We talk a lot at OSS about how much we love our Stewards but have you ever wondered... what exactly is a Wildlife Habitat Steward??
A Wildlife Habitat Steward (WHS) is a local landowner/land manager that is participating in our Wildlife Habitat Steward Program. These wonderful people are taking care of wildlife and their habitats right in their backyards and/or working properties and they sign up for the program through our Stewardship Agreements (more on those later!). Our WHS program is what allows us to assist locals in caring for their habitats - from professional advice to invasive plant management plants to native plant re-vegetation projects, we work with our Stewards to do what's best for them and what's best for the habitat.
Signing a Stewardship Agreement might sound all scary and official, but it's really not! Read why below-
Stewardship Agreements are how people 'sign up" for our Wildlife Habitat Steward program. Signing a stewardship agreement has no legal binding - it simply serves as a 'handshake' to demonstrate that we are on the same page about stewardship, outlining basic expectations for the landowner and describing what OSS can provide in return.
Signing an agreement does not mean that the property cannot be used for things other than stewardship - farming, ranching, fruit-growing, and tourism are all examples of land uses that our Stewards have continued without interruption since signing onto WHS program. Many stewards will adjust some of their practices towards what is best for wildlife and wildlife habitat as this often aligns with overall stewardship goals, and while this is strongly encouraged, it is not a requirement.
In addition to outlining general expectations, stewardship agreements also include a property overview and habitat assessment. This provides landowners with an aerial view of their property and habitats, a list of potential or present species-at-risk that could reside on the property, an outline of potential management issues like invasive species or riverbank slumping, and recommendations to help mitigate or resolve the issues.
To see an example of our Stewardship Agreements, click here!
What happens after the agreement is signed? Well, that's a whole other post!