Private landowners make the management decisions for around 92 million acres in the United States, with various levels of knowledge and awareness. That’s all of us average folks, planting our favorite roses, fertilizing, and spraying herbicides and pesticides on anything we think we don’t want in the yard. There’s a lot of responsibility as a homeowner. We need to actively think about and learn that there are consequences to our decisions and we need to reduce unintended negative impacts. There are many sources of good information out there to guide the way and address your specific interests. You might think that your homestead doesn’t have much impact on the big picture, but it’s possible for our decisions to reach past our boundary lines. For example, chemical sprays and applications don’t necessarily stay on your land if manufacturer’s directions aren’t followed. If we all considered doing a few easy, relatively cheap changes, big improvements in our soil, air, and water quality can happen!
What can you do?
One change that can be made is the type of landscaping you chose. Our ecosystem has evolved over thousands of years to create a symphony of trees, shrubs, plants, birds, mammals and insects co-existing. A new Smithsonian Institute study shows insect-eating birds need to have an area with at least 70% of native vegetation to support a steady population. The non-native vegetation doesn’t have the same food or habitat values as do our native ones. You can simply remove the invasives and nonnatives and allow the area to recover, letting nature take its course.
Another great way to help is to practice urban conservation. The everyday decisions we make at home greatly affect our environment. Increased urbanization means more impervious surfaces and runoff and less wildlife habitat. Our water, soil, air, and wildlife depend on us for their protection and adopting conservation practices is one important way in which we can preserve the environment for future generations. In this fast-paced world, we recognize that reconnecting with nature is an excellent way to relieve stress and anxiety. By preserving the natural resources around our home, we can spend less time maintaining our yards and more time enjoying them.
What benefits do urban conservation practices provide?
- Attract wildlife, providing food and cover
- Provide integrated pest management
- Increase property values
- Provide substantial monetary and time savings compared to traditional lawn maintenance
- Protect watersheds by providing filtration and reducing pollution from runoff
- Connect communities with nature
To assist landowners with urban conservation, the Steuben County SWCD offers an Urban Conservation Program. Installation practices include rain gardens, tree/shrub plantings, water-edge enhancements and native-scaping to reduce sediment and nutrients in waterbodies, conserve water and improve water quality, increase food and shelter for wildlife, connect landowners with nature and inspire a landowner stewardship ethic. Please contact the SWCD office at (260) 665-3211 ext. 3 to discuss your conservation goals.