By: Bill Edwards, Kentucky Preserve Monitor
According to the TNC.org web site for the Kentucky Chapter, “Volunteering at a Nature Conservancy of Kentucky Preserve gives you the opportunity to help protect critical habitat for plants and animals that are quickly disappearing. Preserve Monitors will gain valuable experience in the field and have the opportunity to increase leadership skills.”
Yada, yada, yada. All of this corporate verbiage may be true for some TNC Preserve Monitors, but it does not fully address why I applied to become a Preserve Monitor in the Spring of 2011. My primary motive was to find a nature-oriented organization that would allow me to voluntarily provide some meaningful conservation efforts, at my own pace, on my own schedule. I also wanted to be outdoors somewhere in Kentucky where I could vigorously pursue my long-term hobby of wildflower photography. Being a volunteer Preserve Monitor allows me to easily achieve both of these personal goals simultaneously.
On the TNC.org web site, there are written “position” descriptions outlining the basic responsibilities associated with becoming a Volunteer Preserve Monitor and a Volunteer Preserve Steward. In summary, being a Preserve Monitor requires one to periodically walk and report on the condition of the trails on a Preserve.
As the Preserve’s Monitor you are the “eyes and ears” of the oversight efforts to protect the Preserve from adverse factors such as trash dumping, ATV usage, and illegal logging activities. A Preserve Monitor merely reports on the conditions of a Preserve, and is discouraged from conducting any intervention or enforcement actions.
As a Preserve Steward, you are asked to take on the additional responsibilities of basic trail maintenance and occasional co-ordination with conservation groups or individuals who may visit your Preserve to conduct varied outdoor activities.
Some volunteer efforts may be more labor intensive, such as all-day invasive plant removals and structural trail maintenance on weekend projects. Other volunteer Steward efforts may consist of conducting ecological surveys while walking across the Preserves.
As either a Preserve Monitor or as a Steward, you will have the opportunity to achieve considerable personal satisfaction by successfully participating in as many conservation projects as you can, at your own pace, on your own schedule. The exceptional bonus accompanying these voluntary efforts is being immersed in the outdoor natural world, quietly observing nature and breathing the freshly scented air.
Presently, TNC has oversight responsibilities for more than 40 Preserves scattered across the Commonwealth from the Appalachian mountains in the East to the Mississippi bayou bottomlands in the West. Geographically in between, Preserves have been established to protect ecological communities such as cypress swamps, tall grass prairies, sandstone glades, limestone barrens, hemlock forests, and riverine cobble bars. Each distinctly different community has its own unique flora and fauna.
The bio-diversity on these 40+ Preserves is just as incredible as the geologically differing landscapes. You may have personal interests in amphibians, bats, birds, beetles, butterflies, crustaceans, fungi, mammals, mollusks, mosses, native trees, or wildflowers. All manner of species are waiting to be “discovered” as you walk the trails as a volunteer Preserve Monitor or a volunteer Preserve Steward.