Rebates from publishers and equipment sales
  • Sales of library searches (see the Rural Knowledge Base)
  • Catalog sales of nature supplies and equipment
  • Honoraria (trails, plaques, Memorials )

    Funds are also gained from fees to use lands within Rural System, Inc. and elsewhere. Although there are thousands of acres of "free" federal and state lands for recreation, these lands and their recreational resources are perceived to be inadequately managed. Experimental programs were begun in 1998 to charge fees for use of federal lands. The problem reported was that current systems of financing public lands through taxes has "led to poor maintenance, excessive spending and neglect of natural resources." Because the current system relies on congressional appropriations, park and forest managers must cater to Washington politics. Recreation fees seem needed to help institute yearly maintenance programs and restore degrading facilities and natural resources. The report from the study observed that the current financing system of charging "below-cost fees" prevents private businesses such as Lasting Forests from providing outdoor recreation because they have trouble competing economically with federal agencies.
    The following is sample text for development purposes. It was sent on Nov 10. 2003:

    An invitation - I hope you will be interested. Yahoo Groups provides websites for their mailing lists where photos and files can be placed, a community calendar is available, and other utilities. To look further (or subscribe), click the link below to

    Michael Smith,

    The Naturalist's Connection of Texas - a mailing list community for people who enjoy the plants and animals of Texas and adjoining states.

    Texas and the surrounding area encompasses a wealth of natural areas and biodiversity, including deserts and prairies, marshes and ponds, and forests and woodlands. Many of us love these places and may have favorites among the things that live there (birds, herps, invertebrates, flowering plants, etc.). Usually we want to broaden what we know, whether we are birders who are curious about the frogs we've been seeing or herpers who would like to know more about the plant community in our favorite wetland. Almost all of us love to talk about wildlife and wild places.

    There are specific resources, books and websites galore, on birds and mammals and reptiles and wildflowers and the rest. Finding a resource that helps integrate all these things is another story. The purpose of the Naturalist's Connection is to bring people with diverse interests and knowledge together to talk about places they love, species they've seen, and to ask questions about the parts they don't yet know about. We can help answer each other's questions and feed each other's appreciation of nature.

    There are organizations with similar aims. The Texas Master Naturalist program is one. However, there does not seem to be an online community, open to any interested person, that fills this need.

    Membership in this list is open to anyone with a fairly broad interest in the ecology and natural history of Texas and the surrounding areas. Subscribers may live in Fort Worth or Katmandu, as long as they stay on-topic. Members may be beginners, and we hope for a mix of those with little training or experience and those with a lot of those things. What we also hope for (and the moderator will help with, if necessary) is a friendly atmosphere where the point of the discussion is to enjoy and share.

    Allen Salzberg

    See the science and nature web site of the BBC

    Development costs are those of 2 people over 2 years and are about $60,000. With minimum memberships of 2000 people @ $35, and additional income from sales and conferences, the annual estimates for profits are:

    Perhaps you will share ideas with me
    about some of the topic(s) above at

    Maybe we can work together
    ... for the good of us all
    ... for a long time.

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