Steward Stories Feature: Caring for Family Land

"I have been associated with a piece of family land in Michigan's Irish Hills for over fifty years. For most of that time I indulged in the belief that if we left nature to her own devices, she would repair the indignities of our forebears and reward our passive management. I was slow to recognize the infilling of open landscapes with invasive brush. I wondered to myself at the proliferation of unfamiliar flowers that suddenly came to my attention. Under my watch the land I loved and cherished was quickly becoming a stranger to me.

Like many others, it was only in about the last ten years that I started to recognize the loss of native habitats and actively intervene. I endured the panic of an accidental grass fire before I learned to employ prescribed fire as a management tool. My newfound awareness of invasive brush has matured into an intuitive recognition of ecological health.

There is little I find more rewarding than to see a living landscape respond to a strategic expenditure of precious resources. This is not to say that I do not suffer from ignorance, misstep and doubt, but it is to recommend the rewards of patiently engaging with nature on her own terms, in effect to play her game by her rules. As the owner of ecologically evolving land, I fret about its living future. Who will care for it after me? Who will notice whether it continues to evolve toward ecologically diverse and biologically nuanced habitats? Who will intervene when it threatens to backslide into the homogeneity of alien invasive species? For me, these concerns are more pressing than the possibility of development, especially if development can lead to an increase in the above referenced 'caring', 'noticing' and 'intervening'.

Here I employ a strategy that affords my optimism: use the remainder of my life to nurture a profoundly inspiring landscape while introducing the community to the expectation that such landscapes were once, and can be again, the norm. In recent months, I have received, unsolicited, comments about the beauty of our land. A core of family, neighbors and friends share similar philosophies. The greater community is ripe to appreciate and value our native habitats and start to understand their incremental loss. Opportunities abound. It is clear to me that twenty first century society can honor nature by internalizing her rules into everyday life. With the community thus 'inoculated', I expect one day to enthusiastically relinquish my concerns for the future."

This story was shared as part of our October Volunteer Challenge. Learn more about this initiative and how you can read more #stewardstories.

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