orleans conservation trust conservation voices land preservation
For Cape Cod Land Trusts, every acre of protected land counts. We don’t have vast expanses of wilderness like our counterparts in the American West, or even those in Western Massachusetts. But every acre we protect is incredibly valuable.
And given the current real estate market, it’s increasingly difficult for land trusts to compete with developers and other bidders when opportunities arise to protect more acreage.
For these reasons, land trusts across Cape Town are much more methodical and selective in purchasing property while moving towards more active management of already protected lands.
Through more active management, we strive to provide better quality wildlife habitat and opportunities for education and passive recreation with existing protected areas. Such management includes careful trail planning, better signage, and intensive ecological restoration projects.
One of the main goals of ecological restoration is to increase biodiversity. To begin with, this means understanding the overall quality of habitat existing in a given area and determining for which species a property should be managed.
This habitat assessment requires a trained eye, and deciding which species are the highest priority can be a tricky business.
Additionally, when developing a protected land management plan, it is essential that we understand not only the specific conditions of a given plot, but also how it fits into the larger matrix of surrounding habitats. , which may or may not be protected. In general, we try to manage a variety of relatively close habitat types.
For example, a 30-acre lot covered with century-old forest will provide good habitat, but if those same 30 acres are dotted with wetlands, contain a large prairie, border an estuary, and have stands of trees of all different ages. , we would expect to see a much greater diversity of flora and fauna on the property.
One of the most biodiverse properties of the Orleans Conservation Trust, the Henson’s Cove Conservation Area, is just 19 acres of protected land, mostly surrounded by residential properties. But the reserve faces Pleasant Bay and includes salt marshes, three freshwater wetlands, a brackish wetland, a sandy plain meadow, and a pine and oak forest.
The property attracts songbirds and raptors year round and is home to spring amphibians, rare and endangered turtles (including eastern box turtles and diamondback turtles) and mammals including skunks, fishermen, otters and foxes, to name a few.
Fortunately, OCT will expand this incredibly productive reserve by purchasing and securing an additional 3.74 acres, otherwise earmarked for development. Readers can learn more about this project by visiting orleansconservationtrust.org/growing-our-lands.
While we at OCT spend much of our time managing our own land, we are also starting to educate landowners more, encouraging landowners to adopt landscaping practices that will enable their landowners. properties serve as more productive habitat, increasing local conservation lands and contributing to food webs.
This is why OCT has decided to be a founding member of the brand new Cape Cod Pollinator Pathway initiative, which aims to do just that with a focus on native plants and insects. For more information on how you can use native plants to attract insects and maintain healthy bird populations in your garden, visit pollinator-pathway.org/towns/cape-cod).
Stephen O’Grady is Executive Director of the Orleans Conservation Trust. Conservation Voices is an ongoing series with contributions from leading environmental, conservation and conservation groups in Cape Town.