A primary initiative of our Land & Water Management Plans is to protect and enhance biodiversity – the variety of habitats and species supported by our nature preserves. While some cover types such as mature forest are self-sustaining and their habitat quality often improves with age, early successional habitats like grasslands, meadows, pastures, shrublands, and swamps require a disturbance to maintain a vegetative structure and composition of utmost ecological value. We share in the stewardship of swamps with beaver and the efficacy of their periodic flooding as well as the maintenance of pastures with foraging livestock, but for grasses and forbs to remain dominant in upland fields, woody plants and forest growth are suppressed by recurring cutting.
Steep Rock manages 25 different fields totaling 150 acres throughout our protected properties, and all but 5 are in preserves open to the public. A cyclic management approach and technique are carefully tailored to each based on site-specific traits, landscape position, biological community, populations of conservation concern, and the target habitat type.
When it comes to meadows, few are mown annually. Rather, most are cut once every two to three years, or half is disturbed one year and the other half the year following. This retains habitat complexity, offering nesting sites and cover for birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates as well as varied, available food resources.
We hope you enjoy experiencing these unique and lively environs during your next hike, especially with realization of the necessary investment in their stewardship.