By David Pendered
The Atlanta Audubon Society has produced a best practices guide that provides advice on how to manage and maintain land in ways that promote both people and wildlife. The document is available for free download on the society’s website.
“From the land that we identify for parks, to the trees and shrubs we plant, and to the way the land and plants are maintained, it is critical that we are good stewards so that people and wildlife may thrive,” Nikki Belmonte, the society’s executive director, said in a statement.
The two-page guide provides information on four categories: land use; trees and plantings; connectivity; and care of the land and wildlife.
Each category has a summation of the purpose and offers a handful of advice. Here are a few examples:
“Land use: The way we manage our land has important implications for wildlife habitat.
- Prioritize greenspace along waterways, wetlands, and ephemeral streams, where biological diversity is greatest. Healthy wetlands lead to good water quality and are among the most productive ecosystems in the world.
- Look for land for preservation in re-purposed areas such as former golf courses, parking lots, vacant lands, unbuildable lands, and waste areas.
“Trees and plantings: Plants provide wildlife with food and shelter, and plant diversity correlates strongly with bird diversity.
- Preserve the existing tree canopy. If canopy is lost to necessary tree removal, mitigate with native tree plantings within the same property.
- Preserve existing urban forests, and incentivize the retention of old growth forest remnants.
- Avoid pruning or removing trees during the nesting season.
“Connectivity : When we connect patches of greenspace, we expand habitat, allow for healthier breeding populations of wildlife, and create a more meaningful experience for people.
- Prioritize connectivity of greenspace along waterways to provide habitat and create wildlife corridors which enable animals to move throughout the environment.
- Prioritize connectivity of the tree canopy for birds and wildlife.
“Care of the land and wildlife: Acting as good stewards of the land has positive impacts on wildlife.
- Encourage biological controls of mosquitoes and other insect pests with nest boxes, chimney swift towers, and bat boxes to provide homes for birds and other insectivores.
- Provide no support of feral cats or outdoor cats. They are not natural predators in the ecosystem.
- Minimize unnecessary outdoor lighting, while maintaining public safety. Utilize down-shielded lamps and motion activated lighting.
Belmonte presented the guide at Park Pride’s annual Parks and Greenspace Conference, on March 26. The conference is the largest parks conference in the Southeast. Belmonte emphasized the need to include the preservation of wildlife when considering the management of parks and greenspace.
“The way we manage our land has important implications for birds and wildlife,” Belmonte said. “When making decisions about parks and their maintenance, it is critical that we take into consideration the many species of birds and wildlife that rely on these greenspaces.”
Esther Stokes encouraged local governments to include the recommendations in their plans to develop and manage greenspace. Stokes chairs the Atlanta Audubon Society’s board and has served 19 years on the board of the Piedmont Park Conservancy.
“With our population growing rapidly in the Atlanta metro, every jurisdiction can benefit from these best practices,” Stokes said in the statement. “They can help each county, city, or town become a better place for people and wildlife. We would like to see them used extensively all across the region.”