Your home is probably the largest investment you will ever make, so you invest your time and money in its upkeep making repairs, landscaping and remodeling. The Chautauqua watershed is also related to the value of your home.
A clear blue lake, beautiful streams, and healthy flora and fauna are all part of the attraction of this region. But, like your house, the watershed needs maintenance, especially as centuries of overuse and abuse have deteriorated the natural balance and complex systems which protected our waters.
Runoff of silt, fertilizers and pesticides, increased erosion and loss of natural vegetation which acted as a filtration system has reduced water quality. Combined with low lake levels due to lack of winter snows and spring rains, aquatic plants and algae are thriving, creating multiple problems in the lake this year. While politicians and organizations argue over the best approach to an immediate fix, you can become involved in a long-term action plan to restore our watershed.
Plan your property for bird habitat, plantings and landscaped beauty while participating in “citizen science” through the sharing of your information through The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s interactive website, www.yardmap.org.
Photo by Doug Conroe
Keeping an ecosystem in balance requires an intricate system of natural habitat and organisms. Insects pollinate plants and act as a food source for birds, fish and small mammals. Plants also act as a food source, providing roots and shoots, berries and buds to a wide variety of animals. Birds spread seeds and lower excess insect populations. Plants and trees increase soil stability and fertility and filter rainwater into aquifers and waterways, increasing water quality. So watershed stewardship starts from the ground up, planning ways to help your land to support a variety of plants and animals to create a healthy landscape.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created Yard Map, a fun and easy way to plan your property for bird habitat, plantings and landscaped beauty while participating in "citizen science" through the sharing of your information through their interactive website, www.yardmap.org.
Just find your home on Google Maps, add your boundaries and click on items such as plantings, bird feeders, rain barrels and compost piles to show existing or proposed conditions on your land. The website has a simple to follow video to help you get started. There are only four easy steps to providing valuable information on your land: outlining a site, adding ecological details, drawing habitat and placing objects.
You can share your plan with hundreds of thousands of other Americans and browse to see what others have done in your area and even get help identifying species of trees and plants or in designing a better habitat. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy has joined with the Roger Tory Peterson Institute to promote this simplified method of tracking habitat and watershed management in our area.
Over one million acres of the USA are covered with non-native lawns, creating imbalance and destroying natural habitat. Yard Map is one way to encourage increased management for ecosystem protection. The information will allow us to share projects such as rain gardens or natural buffers which many of you have already installed to protect our waters. This Fall, both organizations will be providing computer classes on Yard Map and other land management tools, as well as advice on creating a healthy landscape for healthier waters.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local, nonprofit tax exempt 501(c)3 organization with a mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. It is partnering with the Chautauqua Bird, Tree and Garden Club to host a series of lake walks Monday evenings through Aug. 20, starting at 6:30 p.m. at Heinz Beach at Chautauqua Institution.