Different approaches to Stewardship
Updated: Oct 22, 2021
So now you know what a Wildlife Habitat Steward (WHS) is and what it means to sign a Stewardship Agreement but what comes after that? What does a Steward actually DO once they sign on?
Basically, it depends entirely on the property and on the Steward! Some of our WHSs have properties that need some help (e.g. re-vegetating disturbed areas, invasive plant management, fencing, etc) and others embark on projects to improve or expand wildlife habitat on their properties. These projects are important to help improve and increase the declining amount of habitat left for wildlife in our area and these are the kinds of things that make it onto our Projects page (bit.ly/oss-proj). A handful of our Stewards even take on large-scale, long-term ecological restoration projects, like the 10-acre vineyard-to-floodplain conversion that Mt Boucherie Winery is doing with us in Cawston (above).
Many of our Wildlife Habitat Stewards, however, do very little and just let their habitats take care of themselves. This approach is just as important and valid to conservation as a more hands-on method. How is doing nothing a helpful approach?? The short answer is: If it ain't broke, don't fix it! The long answer is below-
It essentially boils down to the fact that nature is far better at taking care of herself than we are. Humans are very hands-on creatures; we have an insatiable need to fiddle with and 'fix' things, even when they don't need fixing! An acreage of healthy forest, a tangled creekside thicket, or a cattail-filled wetland are very likely functioning just fine on their own and will continue to function without our help as long as they are protected from threats. That protection is what our hands-off stewards do and it is critically important to keep these high-quality patches of habitat intact,as they are often refuges for wildlife in a human-dominated landscape. Being predominantly hands-off doesn't mean being ignored though! We have completed wildlife surveys, put up game cameras, and conducted educational talks at some of our stewards properties, in addition to always being available to provide advice or recommendations.
Hands-off stewards help us function overall as an organisation as well. Signing up for the Wildlife Habitat Steward program, even if you don't think the habitat on your property needs anything, helps demonstrate to our funders that we have local interest and support for stewardship and ensures that we can continue to assist landowners who have habitats that do need help.