Why conservation should begin locally by beginning at home.
Growing up I remember hearing about how amazing the Amazon was at the same time learning how imperil it was. Diving deeper, I also realized how far away and remote this landscape was. The likeliness of me visiting any part of the Amazon was even more remote.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care what happened to the Amazon; I realized there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to help.
This story is repeated often with drilling in Alaska, mining in the southwest, and the destruction of the Boreal forest is Canada, not to mention climate change. All faraway places, massive in scale, and difficult to comprehend, let alone act on “saving” them. When conservation is overwhelming where do you begin?
We begin at home.
The most extreme local conservation is your yard, whether it is a tiny lawn or acreage of diverse habitat. Your home is the place to begin when it comes to conservation. Learn more about what we are doing at Callaway Farm.
Loving what you have immediately around you, what you see day after day, will help inspire and guide you to branch out to the other levels of conservation. If your landscape is not so inspiring, this is where you should put effort, love, time, and money into making it better. A little bit every year makes a huge difference over time.
By becoming attached to your place you are more likely to care for it, to pass it down to generations, or at least provide a wonderful landscape for the next family to live there.
What we are doing: trying to plant as many native trees, shrubs, and flowers and landscape for the birds. We don’t use harsh chemicals on our lawn (which is larger then we like, but decreasing). We are also growing more of our own food, reducing the amount of resources needed to get produce. Nothing is fresher than straight from your garden!
Check out Bringing Nature Home for great information on what to plant in your own yard to attract wildlife.
This is nearly as important as the first level because it is where you spend the majority of your time. The community means your neighborhood, city, and the other places you travel the most. This would include work (if away from your city) as well as popular places you like to eat out, shop, or recreate.
Work on this level means you see a return on the effort and resources you put into it. It also means you have a higher probability of attracting the people you interact with to help in these efforts. This might mean voting on local matters, attending meetings about parks, or starting your own community events to reach out to more people and make a larger impact.
Citizen science projects like bioblitzes and bird counts are a perfect way to get involved. If you can’t find any in year area, consider starting your own project
What we are doing: participating in Wee Naturalists program with my 5 year old son; spending more time hiking and exploring the local parks and preserves; writing up a guide of places to bird in our county of DeKalb, Illinois.
This area includes the surrounding counties where you live and work. This can be expanded to your entire state or even neighboring states, especially for those who live near the border (we are close to Wisconsin). What this means is getting involved in bigger, statewide issues, as well as visiting preserved land throughout your state.
You can join local chapters of the Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, and more. By being involved in a larger community you have the benefit of finding more like minded people and making a larger difference, even if you may not directly benefit. Of course, the benefit can be felt because birds and other animals need corridors of land to migrate through.
The incentive to hike, camp, and enjoy parks a few to several hours away means you can enjoy habitats and birds that you normally don’t see around your local area.
What we are doing: we are making a statewide birding guide, promoting Take Kids Birding!, our guide to increasing young naturalists, as well as planning trips to farther edges of our state and beyond.
Expanding on the state level, regional conservation covers a larger area, typically a biome or geographic region. For me this is often referred to as the Midwest or Great Lakes region. But it can also include habitat types such as prairie or oak savanna or large ecosystems like the Greater Yellowstone, Boreal forest, etc.
Another area that can be considered at the regional level are migratory flyways. By putting efforts into conservation on major migration pathways, we can help birds as well as other animals make their way from winter to breeding grounds and back again.
What we are doing: promoting prairie conservation, contributing to organizations like Audubon and the Nature Conservancy. We are also planning on trips to neighboring states to help promote the wonderful land already preserved. We also live fairly close to the Mississippi Flyway and we plan on helping organizations that work on preserving and protecting this highway of birds.
This, for me, would be the entire United States of America. While this scale is getting larger, it is also getting more difficult to see the results on an individual level. But collectively, being active in nationwide organizations, we can make huge differences for landscapes we may never actually visit
What we are doing: we are members of the National Park Conservation Association as well as other nationwide organizations that promote conservation. The National Park System along with the National Wildlife Refuge System are great resources for conservation and include 100s of places to visit. Purchasing Duck Stamps is also an easy way to give back, even if you are not a hunter. 98% of all the funds from Duck Stamps go directly to conservation efforts.
Canada’s boreal forest and Mexico’s borderlands are a few of the important continental conservation areas of North America. Recognizing that animals travel and need protection throughout their ranges is critical to full-scale conservation. Of course, at this scale it is even more difficult to see your own contributions at work.
What we are doing: Supporting the Boreal Songbird Initiative.
Climate change is an important global concern and also an overwhelming situation. What we do daily seems to not have an impact on the globe, but it does in small ways.
Global conservation, while magnanimous at its heart is not the place to begin in conservation. Global works are important, but to the everyday person their efforts should begin at home and work outward. Never the other way around.
What we are doing: working on local conservation and trying to limit our resource usage.