“Dirt Don’t Hurt”, unless you are talking about sediment. Sediment is made up of loose particles of clay, silt or sand that have been eroded from the soil. Once eroded, they become free flowing in air or water and eventually settle onto land, stream bottoms or lake beds. Sediment is among the most abundant types of non-point source pollution. It is estimated that over 4.5 billion tons of sediment pollute the rivers of the country each year. That is the equivalent of 25,000 football fields, 100 feet deep!
Hopefully most people are aware of the dangers of pouring oil, pesticides and other products into our storm drains or dumping them into our rivers. Now that leaf raking season is fast approaching, remember storm drains and rivers are no place for leaves either.
When selecting plants for your yard, consider natives first! What better way to create beauty and wildlife habitat, along with contributing to Michigan’s natural heritage, than by planting native wildflowers on your property.
Whether you are planting a small area in your yard or landscaping a workplace, Michigan native plant species are a wise choice. Native species are not only adapted to Michigan’s soils and climate, they are more easily maintained and cost less than traditional landscapes. Once established, native species require little to no maintenance such as irrigation or fertilization, and in the case of a prairie, no weekly mowing! Native plants can enhance the attractiveness of your landscape, help control erosion, and furnish food and cover for wildlife.
What do you do with your leftover and expired food? Would you dump it in a pile in your front yard to feed the wildlife? Most people would not pile food in their yard however; many people seem to think it is ok to drop off their unwanted food in parks. They justify it by saying they are feeding the ducks. In reality, they are doing the ducks more harm than good even if this result is unintentional.
Feeding the wildlife in community parks and other urban areas is a tradition that has remained prevalent for generations of people who frequent these areas. For many, it’s a way to connect with nature, bond with family, or just spend some leisure time. It can seem so hard to resist ducks begging for attention, and it would seem that providing food for them would make them healthy and happy, but it doesn’t.
How do you enjoy your woods? Are you a bird watcher or a hunter? Do you harvest the berries, mushrooms, or timber that it produces? Maybe you just enjoy the natural beauty of trees. Like your yard and garden, your woods need to be cared for so that they meet your needs and wants. Forests change over time. As trees and plants grow and die, other plants will grow in their place. Wildlife will change too, as their food and habitat changes. You can create and maintain a woodlot that you will enjoy by removing plants that you don’t want, planting ones that you do want, managing insects and disease, and harvesting products.
Do you have a livestock watering tank or trough on your farm? Many watering facilities have not been designed with wildlife in mind. Although they are used to provide water to livestock, they can double as vital water sources for bats, birds and other wildlife. Considering the needs of wildlife in the installation of livestock water facilities is not only the right thing to do, but it will result in cleaner water for livestock and less maintenance for the producer. You can maximize the quality of water for your livestock and provide a safe water source for wildlife by making a few easy changes.
Bats get a bad rap. These crop and farm-friendly creatures consume enormous amounts of insects daily. They eat the beetles, moths and leafhoppers that cost landowners billions of dollars in damages each year. Some bats can maneuver like helicopters to pluck insects from foliage, while others fly 10,000 feet high and dive like jets.
Everything you do, or don’t do, on your land has an effect on the wildlife you share it with and the fish in the streams and rivers. Just letting plants grow taller, rather than clipping them close to the ground, creates more cover for wildlife. Or letting a few plants grow taller results in more insects for young birds.
If you think about leaving food or cover for wildlife and fish as you manage your land, you’re on your way to doing the little things that can add up to having a major impact. Here are some suggestions along the way:
To improve your land for fish and wildlife, you must first think of the food, water, cover and space needs of the wildlife you want to attract throughout the year. Then begin to establish plants, water sources, and other practices that fit those needs. The Shiawassee Conservation District and Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to landowners in planning for wildlife habitat on their lands.