Since February 2007, janeAnne Narrin of Eco-Stewards Realty in Asheville, NC has encouraged me to join the Active Rain network. janeAnne is a columnist for the New Life Journal, and we met to discuss an article on ecological home-site planning. I was leaving my job as botanist & wildlife biologist with an environmental company to re-form my former ecological consulting group - Mountains-to-Sea Conservation (MTS). After five years of self-employment in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains and then as Conservation Biologist for "wildlands conservation easements" (5000 to 20,000 acre easements!) in New England & Adirondacks for Sweet Water Trust of Boston, it was simply not my game to work under someone else.
Two months later, janeAnne finally said "Look - you're coming to my office for about two hours and we're going to get you on Active Rain. You need each other."
So what's an ecologist doing here? Simple - land is expensive, but the value of its living things and natural resources is priceless. That's where I come in- by helping new & longtime landowners (and both green and traditional developers) to discover, protect, and incorporate the plants, wildlife, and wild places on the land within new construction and development planning. These are often pitted as "opposites" - the "green movement" versus "growth and development", but they can go hand in hand with a little effort.
Since 1997, I've performed about 125 botanical & wildlife inventories, habitat restoration, woodland management, and stewardship projects (such as invasive plant removal, native plants landscaping, trail design & construction). These are on private and public land throughout the southeast, but primarily the mountains. I specialize in finding & protecting rare species, old growth forests, and other high quality natural resources and working WITH these resources. The ‘nature of the land' - if considered prior to any development - becomes the BASIS of land & home-site planning, not just a backdrop for a house.
Many inventories are for fully-protected conservation-easement lands with land trusts, however, I work with many "conservation developments" that subdivide small, clustered but very private homesite while setting aside large protected lands. Damage still occurs - don't be fooled. But while traditional developers cut sprawling roads & home sites onto the land with no knowledge or interest in rare species, ancient forests, historic homesteads or orchards, etc., - I find & map these features, helping turn them into ASSETS rather than unknown casualties. They then define home-sites and give a truer sense of place.
Combined with home-site location on suitable slopes, soil types, and previously impacted (clearcut, farmed, grazed, etc.) areas - and also avoiding key wildlife breeding times, rescuing and relocating native plants and soils both onsite (what I call "native landscape restoration") - and you have great examples of Eco-friendly housing. Speaking of landscape restoration - that's definitely another topic- so much has been lost that cannot be returned for example: the American Chestnut, the Carolina Parakeet, eastern Bison, wolves & cougars, the long-since drained swamp forests, canebrakes, bogs, and beaver ponds of the river valleys - lives and dynamics that aren't even a memory to the oldest among us.
There are worlds upon worlds of subtlety, creativity, and efficiency in nature that continually astound me, and they are worth of our notice & protection in our actions - and its not so hard to do that. Likewise - the process of carefully observing nature, and planning and designing with nature in mind is also amazing, and I hope to discuss it further with you in the future (when I'm not in the woods!)