Supporting Healthy Ecosystems in Amherst
Open space in Amherst supports a range of ecosystems. Protecting these natural resources is a cause that a majority of NH residents support regardless of political orientation. To hunters, hikers, bikers, birders, wildlife watchers, anglers, and forest stewards the conservation ethic represents cross-cutting values we hold close. These values lead us to protect and build upon our conservation heritage not only for now but for future generations.
About 14 percent of Amherst is conserved, much of which is managed by the Amherst Conservation Commission (ACC).To maintain healthy ecosystems in these conserved areas, the ACC has developed and periodically updates management plans based on good environmental practices.
But keeping Amherst’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems healthy cannot be done by the ACC alone; it takes interested citizens to do their part: There are a lot of ways residents can help. Below are just three examples:
· Build a Pollinator Garden: From bees to bats and butterflies to beetles, pollinators play a pivotal role in our ecosystems. Bees are among our most important pollinators, supporting nearly one-third of our food supply and allowing wild plants to produce the foods that form the base of the natural food web. Incorporating native flowering species into your gardens and avoiding the use of pesticides can help to support these immensely important species. Consider planting milkweed, for example, to support monarch butterflies. By incorporating garden elements like native milkweed and other native wildflowers, gardeners can create beneficial pollinator habitat in their backyards.
· Fight water pollution: Often we are not aware that our own behavior can contribute to water pollution. Residential and agricultural fertilizers, for example, can contribute to excessive nutrients in our surface waters. If you use these products, please do not do so near wetlands, streams, ponds or lakes. And wherever you do use them, follow the application directions closely to minimize the amount that might find its way beyond the intended target. Runoff that reaches surface waters can cause algae blooms and eventually inhospitable conditions for fish and other aquatic life. Another way to help protect the environment is to avoid spills of oil, gas, solvents and other household chemicals, all of which can contaminate our waters. Dispose of used oil at the designated location at the dump. Finally, use the least amount possible of products for melting winter ice on sidewalks and steps – chlorides that find their way to water bodies will settle in ponds and lakes and will degrade their suitability for aquatic organisms.
· Save water at home: avoid flushing toilets unnecessarily, check for leaks, do not let water run when brushing teeth, shaving, or washing dishes, take shorter showers, mulch your garden, use a drip irrigation system, cut back on lawn watering and do not water in the heat of day, and mow your lawn at a higher-level setting. Conserving water in our aquifers affects both our natural environment and ensures we have water for human use when we need it!
For more information about these topics check out the links below:
This article is part of a series of articles that will focus on the activities of the ACC and the environmental issues it addresses in its work. The series is also an opportunity for others in the community to share their ideas about environmental and conservation matters. Guest contributions to the series are welcome. Please contact us to submit your proposed article to the ACC.