2016 was a busy year for everyone at The Arboretum, including our Land Conservation staff who worked on many conservation and land improvement projects that help position us as a leading advocate for the natural world across Licking County and the central Ohio region. We recently caught up with Shana Byrd, director of land conservation, who gave us a rundown of some of the conservation highlights from the past year.
In 2016, we continued to focus on equipping and educating the next generation of conservation professionals through our Environmental Professionals Training Program. This program trained seven new residents through experiential learning in natural resource conservation, landscape management and horticulture last year. In August, we hosted approximately 90 people for the fifth annual Ohio Sustainable Landscape Symposium, an opportunity for nature lovers and home gardeners to learn more about habitat enhancement using sustainable techniques.
Volunteers play a critical role in the work that we do at The Arboretum. Earlier in the year, we hosted the second Annual Woodland Garden Volunteer Party at which dedicated volunteers dug in to remove invasive plants and replant woodland ephemerals. In September, 20 volunteers participated in the Licking County River Round Up, an annual event involving many community organizations, which resulted in approximately 2,000 lbs. of litter being cleaned up from the Licking River.
Another highlight of 2016 was the ongoing monitoring of our Dutch Fork Wetlands, which reached a VIBI (Vegetation Index of Biotic Integrity) score of 94 in 2016 – that’s really good. We also continued efforts toward protecting the monarch butterfly with the introduction of 85 butterflies through our Monarch Watch program.
An important part of our conservation efforts is an ongoing commitment to enhancing wildlife populations that are native to the region. In 2016, we installed new nesting boxes around The Arboretum for various species of birds — barn owls, purple martins, kestrels and wood ducks. Nesting boxes are a great way to provide wildlife a place to raise young. We actually had 12 hooded merganser fledglings, our first recorded nesting, as a result of our efforts in 2016.
Since our early days, habitat restoration has been one of our highest priorities. In 2016, we continued to make habitat restoration a high priority through a variety of projects.
We hosted an Eagle Scout project along our butterfly transect trails, which cleared 1,600 square feet of invasive vegetation, seeded the trail with annual and perennial wildflowers, installed two butterfly houses, two bee houses and a new bench for visitors. We also added three acres of prairie to our Red Barn transect trail.
Additionally, we concentrated our efforts on the East side of The Arboretum adding 96 trees and shrubs and transplanting 24 native trees and shrubs from the Gorge spur entrance to the previous Hopewell Mound trail.
2017 is here, and our Conservation staff is busy making plans for the future. You can expect that this year will be just as busy as the last as our team diligently works to ensure biodiversity through innovative and sustainable programs that provide best practices to nature lovers across the region.
If you would like to volunteer for one of the Land Conservation Department’s projects, contact Leslie Bline at email@example.com.