A Good Steward

October 12, 2017

Acton WildAware Beacon Article

By Bettina Dabney Abe

A Good Steward

Acton is fortunate to have over 1,700 acres of public conservation land, free and open to the public from dawn to dusk 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are over 30 miles of hiking trails combined on these lands. One can bike, cross-country ski, walk dogs and ride horses on them. Visitors may venture through deciduous and pine forests; perambulate past bogs and swamps; meander through meadows and scrub lands. All the while, one may wonder who exactly maintains all these areas of peace and natural tranquility.

Acton boasts a team of volunteers, the Land Stewards, who assiduously tend these lands all year long. One steward just celebrated his 90th birthday. He hikes miles every week in his Wednesday Wanderers group, and organized at least a dozen workdays this summer cutting vast amounts of invasive bittersweet and multi-flora rose from a pretty stone wall in Nagog Hill conservation land. The Land Stewards and the Natural Resources Department are always looking for more folks to help out on trail projects, including at the Acton Arboretum. We will train your family and friends. Please visit trails.actonma.gov. Click VOLUNTEER.

What about being a good steward of your own property? How can one apply best conservation practices at home? One way is to identify “invasive” plants banned from sale in North America. They reproduce quickly, outcompeting others that have been part of this ecosystem for thousands of years and upon which birds, pollinators and all other animals depend. Learn the best methods to remove them. The New England Wildflower Society in Framingham is a superb resource http://www.newenglandwild.org/images/protect/Invasive%20Brochure%20Reduced%20File%20Size.pdf . Create a maintenance plan to control re-sprouts. Check out the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England http://www.eddmaps.org/ipane/

Be a good steward of wetlands. If you have wetlands on or near your property, email NR@acton-ma.gov before you do disturb the ground or clear vegetation within 100 feet of a wetlands or 200 feet from a brook or river. Preserving wetlands for plants and animals also prevents flooding and groundwater pollution. Don’t water your lawn; and especially don’t use chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. There are many other ways to achieve the goal of attractive, sustainable landscaping without poisoning our water supply and wildlife habitat. Build a rain garden to collect storm water from your roof and pavement. They are beautiful, filter and replenish groundwater while protecting brooks. The library is full of color books on these topics. Visit the one adjacent to the Acton Arboretum parking lot.

We can restore habitat. Each native plant species supports insects, birds, animals, and microorganisms. 593 New England species are now listed as rare or possibly extinct. Tell friends and neighbors about invasive plants. Please hike Acton’s trails and bring a friend along. Start a new hobby exploring butterflies, mushrooms, birds or wildflowers, creating your own “collection” with a list or photo anthology. Earn a sticker or a patch hiking Acton’s trails http://www.acton-ma.gov/documentcenter/view/2666 .

Acton Natural Resource Assistant Bettina Abe introduced WildAware with Paula Goodwin, a member of the Acton Conservation Commission. WildAware is a program sponsored by the Town of Acton Natural Resources Department that began in September, 2015. The purpose of WildAware is to educate the community about the existence and habits of wild creatures, and the goal is increased community awareness of shared habitats. For information, call 978-929-6634 or send email to nr@acton-ma.gov.