Late spring at EcoVillage.
The following is excerpted from a report prepared by Dana Malone, State Forester, Loudoun County, Virginia, after field investigation of the property:
"[The EcoVillage of Loudoun County, Virginia site] provides excellent habitat for a broad spectrum of wildlife such as Whitetail Deer, Wild Turkey, Grey Squirrel, Rabbit, Raccoon, Opossum, Groundhog, Muskrat, Mink, Pheasant, Raptors and numerous songbirds. Available water, broad species diversity and variable stand [tree stand] density and size underscore this desirable habitat. [Species of hardwood trees present] include White Oak, Black Oak, Chestnut Oak, Northern Red Oak, Shingle Oak, Scarlet Oak, Hickory, White Ash, Black Walnut, Red Elm, Black Gum, Black Cherry, Persimmon, Sassafras, Yellow Poplar, Ailanthus, Box Elder, Black Locust, Eastern Red Cedar, Hornbeam, [Serviceberry] Sycamore, Hackberry and Dogwood. [Species of evergreens present include Eastern Hemlock, Loblolly Pine, Virginia Cedar, White Pine and Aroborvitae]."
Soil type is Brandywine. These soils are considered to be fair to good agricultural soils, although Brandywine soils are somewhat highly erodible. Runoff and internal drainage are moderate to rapid. The soils retain added plant nutrients fairly well and are above average in fertility.
The northeastern portion [of the EcoVillage of Loudoun County, VA site] has outstanding potential for both recreation and aesthetic development. A creek, open understory, large diameter trees and scenic geological formations give this parcel great potential to be developed recreationally.
Spring fed streams wind their way through the property.
Craig Tufts, Chief Naturalist of the National Wildlife Federation, has guided bird walks on the property. Birds identified on his tours as well as other reported sitings include: Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Mallard, Red Tail Hawk, Screech Owl, Barred Owl, American Kestrel, Sharp Shinned Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Downey Woodpecker, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Common Flicker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Peewee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, White Breasted Nuthatch, American Crow, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Red-Winged Blackbird, European Starling, Blue Jay, House Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White Throated Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Mockingbird, American Robin Wood Thrush and Barn Swallow, Morning Dove, Killdeer, Northern Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, Bob White, Woodcock, Indigo Bunting, American Goldfinch and Eastern Bluebird.
Additionally, other plants, animals and insects have been sited such as the American Toad, Green Frog, Eastern Box Turtle, Snapping Turtle and various Salamanders. Plants include Watercress, Mullein, Thistle, Honeysuckle, Wineberry, Raspberry, Grape, Poison Ivy, Fescue, Hay, St. John's Wort, Heath Aster and Dandelion, Clover and Yarrow. Insects include Praying Mantis, Honey Bees, Carpenter Bees, Lacewings, Ladybugs, Paperwasps, Ticks, Ground Beetles, Dragonflies and Gypsy Moths.
The community is very grateful to volunteers Andy Johnston (naturalist), Anne Kottman (environmental intern), Doug Boucher (Professor of Ecology at Hood College, Frederick, MD), Carl Hahn (horticulturist), Wendy Bratzel (land planner) and Charlie Klein (landscape architect) for assisting in flora and fauna identification and enhancement strategies.
Environmental impact assessment: How will human impact on the environment be measured?
One of the major concerns facing EcoVillage of Loudoun County, VA is the environmental impact of this more benign human habitat. Are we really able to make a difference environmentally?
What targets should we set for ourselves and how do we measure our ability to meet these targets? How does this subdivision's impact compare with the impact of the farming that has gone on before?
In order to answer these questions, a team of Future Residents, volunteers and student interns have established over 20 experimental sites strategically scattered around the 180 acres. In particular, Randy Williams, Doug Boucher, Anne Kotmann and Andy Johnston are to thank for this initiative. Various measurements are taken at each site over time, including water quality, soil quality, erosion levels, flora present, fauna sitings, etc. Volunteers are needed to help collect the data that will be used for environmental baselining and ongoing monitoring of environmental impacts.
