Stewardship in Action

Conservation doesn't end once the land is protected.  Active land management - or stewardship - ensures that preserved lands remain healthy and vital for future generations. WLT's Stewardship Team works year-round to care for our portfolio of 29 preserves.  These ongoing efforts include: clearing and marking trails, mowing meadows and parking areas, removing invasive plants and re-planting with native species, thinning trees to enhance wildlife habitat, conducting biological inventories, repairing and constructing fencing, and much more. 

Here are some of our current stewardship projects - all of which have been made possible through the support of foundations and grants, the generosity of WLT's donors, and the tireless commitment of our volunteers.

Forest Restoration at Otter Creek Preserve

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Judith A. Enck, EPA Region 2 Administrator & WLT President, Lori Ensinger, November 2016

Otter Creek Preserve boasts several important habitats that are crucial for healthy wildlife populations and a healthy Long Island Sound. In 2017, thanks to a major grant award from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund (LISFF)—WLT will continue to restore the coastal forest at Otter Creek.

The 35-acre Preserve safeguards a tidal marsh and a coastal forest along the Long Island Sound, intercepting and cleaning the water flowing directly into the Sound.  However, encroachment from invasive trees, shrubs and vines has degraded the health of the forest and compromised its critical role in both flood mitigation and water filtration. Also at risk is the forest’s ability to support over 100 species of nesting and migratory birds.

Following the improvements made in 2015 and 2016 with support from the Westchester Community Foundation, WLT will continue to remove non-native trees, shrubs and vines at the Preserve. We will replant these areas with native species selected to create a more diverse forest ecosystem, and provide local wildlife with appropriate shelter and food throughout the year. The LISFF grant will also support expanded outreach and educational programming at Otter Creek so that school groups and other local organizations can learn more about the value of the Preserve within the context of the greater Long Island Sound ecosystem.

Community work days will be offered throughout the year to assist in the completion of this work. Tasks will include invasive plant removal, fence construction, and the planting of native species. If you would like to help out or learn more about this exciting project, please contact Director of Stewardship, Tate Bushell

Preserve Enhancement at Otter Creek Preserve

Otter Creek Preserve Enhancement Initiative Volunteers

Since taking ownership of Otter Creek Preserve in the spring of 2015, WLT has been actively working to improve visitor access and increase engagement. Thanks in part to a grant from the Westchester Community Foundation (WCF) WLT staff and volunteers have successfully cleared key sections of the trail, removed invasive vines, and pruned storm-damaged trees.  The entrance along Taylors Lane was enhanced with dozens of native plants as well as a refurbished kiosk. In addition, WCF funds helped to underwrite the installation of interpretive signage at three scenic locations - the Osprey Tower overlook, vernal pool, and the marsh. These educational displays were created to build awareness about the ecology of Otter Creek with a broad audience. Westchester County recognized the success of our work with a 2015 Soil and Water Conservation Achievement Award.

Forest Health Initiative at WWW/ZFP

WWW/ZFP Habitat Enhancement & Forest Health Initiative

Since late 2013, WLT has been engaged in a major project at the Westchester Wilderness Walk/Zofnass Family Preserve (WWW/ZFP) in Pound Ridge, thanks to a generous grant from Renee Ring and Paul Zofnass. The Preserve consists of more than 150 acres and trails that provide a hiker with the opportunity to walk nearly 10 miles. WWW/ZFP is an “Ambassador Preserve” for our organization – i.e., a landscape that because of its unique and welcoming environment, better connects the public to the land, motivates their involvement and inspires their commitment. Thanks to the work of scientists and interns from the New York Botanical Garden involved in an ongoing cataloguing of the plant species found within the preserve, and an ongoing partnership with the Invasives Species Strike Force of the New York – New Jersey Trails Conference, two key areas were identified as sites for an enhancement project – one at the Southern Loop/Western Loop and the other at the Eastern Loop, West Side. Both areas were selected because they support a rich diversity of plant species under severe pressure from grazing by deer and competition from invasive plants, as well as because of their proximity to a main trail.

The project includes:

  • Installing two deer exclosures (each roughly an acre)
  • The removal of invasive shrubs in each exclosure
  • An inventory of all plants within the study area. This work was done by 2014 summer intern, Kristen Gamboa.
  • Capturing ‘baseline’ conditions through photographs and a 3-D photosynth
  • The planting of native shrubs and wildflowers
  • We will periodically inventory plants in the exclosures to track expected changes. We predict seeing many more wildflowers, shrubs and saplings growing safely in the exclosures.

