Category Archives: Articles

Marian’s Wildlife Blog – June 2017

Joe-Pye Weed and Goldenrod by Marian Harman

While working in your yard this summer, you might want to identify the plants and determine if they are native or non-native species. Many non-native invasive plants are outcompeting our native plants with disastrous consequences for our native birds. Non-native honeysuckles are particularly problematic. National Wildlife Federation encourages us to remove them.

Fruit eating birds such as cardinals, catbirds and robins love their tasty red fruits, and spread their seeds far and wide. But these birds are generalists and can eat a wide variety of fruits. The result is that Asian honeysuckle covers huge swaths of land, smothering out our native plants. Honeysuckle berries are not very nutritious, and worse, the plant itself hosts few beneficial insects. Without beneficial insects, birds have much less to feed growing nestlings. Warblers and chickadees, for instance rely on hundreds of caterpillars per day to feed themselves and their young.

Douglas Tallamy, Professor of Entomology at the University of Delaware, has found that the number and diversity of plant-eating insects drops dramatically when exotic plants invade. Caterpillars comprise 90 percent of warbler and chickadee diets during the breeding season. Tallamy states, “We are so used to hearing disastrous environmental news, and it often seems there is little that one person can do. But I’ve been going all over the country saying that you can do something. You can change the plants in your yard.  read more…

Birding Program at Miller School

Westford Conservation Trust founding member and Honorary Director Marian Harman recently presented her Feeder Watch birding program to all second graders at the Rita Miller Elementary School! Trust Directors Emily Edwards and Diane Duane were also present to donate three binoculars along with birding guides, bird feeder and feeding supplies. The observations will be recorded and sent to Marian for her Wildlife Watch column.

A huge thank you to Marian Harman for all her hard work and enthusiasm to help these budding citizen scientists!

Marian Harman presenting to Miller School 2nd graders

Marian’s Wildlife Blog – May 2017

If you are trying to tread lightly on the earth, and reduce your carbon footprint, one of the most effective steps you can take is to eliminate palm oil from your life. Palm oil is cheap to produce and is shelf-stable, so is the oil of choice for many companies.

Palm Warbler by Doug Pederson

But, palm oil production has resulted in the clearing of vast swaths of tropical forests. The Union of Concerned Scientists has been trying to get the word out that the clearing of tropical forests and the  establishment of monoculture palm oil plantations destroys critical habitat for many endangered animals and birds. To produce palm oil for our processed foods and body care products, huge areas of forest are cut down and the peat land swamps are drained. UCS states, “Destruction of these ecosystems devastates endangered species habitats and contributes to climate change by releasing global warming emissions into the atmosphere….Tropical deforestation…accounts for about ten percent of annual carbon dioxide emissions”. Not only is palm oil production bad for our climate and animal habitat, palm oil is bad for us. It is mostly saturated fat, a food we should avoid for heart health.  read more…

 

Marian’s Wildlife Blog

To eat a healthy diet, you need to eat organic. That is the message from the Cornucopia Institute (www://cornucopia.org). But the consumer needs to be careful, because not everything labeled “organic” is truly healthy or humane. The Cornucopia Institute is a non-profit, based in Wisconsin, which does research and investigation into agricultural and food issues. It provides information to family farmers and consumers. The website states, “We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community-partnered with consumers-backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.”

Cornucopia provides the consumer with ratings of organic foods, ranging from dairy products and eggs, to protein bars and soy-based foods. I try to eat organic whenever possible, but I was surprised when I found that some of the organic products I buy are not recommended by Cornucopia.

Organic dairy products are given scores ranging from 0 to 5. Products receiving a 5-star “Outstanding” (or “5-Cow” rating) are local and organic. The only nearby local dairy on the list that has a 5-star rating, is New England Organic Creamery, the Shaw family farm in Dracut. Good for Warren Shaw! Four-cow ratings, “Excellent,” are earned by Organic Valley of Wisconsin and Stonyfield Farm, Vermont. These are widely available. BJ’s, Costco, and Wal-Mart store brands earned only a one-star rating (“Unknown” whether organic or humane). Zero-star ratings (“Ethically deficient”) were earned by Trader Joe’s, Hannaford’s Nature’s Place, Wild Harvest, Applegate Farms, Vermont Organics and Horizen .  read more…

Boston Rd Drew Parcel APR by Marian Harman

Hill Orchard by Marian Harman

Farmland is disappearing in Massachusetts. We are losing agricultural lands and farming opportunities at an alarming rate. To try to stem the tide of farmland loss, the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) established the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program in 1979. It was a first-in-the-nation model for many other states. The MDAR website states, “the primary purpose of the APR program is to preserve and protect agricultural land, including designated farmland soils, which are a finite natural resource, from being built upon for non-agricultural purposes or used for any activity detrimental to agriculture, and to maintain APR land values at a level that can be supported by the land’s agricultural uses and potential.”

The APR program works by paying farmers the difference between the full market value of their land and the agricultural value of the land. In that way, the landowner retains ownership of the land, but cannot sell the land for anything but agriculture. The program has worked well. It has protected 800 farms and 68,000 acres in Massachusetts.

Westford has followed the State trend. The 2006 Master Plan states, “From 1985 and 1999, Westford experienced the second greatest loss of agricultural land of any town in Massachusetts.”     read more…