We all must protect our landscapes

Monarch butterflies
A monarch butterfly feasts on Joe-Pye weed. Native to Ohio, Joe-Pye weed is one of the prairie plants recommended for monarch way stations. The nectar gives them energy for breeding, as well as migration. (Nina Harfmann, Ohio Division of Wildlife, photo)

Pollinator habitat is at the forefront of our push for conservation on the landscape. We see more and more landowners putting in small plots of native wildflowers in their yards for bees and other pollinator species. 

The benefits of pollinator habitat are incredibly reaching as well; pollinators help push a $20 billion economy that surrounds fruits, vegetables and other crops that many of us grow or use. 

Without proper habitat to support the pollinator species, we could have significant losses on crops we are propagating. 

We know there is a direct correlation between plant diversity and how that translates to pollinator diversity, so if we lose plant diversity, we are not providing necessary plants for certain life stages of these pollinators. 

Changing landscape

If we were able to look through a lens and see what our landscape looked like before settlement, I think we would find vastly different plant communities. 

The bulk of our landscape now is mostly introduced cool-season grasses that we brought to North America for pastures and yards. We have propagated these types of grasses because they are easily manipulated to provide ample forage for grazing and hay production. 

We have native cool-season grasses though that historically covered the landscape, wild ryes, June grass and hair grass. 

These would be prolific until the warm season in Ohio, and then the warm-season grasses such as bluestems, switchgrass and Indiangrass would take over until we get back to a cooler season. 

Mixed in with these grasses were native forbs and wildflowers that made a mosaic of incredibly diverse plant communities. These areas supported an enormous amount of wildlife, from the smallest insect to the largest mammals that walked this continent. 

Our landscape is different now; we have many monocultural stands of plant communities, which are nothing more than a single plant species that sprawls over acres and acres, resulting in lack of diversity. 


This leads me to many important questions that we need to ask ourselves: 

  • Is what we have done to manipulate the landscape actually beneficial to us? 
  • If we lose pollinator diversity and have issues with crops pollinating, are we setting up ourselves for disaster? 
  • Are some of the declines in wildlife due to monocultures we have created? 
  • What can we do to help? 

Culturally we have certain things that will never change, and in the name of progress, we do things that we feel will benefit us. 

We collectively need to address some of these questions and come up with solutions that are going to take us into the future. 

Our wild places are becoming smaller and smaller with the ever-increasing population. Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes; nothing is too small and nothing is too big. 

Whatever you have to offer to increase native plant diversity on your land is worth its weight in gold. Resources abound in every county in the state, between NRCS, SWCDs, as well as state agencies and private entities. 

This is not an overnight fix; it has taken us years to get to the point we are at now and will take us years to get back. 

This may seem like a rant to some, but this has been on my mind a lot lately. I want my kids to see and enjoy native landscapes and the wildlife that use them, just as I have. 

All of us have a part in this, for future generations and for the current generation. We have one world and no more land is being made.


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Billy Wilson is the Forestry/Wildlife Technician for the Harrison Soil and Water Conservation District. He grew up in rural Carroll County and attended Hocking College where he graduated with an Associates of Applied Science in Wildlife Resources Management. During his time at Hocking he worked with Wayne National Forest in their Invasive Species Program as an Intern, with the focus on Non-native invasive plant and tree species that are common to Ohio.



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