Although the word conservation suits the laws of physics and the prevention of waste, its highest calling is in the preservation of nature. Conservation is now synonymous with the protection of life outdoors. Yet a protector is now gone. Legendary scientist and conservationist Hubert “Hub” Vogelmann died Friday, October 11, at age 84.
An ecologist, botanist, educator, humanitarian and field naturalist, Hub was for decades the soul of the Vermont conservation ethic and its movement. He showed us, with wisdom and exuberance, how to love and protect places outside. He demonstrated that pollutants and acid rain were harming trees at sacred sites – mountaintops. And although he lived and worked and loved outdoors, Hub was comfortable in the halls of power and in the public square. Among his talents was bringing the merits of science and conservation to policy makers and ordinary citizens who didn’t necessarily experience or truly understand wildlife and wild places.
We’re assembling tributes to Hub here on EcoBlog.
Please send yours in the comments section below
or in an email to Bryan Pfeiffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hub was a founder of the Vermont chapter of The Nature Conservancy, which went on to protect some of the state’s best natural areas. He was a force behind Act 250, Vermont’s essential and inspirational law protecting nature from commercial development. And here in the Field Naturalist Program he created a graduate pedagogy to train the world’s future Muirs, Leopolds, Carsons, Browers and Vogelmanns. In Hub’s passion and work and exemplary life, in the spark of those azure eyes, legions of naturalists found wisdom and inspiration. The highly selective list of late and venerable Vermont conservationists now features George Perkins Marsh, Zadock Thompson and Hub Vogelmann.
As for his legacy, from a life well lived and now complete, Hub leaves us far more than he had ever taken. He leaves us an inheritance of conservation and a devotion to nature and what it means to be alive outdoors. Even in death, the conservationist lives. There remains a bit of Hub in the green around us – and within us.
– Bryan Pfeiffer
Writing Instructor, Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning Programs
(photo of Hub courtesy of Bob Klein / The Nature Conservancy)
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I met Hub long after he’d become a legend. After he joined our small writing group, Hub soon became our most prolific writer. Each month he brought another essay about something new he’d observed on his daily walks along Schillhammer Road, and each month the rest of the group got to see the world in a new way. We didn’t know him as the man who led government officials up Camels Hump; instead Hub came to our gatherings – always in his chinos, white sneakers and socks and blue shirt – ready to talk salsa recipes with Toby or provide beeswax for Toby’s bowls. When we met at Hub’s home, we enjoyed the wildlife that scampered along the patio and occasionally into the house, the squirrels and chipmunks at home in both places. Toward the end of Hub’s life we watched how his sweet dog Annie grew wider as Hub grew thinner, the mice continuing their comfy life between fireplace stones. I already miss his dear and gentle soul and will never look at a woolly bear caterpillar in the same way again.
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A letter honoring Hub from US Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, which was read at Hub’s memorial ceremony at the University of Vermont on October 19, 2013.
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Waite-Heindel Environmental Management, Burlington, Vermont
I am sad to hear of Hub’s passing. Shortly after he created the Field Naturalist Program, he invited me to lead a one-day fieldt rip and seminar on the glacial geology of the Champlain Valley. So I began with the “B” Team, and have been doing it in the early fall every year since then. This day with the FNs, and more recently the EPs as well, has become a highlight of my year – it’s always a real delight for me to spend a whole day with such an enthusiastic and interesting batch of new students, while I yammer on about my fascination with the amazing impacts of the so-recently departed Laurentide ice sheet. Thank you, Hub, for these three decades of enjoyment with the students and directors of the Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning programs.
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Associate Professor – Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
In a complex world where everything is connected to everything else, some connections are just plain more important. Hub’s connections reverberate throughout the system and change it forever. His accomplishments are well chronicled by others and they substantively add to a history that defines the US environmental movement. However, what that kind of history leaves out is the human legacy that one person can create through force of character, inspiring values, and setting of an example that others want to follow. Hub’s influence on the people outside and inside of academia, and especially students, is like a cascade, flowing from one generation of mentors to the next, eventually to a point where the carrier doesn’t even know where the legacy stems from. Almost three decades of Field Naturalists (and more recently Ecological Planners) carry on the legacy, and many of them have taught hundreds of students, many of whom in turn have become teachers. Their unique integrative perspective and penchant for telling compelling science stories have already altered people and policy. And this is only one of the many causal chains that Hub has impacted. We will miss Hub, but take comfort in seeing his legacy alive all around us.
