The stewardship program is responsible for the management of the reservations that SVT owns and for the monitoring and oversight of conservation restrictions. The stewardship program has four main components:
- Ecosystem and habitat protection
- Maintenance of views, access and trails
- Protection of the legacy
- Coordination of the stewardship volunteer program
A key element in the stewardship of SVT’s reservations is developing management plans for our properties. We conduct natural resource inventories, which includes documentation of land forms, habitat types, plants and wildlife. We use the information that is gained to drive the management of the property. This information is also a valuable tool that can be used to educate our members and the public about the conservation values and biodiversity of each reservation. When making management decisions for a property our main goal is to allow natural processes to continue. An example of this is when beavers create wetlands and leave dead trees to provide habitat and nutrients to the forest. A more active form of habitat protection is maintaining fields for wildlife. Fields are kept open with regular mowing, typically once a year or once every other year. Another important aspect of ecosystem protection is the restoration of native habitat by removing and controlling invasive plants. Invasive plants are the second greatest threat, next to development, to our biological diversity. Invasive plants take over and degrade our natural habitats. Some of the more common invasives that we work to control are Oriental bittersweet, honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, European buckthorn, purple loosestrife and multiflora rose.
Many of our reservations contain trail systems that are frequently enjoyed by our members and the general public. The stewardship department works to keep these trails and their access points, which often include parking areas, in safe and usable condition. New trails are planned very carefully and designed to minimize ecological impact and to enhance recreational opportunities. Staff, as well as many volunteers, work to clear, mow and trim trails to provide recreationists with an enjoyable visit. Other tasks include the marking of trails and the building and upkeep of bridges and kiosks. To find a map for a property near you please visit our maps page.
Keeping an eye on things is no small task when it comes to managing over 3,000 acres of land in 20 towns within our service area. In order to do so we conduct baseline documentation on properties that SVT owns as well as on SVT’s conservation restrictions (CRs). This entails finding, marking (in the case of land we own) and photographing property boundaries. This documentation allows us to prevent or more easily solve encroachments on conservation land. We also use this information to facilitate the regular monitoring of properties and CRs; typically once a year. When we monitor a CR, we ensure that activities on the property maintain the conservation values set forth in the legal CR document. For reservations that we own, we track wildlife and plant sightings and check for problems such as trail erosion, trash or illicit uses (such as motorized vehicles or leaf dumping).
With a limited staff and the many tasks involved with caring for conservation land, our stewardship work depends heavily on the help of volunteers. Volunteers assist us in a variety of ways, ranging from joining a crew on a single work day to adopting a reservation and helping to maintain it for many years. SVT benefits from community service projects involving corporate volunteers, scout groups or other youth groups. To see examples of the many youth projects that have recently occurred visit our Youth Conservation Stewards page. Volunteers with specialized skills assist us with tasks such as biological inventory and database design. Preserve Stewards are long-term volunteers who assist with property monitoring and maintenance at a reservation near their home or place of work. If you are interested in volunteering with SVT, visit our Volunteer page.