Resolve to become a better steward of the land

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At the New Year, we are again filled with those daunting New Year’s resolutions.

I always hate when people ask me what my New Year’s resolution is, because I never seem to have one, and even when I did, I just seemed like I was setting myself up for failure.

Sure, we all want to lose that holiday weight we gained, we all want to exercise more, eat healthy, etc… but in reality, and in Ohio and in the middle of winter, that just never worked for me.

So needless to say, I don’t set unrealistic goals.

What I do encourage is setting a goal of doing something good for the environment, which in turn, is great mentally for me, and can be good exercise too.

Steward of the land

A term often used in conservation circles is being “good stewards” of the land. But some people may not even realize what that term means.

Simply, a steward is a person whose job is to manage or look after the land and property of another person.

“We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children” is an ancient Native American proverb that comes to mind when I think of who exactly that other person could be.

So whether or not you own land, we are all living on the same planet and should take care of these beautiful natural resources and creatures that inhabit our world.

Soil’s best friend

As an educator, I talk to young children about the importance of soils. They think it’s crazy at first when I tell them it takes 500 to 1,000 years to make an inch of soil, but after they learn that, they come to learn how important conserving it is.

That’s when I ask them if they know what soil’s best friend is?

After several funny guesses (worms, mud, sand, dirt, manure) I tell them what I think soil’s best friend is — roots. Yes, roots help hold soil in place.

Soils don’t discriminate either. They don’t care what is on top of the root, what plant, weed, tree, shrub, flower, grass, or crop is growing there, because whatever it is, also helps protect soil from wind erosion and rain and runoff.

In drought times, the plants and roots also act like a mulch and protect the soil from damaging, drying sun.

Farmers who use cover crops are protecting soil year around. Farmers who use no-till or minimum till methods know about preserving and protecting soil already, and anyone who uses mulch around their house already protects their flower beds and soils.

One thing that I hate to see is bare, unprotected soil. It leads to dirty streams and water, muddy messes and sometimes dust devils. So it’s important to protect it.

Resource resolutions

So how about making a New Year’s resolution for the environment? If you have always wanted to put a field into cover crops but didn’t know much about them, now is the time you can contact your Extension educator or visit your local conservation district to get some helpful ideas and start planning.

Another simple and great idea: Plant something. Trees are always great. With many SWCD’s having their tree seedling sales, you can order seedlings now for springtime.

Help the pollinators that are suffering and in decline. Plant some native flowers or trees.

If planting isn’t an option, then how about simply staking out a special lot of wildflowers and brush along with important milkweed (for the monarch butterfly) so it doesn’t get mowed or sprayed with chemicals?

Whether it’s a planting or putting up a bluebird box or a bat house, any little thing can make a difference. Big things like cover crops and riparian buffers also make a difference, so whatever your natural resource resolutions are, start planning now.

I guarantee you will have a smile on your face and a glowing satisfaction when your goal is achieved and you realize you have become a better steward of the land in 2015.

May you have a healthy and happy New Year!

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Kelly Riley has been the Education Specialist for the Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District since 2003. She earned her B.A. Degree in Education from the University of Akron and was previously a teacher with the Tri-County ESC. Kelly can be reached at (330)-262-2836 or by e-mail at kriley@wayneoh.org.

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