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Lillian (Porky) Reade
Field Naturalist Program Assistant
I first came to the Botany Department in 1990, and that’s when I first met Hub Vogelmann, who was then Chair. I remember a warm welcome and an invitation to come to his office where the door was always open. I have many memories of Hub, from learning about acid rain and the damage it causes to our beautiful trees, many conversations about animals and the dogs that have always been a part of his family, to helping Hub with his study on the beer cans, beer bottles, soda cans and trash that was picked up on Schillhammer Road to getting Hub into the computer age.
Hub was one of the kindest, warmest and most giving people I have ever met. I remember how caring Hub was with his neighbor Martha who he watched out for and made sure she had the things that she needed. Many times I brought Hub magazines so he could give them to Martha to read on a cold, snowy day by the fire. He was tireless in his efforts to make sure Martha was cared for.
I feel blessed that I was able to visit Hub with Alicia this summer and will always remember the picture of seeing Hub asleep on one couch and Annie on the other couch asleep and snoring away. It was a beautiful picture. What a lovely visit we had.
Thank you Hub for creating the Field Naturalist Program, which continues to be the highlight of my job with Plant Biology. Thank you for sharing your dreams that have allowed me to live my dreams through this magical program and for giving me the purest of joy in sharing many moments with the amazing students that have come through. I have learned so much from Hub that doesn’t come from a textbook but from the heart. I will miss this wonderful man.
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Director of UVM Natural Areas Center
Hub was one of the first people I met when I began working here at UVM over 25 years ago. I recall visiting him in his small cramped office in Marsh Life Science. He made me feel immediately at home and at ease when we sat down to discuss UVM’s Natural Areas, a major job responsibility of the position I had just recently filled. Hub assured me that I would do a fine job with the protection and management of these important conservation areas and that I should be free to call on him anytime I needed help. Over the years, he proved to be a valued colleague and friend, ever supportive of my work, even at times when I didn’t think things were going all that well. Along with Ian Worley, Tom Hudspeth, and Carl Reidel, Hub was instrumental in establishing the UVM Natural Areas System almost 40 years ago.
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Lecturer in the Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning Programs
I woke up this morning missing Hub and I realized that sometimes when you lose a person you also lose a place. In the last 25 years I have visited Hub and Marie’s home on Schillhammer Road a couple of dozen sweet times, each one memorable: Walking down to the pond to watch American Toads mate, lured by their mating chorus. Circling up through the field where Moose had “walked down” a grove of young aspen, pushing them over with their chests and they grazed on the bark, leaving them bent to the ground. Watching Baltimore Orioles flitting in the apple tree next to the barn and bluebirds kiting across the hayfield during Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning graduation ceremonies each spring.
Hub was a great storyteller and a generous soul. So I will share a story about Hub. I came to his house for yet another graduation party, but arrived disappointed. I was searching for Indian corn to fill rattles I was making. It was out of season for Indian corn, or what is marketed now as ornamental corn so as not to offend. Indian corn is a fall crop and nearly impossible to find in the spring. I had stopped on the way up his road at Arcana greenhouses. They were out of corn but could sell me seeds for dollars a packet. For the quantity I needed, the math made no sense. So I walked into Hub’s mudroom long in the face. I told him of my search and he said, “I have Indian corn. Tom grows it.” And he led me on a tour of the house. Beautiful red, yellow and black corn was tied to the rafters in every room. He took down bunch after bunch and gave it to me. I left the house with a cloth bag thrown over my shoulder like a Mayan coming home from a field of harvest. Hub supported this project of mine unquestioningly. Just as he supported me from the first day we met. I know there are hundreds of people who benefitted from Hub’s generosity and wisdom. The lucky ones also got to fall in love with his farm. A place where magical things happened.
