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I spent a good part of this week arranging for the Town of Monson to finalize the purchase of 70 acres of land to be used for passive recreation. I worried about getting approvals from the Town and the State in order to complete the purchase before the June 30th grant deadline that I had. Fortunately, by the end of the week, everything was in place for the purchase to happen.

As a volunteer Conservation Commission member and volunteer Vice-President of the Opacum Land Trust I am able to help the Town of Monson protect open space. Open space provides places for people to take a walk in the woods, to appreciate the beauty of the forest and fields, to have a place of solitude to observe and photograph nature. It also provides habitat for our wildlife to thrive, protection for rare species, flood storage, and keeps our drinking water sources clean.

I am fortunate to be able to do these things and work for the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary which supports my volunteer activities. But each of us has our own private oasis. Our homes and yards can do some of the same things that public and private open space does. Each of us has the opportunity to provide habitat – food, water and shelter – for various species of wildlife and for ourselves. Some people have forested land that they manage for timber or for firewood. These might also be places where there are deer, forest interior birds like scarlet tanagers or a vernal pool full of salamanders and frogs. Some of us live in apartments where a planter of annuals might attract bees and butterflies, have a place to hang a bird feeder to see what birds may visit. Many of us have some amount of yard where we can plant trees, shrubs and flowers that might encourage wildlife to visit. No matter where you are – you can still create spaces for wildlife and for yourself to enjoy.

I often encourage readers to plant a tree or add some native plants to the garden. When you do that, you are adding to the protected open space in your community, in your neighborhood. Migrating birds and traveling mammals look for places to stop and rest on their way to these larger parcels of land. Planting native plants encourages them to stop and rest in your backyard. Softening that line between your lawn and the adjacent woods by allowing some weeds and wildflowers to grow can encourage more species of birds to visit your backyard. Those “weeds” might provide a place for caterpillars to munch away on their favorite foods without damaging your garden plants. It could encourage deer to come out of the woods and into the edge areas that they love so much. Creating a brush pile at the edge of your property is a simple way to create habitat for wildlife to visit.

Take some time this summer to visit a state park or a town forest, take some lessons from nature on how to make your own oasis more inviting to our natural neighbors. These places are perfect for all of us to enjoy.

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