Guest Post by Clarence Washington
It’s easy to forget how valuable our natural resources are to daily living. But living near nature preserves provides a constant reminder of how we impact nature and offers convenient access to enjoy all the intangible benefits of wildlands at their finest. And luckily Alabama’s mild climate means you can enjoy the outdoors all year long.
Living near a nature preserve offers daily opportunities to see birds and wildlife in their natural habitat. Did you know that Alabama has 40 species of salamanders and 30 species of frogs and toads? Preserved spaces allow these unique amphibian populations, along with the many other animals who call them home, to thrive within their own environment. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists 128 endangered or threatened species of plants and animals in Alabama. But animal habitats on public and private lands are shrinking, so it’s essential to recognize and protect these dwindling spaces. Access to nature provides a constant reminder of the importance of protecting wildlife habitats so future generations can thrive.
Flora and Fauna
Fresh air, stunning native plants and flowers, scenic views, and serenity are all great reasons to enjoy a nature preserve near you. Heavily wooded areas are home to a variety of wildlife, including birds, chipmunks, squirrels, and a host of other small animals, all of which may visit your backyard from time to time. You can make your home friendlier to neighboring plants and animals, by making a few simple changes. Put out feeders for the birds or plant native grasses or plants in your yard. Plant Zoysiagrass or bahiagrass to keep the deer from grazing on your lawn. They much prefer the sedges and rushes they find in the preserve. Plant native flowers to attract rabbits, foxes, birds, and butterflies.
Living near parks and recreation areas can be inspiring and provide healthy exercise. Close proximity to nature may get you moving more often. Consider leaving the headphones at home and take a walk along a pond or stream. Listen to the sounds of chirping birds, whooshing water, and rustling high reeds and grasses. Breathe deeply and feel the rush of endorphins.
Exercise, peace and quiet, stress relief – they’re all benefits of being near nature preserves if you take advantage of them. suggest that women are 34% less likely to die from a respiratory illness if they live among greenery, and 13% less likely to die from cancer. Trees, shrubbery, and other plants help to absorb noise and air pollutants. Outdoor parks and gardens also encourage exercise and mental stimulation.
Starry, Starry Nights
Summer evenings are perfect for stargazing. However, light pollution can be a problem, but living near a nature preserve can reduce the glare from the big city in your backyard. If you want a clearer view to enjoy the night sky, these great stargazing locations in Alabama may be a bit further than your backyard, but still easy to get to:
- The Conecuh National Forest near Andalusia. Within the area, the Open Pond Recreation Area and nearby Nellie Pond are excellent places to watch for stars and meteor showers.
- Moundville Archaeological Park near Tuscaloosa closes at dusk, but you can camp there to watch the stars at night.
- Cheaha Mountain has an open field off the park’s main road where you can relax and stargaze. Drive west of Cheaha State Park on Alabama 281 to a pullover site where you can see the Milky Way in all its glory.
Whether you live next door, just down the street, or a few miles away, being close to nature is a plus for improving your health and understanding the needs of wildlife. Embrace planet Earth by respecting ecological balances and protecting their fragile habitats.
Find a Land Trust nature preserve at landtrustnal.org/explore.
Clarence Washington is a longtime landscaper sold on native plants and biodiversity. His backyard is a certified wildlife habitat.