Lending Nature A Helping Hand – One Project At A Time

Volunteers are pictured planting native flowers on the Chadakoin River’s banks near South Main Street, Jamestown. Photo by Twan Leenders

Spring has seriously sprung these days, and the abundance of life around us is absolutely exhilarating. Within a few short weeks, trees leaf out, wildflowers liven up the forest floor, and returning migratory birds adorn the backyard with color and song during the day, while the nights are filled with joyful sound of frog choruses in nearby wetlands. We are fortunate to live in an area that allows us to enjoy these miraculous sights and sounds, and I feel privileged to work for an organization whose mission it is preserve and protect areas with high ecological, hydrological, and scenic value – the same areas that allow for native wildflowers to thrive, birds to nest, and frogs and other sensitive species to thrive.

Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy strives to identify and protect the most important natural areas in our region, which will help us maintain our region’s amazing biodiversity. However, if we truly want to move the dial on making the region more beautiful, sustainable, and resilient for future generations, we will also need to focus on making some improvements in areas where previous land uses may have compromised the land. My favorite aspect of such restorative work is that it can be done just about anywhere and at any scale, making it possible for most people to lend a hand – or do some of it on their own as well.

The basic concept is that we try and encourage native species of plants and animals to return to areas where they have been forced out by incompatible land uses. Little pockets of functional habitat dotted across the landscape make great “stepping stones” to connect existing parks and other natural areas where good habitat still exists. These stepping stones allow for the movement of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife across the landscape, hopscotching from one suitable habitat patch to the next. Restoring native habitats and restoring landscape connectivity are key elements of a successful regional conservation action plan. Those stepping stones can take on all kinds of shapes and sizes – a city park with a native pollinator garden can be a place where butterflies and native bees can feed, reproduce, and spread into the surrounding area; a carefully placed series of artificial nest boxes can help boost bluebird, swallow, or bat populations; and removing invasive plants from a roadside can allow native seeds lying dormant in the soil to germinate and reclaim lost territory.

Last week, we were able to do all those things! A dedicated group of volunteers from National Fuel helped install native flowers on the banks of the Chadakoin River, beautifying Jamestown’s Chadakoin Riverwalk while also creating habitat for native pollinators. We also wrapped large bank trees with wire fencing to protect them from damage by the beavers that inhabit the river. These trees provide important shade to the urban environment and our community during hot summer days, and they help keep the water temperature in the river down to benefit fish and other aquatic creatures. We also met with colleagues from the Western New York chapter of PRISM, the Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, to start planning a multi-year effort to rid our Cassadaga Lakes Nature Park of a variety of non-native invasive plant species that are negatively impacting the quality of our preserve’s forest habitat. Already one of the most bird-diverse places in the county, this preserve can only get better once we can restore some of its original vegetation and eliminate the non-native vegetation that provides little to no benefits. We ended the week with a collaborative effort to install three new osprey nesting platforms around Chautauqua Lake. Our area’s osprey population is booming, and the lack of suitable nesting locations seems to be a bottleneck. By installing more platforms in the right locations, we hope to help mitigate the “osprey housing crisis” just a little bit. Judging by the success of platforms we previously installed, we’re making a difference for these birds. The osprey pairs that nest on our Ball Creek Preserve and Loomis Goose Creek Preserve have been raising triplets in the last few years – which is not common for these large birds that normally only raise one or two chicks each year. Based on recent images from our osprey camera that is installed at the latter nest, we have three eggs this year again!

We’re so grateful that we can contribute just a little bit to the magic of spring and to the long-term environmental health of our beautiful region, and I wanted to thank everyone who made last week’s efforts possible.

Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a nationally accredited land trust working to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lands and waters of the Chautauqua region. For more information, visit chautauquawatershed.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.


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