When Jeff Cantrell received his degree in the conservation, the Missouri Conservation Commission had five openings for an education specialist. The five openings were located through the state and one was in Neosho. So, on his job application he wrote "Only Neosho."

When Jeff Cantrell received his degree in the conservation, the Missouri Conservation Commission had five openings for an education specialist. The five openings were located through the state and one was in Neosho. So, on his job application he wrote "Only Neosho."
That is why this wonderful conservationist has been working in Neosho for so many years. Not only does he serve Neosho, but has responsibility for several counties in Southwest Missouri.
One of his current projects is promoting the preservation of the Monarch Butterfly, which is being promoted heavily by the state and the nation.
Actually Cantrell has been pushing butterflies for 20 years. "We were ahead of the curve," he said.
For the past two years, Cantrell has gotten a grant from "Grow Native," an organization which has given him about $800 worth of plants that attract butterflies. He has been giving the plants to people or groups who have planted them to attract and provide food for these beautiful migrating insects.
Each year, the plants come to Cantrell in various batches as they bloom at different times.
"Most of the plants are milkweed which most people know are good for butterflies, but Upland Asters are good in September and October as the fall migration takes place," Cantrell said.
The plants which come in the grant program are for special people or groups. "I don't just hand them out to everyone who comes along. I give them to people who I know will plant them and take care of them," Cantrell said. "I have to document the zip codes where they go, so Grow Native can get them wide spread throughout the state."
Monarchs are considered a "glory plant," like the Panda is a "glory animal." That means that the "glory plant or animal" is well recognized and loved. But conservationist know that when you help one of them, you help all others.
"When you help the Monarch, you help the bees who are big pollinators, something we need for many trees and flowers and to make honey," Cantrell said.
Cantrell spends his time speaking to school kids, nature groups, civic groups and teaching "Naturescaping classes," through Southwest Missouri. He sometimes has programs in five different counties on the same day. His days start early and end late.
Asked how the ordinary person can help the butterflies, bees and birds, Cantrell says to watch your chemical use in the lawn, garden and fields. And, of course, learn about how everything in nature is connected and what you do for one thing affects every other thing. Planting a milkweed plant doesn't take a lot of effort or a lot of space in some little corner of your yard. Almost everyone can do that even if they don't contribute money to conservation groups or help with big projects.
If you are interested in learning more or attending or hosting a Naturescape class, call Cantrell at the Missouri Department of Conservation office in Joplin or Neosho. Or you can e-mail him at Jeff.Cantrell@mdc.mo.gov. You'll probably have to leave a message since he is usually outdoors, leading a hike, teaching a class or taking kids across a prairie or through the woods.