Conservation and stewardship are distinctly different, yet they share a hand-in-hand symbiosis.
Traditionally, conservation has referred to acquisition -- such as the Allen’s blueberry lands atop Vienna Mountain. Stewardship is the long-term caretaking of acquisitions that considers why an asset was conserved. 7 Lakes typically conserves property to protect water quality, preserve habitat and/ or provide recreation.
“Stewardship is as important as acquisition,” 7 Lakes Land Steward Jonathan Milne explained. “I view it as part of the same process of acquiring land.”
Milne said conservation organizations must consider stewardship prior to acquisition to ensure they possess the wherewithal to care for acquired lands in perpetuity. If land was acquired to act as a buffer against erosion while also soaking up stormwater runoff, thus protecting water quality, caretaking is minimal.
If property is conserved for recreational purposes, such as hiking and biking, stewardship can be involved. Milne maintains trails with three priorities in mind:
Safety is always the chief concern. Milne in the summer added steps and fortified ropes on an especially steep stretch of Mount Philip, a popular hiking destination.
Ecology is secondarily important. Milne spent part of the summer installing water bars to divert and slow stormwater flows on French’s Mountain.
The experience also matters. When blazing a trail, Milne seeks routes with interesting or surprising vistas.
Vienna Mountain is a good example of a property conserved to preserve habitat – in this case, wild blueberry barrens. While preservation of habitat is often thought of in terms of wildlife, Milne noted a property could also be conserved to protect stands of old-growth trees from timber harvesting.