Shares reasons for adopting wild space

Rich Hanlon describes what he enjoys about adopting a wild space and encourages others to do the same.

Rich Hanlon has been taking care of a wild space in Wellsboro for four years and seeks others to join him.

“On Sunday morning I was at Woodland Park again, surrounded by an incredible diversity of singing birds and blooming wildflowers,” Hanlon said. “I’m glad that I decided to adopt this wild space four years ago. In adopting Woodland Park, I made a commitment with this place and to myself that I would take time to enjoy the sense of community that I’ve found here and that I would take simple steps to improve the quality of Woodland Park for native species.”

It’s been an experience getting to know the wildlife that lives in the park, both seasonal and year-round ones. He has spent time and energy to control the spread of invasive plants. While Hanlon has been unable to eradicate honesukle, multiflora rose, garlic mustard and nettles, he has controlled their spread allowing native plants like spring beauty, trout lily, blue cohosh, jack-in-the-pulpit and others to thrive.

“This in turn helps native species of insects and as a result, birds, too. I choose to think that every square foot of exotic invasive plants that I remove helps to create a square foot of space where ecologically beneficial native plants may grow,” Hanlon said.

“It is an important little patch … (because) it is home to a variety of mammals including squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits as well as a family of gray foxes during at least two out of the four years I’ve cared for it,” he said. “In addition, I’ve located 129 species of birds in my (roughly an acre) patch of adopted wild space and reported that information to a global database called eBird.org that is used for conservation science.”

Hanlon has also made an effort to remove trash from the space. Most of it, he said, seems to be smaller pieces of plastic and paper blown there on windy days, but some is intentional littering. He removed three bags of trash the first year, and one full bag each year after.

His experience has inspired him to organize the Adopt-a-Wild-Space program so that others can experience what he has while improving the quality of the environment for native species. Those who adopt a wild space of roughly an acre and participate in the program receive a monthly newsletter containing helpful information about native as well as exotic invasive plants, best management practices, and tips from local plant and wildlife experts.

To register for the Adopt-a Wild-Space program, send your name, mailing address, email and/or phone number, whether you prefer to receive the newsletter by mail or electronically, a description and photo of the wild space you want to adopt and a few ways you hope to improve the area to rhanlon@susumc.org or call 412-992-6648 with questions.