Monday, February 23, 2015

Food for thought: Our Footprints

By Beth Sullivan
The mission statement of Avalonia Land Conservancy reads: “We preserve natural habitats in southeastern Connecticut by acquiring and protecting lands, and communicating the value of these irreplaceable resources.“

Many footprints can lead to great joy.

Since 1968 it has acquired over 3400 acres-properties as small as a quarter acre, to combined tracts making greenways of well over 300 acres. We protect them in a variety of ways depending on the nature of each parcel. Many of the preserves have trails that loop and wander, bringing hikers deeper into woods, closer to waterways, though fields and carefully over wetlands. The intent is always to get people of all ages closer to nature. The best way to instill an ethic of conservation, a love of the land, is to get close to it, be intimate with it. Starting earlier is always better, with kids and families learning together, walking safe and inviting trails. There will be holes to peek into, logs to turn over, curiosity to inspire!
A bench can provide area for quiet reflection.

A trail can help cross wetlands.

Rethinking an idea

I read an interesting article recently that left me wondering. Leaving Only Footprints: Think Again

We all know the advice to take only pictures, leave only footprints, but as this article points out, those footprints may have a greater impact than we ever thought. Even our quiet presence and passive enjoyment have been proven to be detrimental to wildlife species along our trails.
We must travel gently on the land.

Wildlife may share our trails.

As conservationists, protectors of wildlife and stewards of the preserves, we have a duty to the land and the wildlife that resides there. But we also have a duty to the future. We need to educate, to cultivate the love. We need to pass on our passion and our values along with the land. The only way to do this is to be present within the landscape and share it with the next generations.
Some areas are restricted to protect the habit.

Find a balance

Our challenge moving forward is to strike a balance. There may be properties better able to tolerate the varied usage. There may be habitats that need to be set aside and left alone. It adds another dimension to the efforts of stewardship, to truly evaluate every property to find the best ways to preserve, protect, educate and inspire.
Some areas are closed to protect nesting birds.

This Oven Bird's nets was just steps off a trail. Photo by Eric Hansen.

Our mission will always be to protect our acquisitions, large and small. And we will always be dedicated to communicating their importance and value in order that they will be available for future generations of people, and wildlife too.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

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