We’ve all been exposed to land conservation at some point in our lives, whether through school, work or travel; but what can land conservation be used for?
The most common ways land conservation can be used is for educational purposes, wildlife preservation, restorative initiatives, regenerative farming, historic and cultural value, and recreational use. Land conservations are open, natural spaces which are protected for the benefit of all life.
In this article, we’ll go in depth with exactly how land conservation has and can be utilized. Whether as a sanctuary for wildlife, the restoration of native prairielands and native species, the preservation of sacred lands and natural resources, or the health benefits of human interaction with these spaces, the possibilities we have when land conservation is enacted are seemingly endless.
As an avid environmentalist and sustainability specialist, my life work has been to provide education, support and opportunity for these exact methods to flourish in myriad ways. National, statewide, and local organizations are able to do so on an even larger scale, and provide resources for every single one of us to do our part in participating in this collective endeavor.
When the land is conserved it means there are laws in place that protect the ecosystems that are a part of that area. The wildlife that exists in that location, such as birds, mammals, amphibians, trees, native plants and grasses, are all able to exist unharmed. This is particularly important in areas where there are endangered species that are vital to a thriving ecosystem.
Wildlife Preservation can show up in a number of different ways. At times, this can come in the form of a public or private zoo, or wildlife rehabilitation center. It can also include national or state parks where wildlife preservation is a key focus in their organization goals.
Reintroduction of native species, such as the case in 1995 at Yellowstone National Park, where the reintroduction of wolves back into the area after 50+ years helped stabilize the ecosystem in ways that brought disbelief, can be a significant and largely impactful research endeavor. Smaller scale efforts can even be of great use, on an individual, local or state wide scale, where rain gardens and native prairie planting will provide habitat for pollinators, birds, deer and small mammals so they may exist without influence of modern day developments.
Land conservations offer spaces for education. This can range from grade school all the way through university and beyond. Here, because these spaces are relatively untouched and maintained in educated ways there is room to witness, study, and research various forms of life in their natural habitat.
Local and state conservations, as well as public and private school, community groups and day camps often pair together to ensure the youth of abundant opportunity to learn from and with nature. It makes learning much more hands-on, interactive and enjoyable, solidifying the learnings more deeply.
Naturalists, marine biologists and environmentalists that have a focus in the research field are able to further sustainable development goals for their local region through collaboration with land conservations. Another case where smaller scale efforts can have a much greater impact. s
Whether it’s through formal education, or simply enjoying outdoor space with family and loved ones, these spaces can allow opportunities to allow nature to teach us what we can do to mitigate climate change and solve some of the world's most pressing challenges.
Much of the time, conservation efforts also include some sort of restoration of the land to not only preserve an ecosystem, but improve it. Restoration efforts intend to mitigate some of the most pressing environmental issues of today. Reforestation, regenerative soil development, watershed management, and the reintroduction of endangered or natural species are in the most vital needs of attention at this time.
Projects such as Save the Redwoods is an organization with a focus on forest and wildlife restoration. During and after times of significant crisis due to either drought or forest fire, they focus their efforts to bring the area back on the path to vibrancy and vitality. They expand their reach and the boundaries of the Redwood forest to help prevent future fires and deforestation.
“The health of our land and forests is connected. In the same way that pollution upstream will flow down and affect the water of a town hundreds of miles away, what happens in one forest can have a direct effect on the health and survival of another.” With this in mind, projects which restore an aspect of our environment have a much larger impact then we may be aware of. The action of reforestation improves water and soil quality, stabilizes the climate, and provides both habitat and sanctuary.
Modern day agricultural practices can have some of the most devastating impacts on our environment, and is the leading cause of deforestation, soil erosion, and the destruction of waterways from the harmful chemicals and pesticides being used. Regenerative Farming holds the intention to not simply cultivate wholesome, organic food, but to produce it in a way that is actually giving back to the land, instead of only taking from it.
This is done through holistic land management practices that both enrich the soil with vitamins and nutrients and also increase topsoil. Rotating and diversity planting in educated ways allows for this to be possible. The overarching design for regenerative farming also keeps watershed management in mind, and uses terrain, rainfalls, swales, and water basins to it’s advantage to prevent erosion and actually enhance the quality of water passing through.
Historic and Cultural Value
Oftentimes, there are also significant historic benefits for land conservation. War memorials and 100 generation farmsteads are a common coupling for land conservation efforts. This allows for there to be a historical and cultural benefit. Preserving aspects of history and allowing educational opportunities for us to commemorate particular times, periods and places.
According to Stewardship Director, Andrew Kota of The Land Trust Alliance, “We find these historic landscapes in our region often intersect with greater conservation goals.” Areas of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills of Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina wind through areas rich with Revolutionary War history. This includes four counties where the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina protects forests, sensitive habitats, watersheds and farmlands.
It can be challenging, if near impossible, to separate history from nature; conservation efforts from cultural context. It’s important for certain initiatives to be able to tell the great story of that area. So we can either learn from or preserve these aspects of our cultural identity.
The Native American Land Conservation in Joshua Tree 'acquires, preserves and protects Native American sacred lands through protective land management, educational programs and scientific study.’ In this case, it is a rich and vital aspect of American culture that is being preserved for the greater benefit of both land and peoples.
Last but certainly not least, Land conservation offers spaces for humans to connect, and simply unwind, from their regular routines in life. Getting time to hike, run, fish, and spend time outdoors either solo or with a group has innumerable benefits on reducing stress, improving health, and bringing overall greater wellbeing to your life.
Many land conservations have an aspect of park and hiking trail maintenance. This gives the opportunity for physical fitness, as well as having benefits for mental and emotional health.
Companies utilize these spaces to host annual or semi-annual work gatherings for the social emotional health of their employees. Kayaking, boating, fishing, marathon running, and other activities are a popular way of bonding with coworkers, friends and family.
According to research from Harvard Health Publishing, regular walks in nature can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. So the next time you’re feeling down and out, take a hike to the nearest land conservation and hit the trail.
About THE AUTHOR
James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.Read More About James Parker