In keeping with its commitment to environmentally friendly approaches to the use of the land, EcoVillage of Loudoun County, VA has made a commitment to maintain organic standards for the entire property in its forest, farming, gardening and landscaping practices. Conservation and sustainability are a primary focus of EcoVillage. State-of-the-art techniques that will conserve and replenish topsoil and minimize the use of water for irrigation will be researched and implemented. In addition, EcoVillage has worked closely with conservation and ecological experts to develop a reforestation plan for large segments of the property.
We are told by environmentalists that the site, if it were in its natural state, would be fully forested, as would virtually all of the land in our bioregion (the Piedmont). If we were to do absolutely nothing to the land, it would become fully forested once more, without any further human intervention.
The old barn and meadow area.
The ecological benefits of the forest are numerous. According to the United Stated Department of Agriculture and the United States Forest Service, there are many compelling reasons to prioritize forests. These include:
- Trees store carbon and clean the atmosphere. In 50 years, one tree generates $30,000 in oxygen, recycles $35,000 of water and removes $60,000 of air pollution.
- Trees prevent or reduce soil erosion.
- Trees prevent or reduce water pollution.
- Trees help recharge ground water and sustain stream flow.
- Properly placed screens of trees and shrubs decrease traffic noise along busy streets and highways.
- Trees screen unsightly views and provide privacy.
- Trees make life more pleasant by softening harsh outlines of buildings.
- Properly managed forests provide a sustained supply of lumber, plywood and other wood products.
- Tree shade reduces air conditioning costs in residential and commercial buildings by 15 to 50 percent, thereby reducing the need for additional dams, power plants, and nuclear generators.
- Trees that form windbreaks can shield homes against wind and snow, reducing heating costs as much as 30 percent.
- With trees to offer shade, sweltering streets and parking lots cool off a bit. (Cities are "heat islands," 5 to 9 degrees warmer than surrounding areas.)
- Properly placed and cared for, trees and shrubs significantly increase residential and commercial property values.
- Crop yields of fields with windbreaks are significantly higher than those without windbreaks.
- Farmstead [farmbuilding and house] windbreaks reduce cooling and heating utility bills, trap snow, reduce wind, provide wildlife habitat and simply look good.
- Trees provide nutmeats (walnuts, pecans, hickory), fruit (plums, peaches, apples, pears), berries for jams and jellies and sap for maple syrup.
- Tree shelters for livestock can reduce weight losses during cold winter months and provide shade for moderating heat stress in summer.
- Trees can act as living snow fences, if strategically placed, which hold snow away from roads, reducing maintenance costs.
- Trees add beauty and grace to any community setting. They make life more enjoyable, peaceful and relaxing.
- Tropical forests offer great healing value. One of every four pharmaceutical products used in the U.S. comes from tropical forest plants.
- Native trees in the U.S. yield substances used for pharmaceutical and other medical purposes. Taxol, a substance from yew trees, shows promise for treating certain kinds of cancer.
- Trees provide a multitude of recreation opportunities.
- Trees provide habitat for a large variety of wildlife.
- Trees along rivers, streams and lakes reduce water temperature and prevent or reduce bank erosion and silt. Their roots provide hiding places for fish.
- Trees add brilliant colors to fall landscapes and, following the dropping of the leaves, provide excellent garden mulch.
- Research shows that trees help reduce stress in the workplace and speed hospital patients' recovery.
- Police officers believe that trees and landscaping can instill community pride and help cool tempers that sometimes erupt during long, hot summers.
- Trees connect us with nature and reinforce spiritual and cultural values.
- Trees, planted as memorials, leave a valuable gift for future generations.
- Many people plant and care for trees because they enjoy watching them grow.
Over 11,000 trees were planted by residents, volunteers and machine planting contractors. This reforestation planting included a variety of hardwoods, white pines and some cedar. Natural succession will be catalyzed by these deliberate plantings.