The way that Hub so willingly shared his home and home grounds with us tells a lot about him. His cheery kitchen filled with food. People playing guitars in front of the fireplace. Yes. I miss Hub and I miss his sense of place and the place he and Marie had the sense to create. Come spring I may find myself walking once again down Schillhammer Road listening for the toads and the orioles. The signs of life Hub taught me to recognize, celebrate and remember.
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Director of the Vermont Chapter of The Nature Conservancy
(Comments at Dr. Vogelmann’s memorial service)
I’m honored to have an opportunity spend this time with you, and to share a few thoughts about Hub Vogelmann.
It’s because of Hub that I’ve had the good fortune to work in conservation for almost 35-years. He launched my career with The Nature Conservancy in Vermont. For decades, the Conservancy was an all-volunteer organization here – meaning that as Chair of our VT Chapter board, Hub did almost everything himself, out of his UVM office (don’t tell anyone). This is where iconic conservation projects like Shelburne Pond, Missisquoi Marsh, and Burt Forest originated.
Hub and I had worked on a couple things together and I guess he trusted me, so when he decided it was time to hand this off by opening a staffed Nature Conservancy office here, he and I drove to Boston together for discussions with Brad Northrup, the Conservancy’s regional director back then. In Hub’s usual charming, persuasive way, he won Brad over and we were turned loose to give this a try. Thus began the Conservancy’s Vermont Field Office in 1979, along with my decades-long stint as Executive Director of this enterprise.
Back then we had almost no visible means of support. Our first operating budget was all of $20,000, including rent, travel, and my own salary. This was certainly more money than we had in the bank – but somehow, Hub knew that this would work, that the momentum that he had started would carry us forward. It didn’t hurt that Hub continued as chapter chair, and that early on we concentrated on conserving his beloved Shelburne Pond.
Many of you knew Hub as a teacher or colleague, or maybe both – and perhaps some of you even went fishing with him at Shelburne Pond. Hub was a consummate fisherman and a natural storyteller. He was also a fabulous fundraiser for conservation, because he believed in it so strongly.
I wish I could do justice to the story that Hub liked to tell about the fateful day he took H. Lawrence Achilles out to Shelburne Pond on a fundraising trip. An Eastman Kodak heir, Mr. Achilles had probably never seen Shelburne Pond before, maybe had never even heard of it, but Hub did his magic and this particular fieldtrip was a smashing success. This brought in our first serious funding for Shelburne Pond, which allowed us to purchase parcel after parcel there – 20 separate tracts so far. This never would have happened if Hub hadn’t spent that time with Mr. Achilles, and it’s why this ecological gem is called the “H. Lawrence Achilles Natural Area.”
A last quick story. One Monday Hub phoned me with excited news about a new discovery at Shelburne Pond. Out fishing over the weekend, he’d come upon what looked like an old floating log. Out of curiosity or suspicion he reached into the water and under the log, and found that it was hollow underneath. Hub had found an old dugout canoe, maybe from an era long gone when Native American fishermen had visited the pond. By the time I got there, UVM’s archeologists were in the water with the dugout canoe, and a decision had been made to send it back to the bottom. UVM already had a Native American dugout canoe in its collection to study, and the best way to preserve this one would be to sink it into the mud. So after taking a few samples, they loaded it with sandbags, and down it went. A few months later, Hub told me that carbon 14 dating had pegged that old boat as being over 700 years old.
That dugout canoe is presumably still there, and perhaps it could rise again. Not so with people, for we are truly mortal. It’s important to look back, and to celebrate the lives of special people like Hub. But it’s also important to savor people and life as they come, to live life in real time as it were. I believe Hub did just that – and with singular gusto. Thank you.
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- Tom Slayton’s tribute on Vermont Public Radio (October 22, 2013)
- A Force of Nature: Hub Vogelmann (by Audrey Clark in VTDigger.com, October 22, 2013)
- Remembering Hub Vogelmann (by Josh Brown, October 14, 2013)
- Vermont Public Radio feature (October 14, 2013)
- Burlington Free Press Article on Hub (October 12, 2013)
- Obituary (October 13, 2013)
- Exploring Shelburne Pond with Hub (by Josh Brown, Vermont Quarterly, Fall 2007)
- Honorary Degree at UVM (2006)
- The Nature Conservancy profiles Hub