Over the past 50 years, ChicoryLane Farm has evolved through a series of undertakings. These have included transitioning from traditional agriculture to placing the entire farm in a conservation eassement. This was followed by contracting with the USDA's Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) to create a 16-acre native grassland and a 13-acre native hardwood forest. Next, an emergent woodland evolved from a repurposed hillside pasture to 20 acresof successional woodland. We also manage several long standing wetlands and have created several new ones. As a result, ChicoryLane is now a rich and diverse ecological environment.Our efforts to put flesh on the bones of the concept of Ecological Enahncement grow directly out of our efforts to improve the ecological of ChicoryLane lands. What we learned in order to do this, what we learned in doing it, and what we learned in simply observing and contemplating the land underlies our notion of Ecological Enhancement. The goal of this discussion is to describe the Practices we have learned to follow and the Principles we realize underlie them. We believe these tools are general and other landowners may find them useful for their own properties.More specifically, our discussion is directed to the following: ng:
- Parcels of 10 - 100 acres
- Landowners of such parcels or operating E\entities (e.g., closely held Private Operating Foundations)
- Direct participation of the landowner at least at the managment and decion-making levels
- Commitment to improving the Ecological Quality of the Land - i.e., its ecological health and diversity
- Recognizing the land's intrinsic value, over and above the servicesit provides to human interests
- Recognizing ecological balance as a fundamental virtue, as opposed to unconsidered divrsity (e.g., diversity for the sake of diversity, numbers of species)Providing a sense of engagement, accomplishment, and joy, without the sense of overwhelming, never-ending, obligation
- Open-ended timescale and/or varying financial commitmental commitment
- Promoting a desire in landowner to share their accomplishments, knowledge, and experiences with othersOur model is closely linked with the idea of project. ChicoryLane Ecological Enhancement projects are focused on specific areas on a scale of one to sevral acres, appropriate for individual landowners. (The principles and practices can, of course, be modified for both larger and smaller tracts.) The goal is to improve the ecological quality of a particular area by:
- Addressing a need or opportunity
- Informally mapping the site and recording images - before, during, and after completion of the project
- Identifying and capitalizing on natural features, such as a stream, rock outcroping, wet area, northern or southern hillsides, etc.
- Identifying native plant species found in the area
- Increasing their numbers as desirable
- Decreasing their numbers as appropriate, e.g., removing invasives, oppening forest canopy, etc.
- Introducing new compatible species for identifiable purposese
- Assessing the results of interventionMoving on to other areas, other projects, mindful of the interactions among project areas and, ideally, their symbiosis
Thus, we view Ecological Enhancement in the large as the symbiosis of small, well-defined projects that, together, add up to more than the sum of their individual contributions. We describe, below, a framework for carrying out such projects. But, first we briefly discuss a different understanding of Enhancementm>Enhancement.
ChicoryLane Model Term
Finally, a comment about the term, Ecological Enhancement. The term emerged in our minds several years ago from talking and thinking about the various efforts we were engaged in to improve our land. These activities improved the aesthetics and utility of the land, but increasingly we came to see the land as our collaborator. It had its own identity and we came to feel it had its own right to exist. And it was brutally frank with us - if we planted a new species in a spot it liked, it flourished; if we planted in a spot it did not like, it informed us in the most direct way possible, it died. So, we learned to take our cues from those who shared the land with us. We came to understand this evovling relationship as essentially ecological and our efforts as attempted enhancement. Hence, the notion of Ecological Enhancement.
Like so many of our best ideas, we discovered that we are not the only ones to advocate qualitative improvement to the ecological environment. One notable instance is found in England and its Natural England initiative. They focus primarily on large, municipal projects with emphasis on ecological diversity and accountablity. And, in promotional materials, one of the contractors providing ecological project services is the first that we have encountered to use of the term. For additional details, see our discussion of Alternative Perspectives.