By keeping deer out of these sites, WLT will demonstrate just how much white-tail deer shape our forests. While experiencing the WWW/ZFP, visitors are encouraged to stop by the deer exclosures and look through the fence. Over time, there will be lots to see! Similar deer exclosures can be seen at the Mianus River Gorge, Teatown Lake Reservation and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

Habitat Enhancement at Frederick P. Rose Preserve

Frederick P. Rose Preserve Habitat Enhancement Initiative

Located in Waccabuc, the Frederick P. Rose Preserve is another “Ambassador Preserve” for our organization. WLT embarked on two major projects at the Frederick P. Rose Preserve during the summer of 2014 thanks to generous grants from Sandra Priest Rose, as well as Adam R. Rose and Peter R. McQuillan. The first project included the creation of a Watershed Forest Management Plan conducted by Jim Nordgren at JN Land Trust Services which focused on inventorying the ecological communities at the Preserve and making recommendations for their thoughtful management, with an emphasis on biodiversity and water quality. The second project was conducted by WLT’s Plant Ecology intern, Kristen Gamboa, who identified invasive plants such as burning bush, Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, and stilt grass in key management areas of the Frederick P. Rose Preserve and planned for their removal. Invasive plants are universally recognized as a challenge to the management of biodiversity – they crowd out other plant life and put extreme pressure on native plants and animals. During her study, Ms. Gamboa cataloged 34 unique areas within the Frederick P. Rose Preserve as “hotspots” of invasive plants.

These two projects informed the Frederick P. Rose Preserve Habitat Enhancement Initiative, which will:

  • Restore the 1 ½ acre Blueberry Orchard just north of the Brady Farm Trail, home to more than 50 large highbush blueberry plants, as well as many other native shrubs. This shrubland represents a declining habitat across the northeast that is needed for ‘shrubland birds’ and the New England Cottontail.
  • Maintain the preserve’s 2-acre meadow as a habitat for pollinating insects and meadow birds. Open meadows are also declining in our area.
  • Reclaim the Brady Farm Trail by removing 200’ of encroaching invasive shrubs (Japanese barberry and multiflora rose). This work will allow preserve visitors to better enjoy the trail.

This work is currently underway and will take place through 2015. Both the blueberry orchard and the meadow are located on or near the Frederick P. Rose Preserve’s southern most trail and are among its highlights – preserve visitors will want to see them. Visitors to the blueberry orchard in August will be rewarded by a handful of plump blueberries.

‘Trees for Tribs’ at Hunter Brook Preserve

Hunter Brook Preserve – Trees for Tribs

In collaboration with the Watershed Agricultural Council, WLT launched a riparian planting project at the Hunter Brook Preserve in Yorktown in 2012. To date, more than 100 trees and shrubs were planted along 4-acres of the brook’s floodplain in an effort to stabilize the floodplain, mitigate storm and flood damage, improve water quality, and enhance the overall habitat. We chose trees and shrubs that typically live on floodplains (for example, sycamore, willows, river birch) that are expected to thrive in the wet, sandy soil of the Hunter Brook.

Westchester County recently recognized WLT’s enhancement work at the Hunter Brook Preserve with a Soil and Water Conservation Achievement Award. These awards recognize activities and projects in the County that best promote the conservation, management and restoration of soil and water resources.

Native Plant Restoration at Leon Levy Preserve

Leon Levy Preserve Invasive Plant Removal & Native Plant Restoration Project

Thanks to a grant from the Jerome Levy Foundation, WLT launched this project in 2015 at the 370-acre Leon Levy Preserve located on Routes 35 at 123 in South Salem. The Town of Lewisboro owns the Preserve while WLT holds the conservation easement which ensures its permanent preservation. The goal of this multi-phase project is to restore the native flora by removing invasive plant species that have taken a foothold.

Native ecosystems provide better air purification, water retention, erosion control, and climate regulation than ecosystems where invasive species have taken over. Additionally, local wildlife is better adapted to and thrive off of native plant species. This project will encourage biodiversity through the regeneration of native plant species, which in turn will welcome more butterflies, flowers and birds to the habitat, creating a more enjoyable experience for visitors to the Preserve.

During this first phase of the project, invasive plants such as Japanese Barberry, Burning Bush, Tree of Heaven, and Norway Maples will be removed from a 4-acre area around the main entrance, White Trail and Black Mansion area. These invasive species are shading indigenous tree saplings and smaller shrubs preventing them from growing. During future phases of this project, native species will be reintroduced and young seedlings and saplings will be protected from deer browse by netting, tubing and wire caging, ensuring that nature encourages the right native plants to grow in just the right areas.