On the QT | The Official Newsletter of GWA August-September 2016 | Page 12



Gardens as wildlife corridors – part 2 , rural
Part 1 of this article appeared in the June-July 2016 issue of On the QT and explored creating wildlife corridors in urban areas .
Agriculture and National Resources Conservation Service regulations have encouraged farmers to install wildlife corridors .
Road crossings are especially lethal for wildlife and require a means of directing wildlife traffic through a constructed , safe passage .
“ But the family farms are not mom-and-pop operations any more . That often means they don ’ t have the personal connection to the landscape ,” said Clark . As a result , corridors can be a harder sell to those who focus primarily on balance sheets . “ Depending on how it ’ s designed , a corridor can make their farming practices more difficult , and it affects their bottom line .”
Also , most corridors need to be maintained . “ Virtually any herbaceous corridor you establish in the Midwest will be invaded by trees fairly quickly and can lose its functionality ,” Clark said . “ And the subtle benefits , such as nutrient filtration change dramatically , too , not just what kind of birds fly along and nest there .”
Maintenance requires time , effort and inputs , all of which add costs . In addition , there is sometimes a negative dollar impact from the wildlife itself . “ I ’ d estimate we lose $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 a year to deer ,” said Brennan Starkey , who farms 1,400 acres on Maryland ’ s Eastern Shore .
The process of creating and maintaining effective wildlife corridors , especially rural corridors , obviously varies widely by region . A luxury habitat for the indigenous wildlife of Arizona would be starvation rations and skid row digs for the native wildlife of New Hampshire or Oregon . Wildlife corridors in Florida bear little resemblance to those in California .
“ Corridors vary according to landscape ,” said William Clark , professor emeritus of the Department of Ecology , Evolution and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University in Ames , and an expert in population ecology . “ What amounts to perennial habitat in an annually row-cropped landscape is different from the scale of corridors
of grizzlies in the West or even bears in the suburban East .”
Regardless of where they are , wildlife corridors planted with a diversity of native flora must be designed to provide food , clean water , cover and a place to raise young . Each is an effort to help maintain or restore wildlife diversity , and in some cases , even pull individual species back from the brink of extinction .
Human endeavors have decimated what was once a richly endowed natural home for wildlife on this continent . For example , the prairie smorgasbord has been industrially plowed and planted with acres of three main crops : corn , soybeans and wheat . This monoculture has endangered pollinator populations , mammals and — thanks to runoff laced with pesticides , herbicides and fertilizers — fresh water fish . To slow this destruction , the U . S . Department of
Wolves and coyotes can prey on livestock . Opossums eat eggs and sometimes chickens , as do foxes , weasels and raptors . “ I ’ ve had lots of negative encounters ,” said Barbara Starkey , Brennan ’ s mother , who has raised cattle and sheep on the family farm . “ And , there are things I don ’ t like about some of our encounters , but I still think having corridors is a good idea .”
In a kind of carrot-and-stick approach , regulations coupled with conservation programs can help mitigate some of the financial costs of relinquishing a portion of farm or grazing land to corridors . Conservation easements provide payment to the landowner . In exchange , they permanently limit the kinds of uses the land may be put to , yet do not inhibit the sale of the property or the ability to pass it on to heirs .
Pam Chrisman , owner of Fish Creek Flying W Ranches in Pinedale , Wyoming , put a portion