The words ecological enhancement slip easily off the tongue but the idea behind them is not obvious or one that everyone will agree with. A friend with strong personal and professional experience with environmental concerns, upon hearing the term, asked "Why not just leave the whole thing up to Nature?" A good question!
Why not protect desirable parcels from subdivision and development and then leave them alone to "let nature take its course"? That's what many conservationists and conservation easements do. One answer is that in the 300 years since this country was settled, there has been a vast influx of new plant and animal species - introduced or allowed to take hold. In many cases, existing habitats had no inherent means to stop the expansion of these introductions. In some cases, prior species were overwhelmed by new ones. These invasives may not be unnatural in a fundamental way but they may not be desirable when they overwhelm earlier species and thereby reduce diversity. In central Pennsylvania, Tarterian Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose, European Bittersweet are a few examples that can turn rich ecological areas into monocrops.
Many conservation easements (see, for example ChicoryLane Easement) require the landowner to protect the area not just from subdivision and development but also from invasives. But controlling invasives, particularly for larger tracts, is an expensive and labor-intensive job, often neglected by the landowner and not enforced by the easement holder. Even at best, simply controlling invasives is settling for the lowest common denominator.
Why not restore a diminished property to some semblance of a former, richer environment? For an old farm transitioning out of agriculture, why not help it find a place among the natural conditions that existed before it was cleared and cropped? In areas near municipalities, why not enable such lands to become places of solace or learning for neighbors who may be lving in more mediated environments?
"But isn't that what parks are for?" you might . To an extent, "yes." But more and more, parks are places for recreation and exercise, shouting, competing, blowing off steam. All needed, but not the same thing as quiet, solace, observation of the natural world, slowing down, being. It would be wonderful if governments shared this perspective and had the means to provide such places for their citizens. But we don't see this happening. If such places or going to be preserved or created, it will likely be done by charitable organizations or private landowners. By groups and individuals who are willing to direct private resources to lands that they control, that they are willing to develop ecologically and share them with others in a responsible and appropriate manner. This is not elitist but pragmatic.
At ChicoryLane we are motivated to improve the ecological quality of the Land. We call this practice Ecological Enhancement. In this section of the Web site, we will explain the ideas and motivation that underlie these efforts. We'll explain the practices step by step that have enabled us to implement these intentions without overwhelming us. We'll also provide examples of specific project areas with lists of species; before, after, and in-process images; and other data. We also welcome visits and inquiries if you are interested in applying any of this to your own properties