Habitat Restoration

Norwalk River Watershed Association

The McKeon Farm Meadow Restoration and Pollinator Population Study Project & Toolkit

Beginning in 2020, NRWA teamed up with the Ridgefield Conservation Commission to work in close collaboration with landscape designer Evan Abramson, Principal of Landscape Interactions, to transform McKeon Farm in Ridgefield into a regional biodiversity hotspot for pollinator species. Abramson, Pollinator Systems Designer, worked with Ridgefield Conservation Commissioner and NRWA board member, Kitsey Snow, to design and install two pollinator meadows–an upland area and a wet meadow–created specifically to benefit rare and specialist pollintors from our region. These are the bees and butterflies that require certain plants to survive, plants that have in many cases become more and more rare in our landscape.  Baseline pollinator populations were counted by entomologists at Landscape Interactions before planting and counts will continue for two years after, in order to track any hoped for increases in pollinator diversity and population sizes. 

Gardeners, farmers, landscape designers, conservation organizations, and local governments all play a vital role in strengthening, expanding and enhancing regional biodiversity, ecological health, and climate change resilience. On conservation properties, residential landscapes, farms, roadsides, schools, and solar projects, functionally diverse native pollinator habitats can serve as building blocks for linking intact natural areas across a fragmented landscape.

But what to plant, when to mow, where to focus first and how to measure the results? Abramson of Landscape Interactions created a design, mowing plan, and overall strategy for McKeon farm that is now available here for everyone in our watershed to use. 

We thank the Anne S. Richardson Fund for supporting this project.

The Challenges in Our Region

Much of the “original habitat” of the Norwalk River Watershed has been altered or destroyed over the past 150 years. Population growth and attendant development, roads, dams, channelization, rip rap, sewer discharges, accidental spills, and nonpoint-source pollution from fertilizers, pesticides, road salt and sand, warming asphalt, and other impacts from human activities have led to the extensive loss and continuing incremental destruction of natural habitats and degradation of water quality. In addition, invasive plants and animal species (e.g., deer) are altering habitats and threatening biological diversity.

 

To slow this loss of habitat the Norwalk River Watershed Association, cooperating partners, and volunteers are working to implement and promote habitat restoration where possible. “Habitat restoration” means undoing the past, repairing the effects of pollution, and returning a habitat to a self-sustaining ecosystem. Restoration usually doesn’t focus on a single species but strives to replicate the original natural system. The goal is to help rebuild a healthy, functioning system that works much as it did before it was polluted or destroyed.

Restoration or mitigation activities range from the simple to the complex but typically entail some or all of the following measures:

  • Baseline assessments and performance standards, set by the state
  • Long-term monitoring and conservation plans,
  • The reconstruction of physical and hydrologic conditions through engineered activities, often involving heavy equipment,
  • The chemical cleanup of toxic substances, by state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
  • Revegetation of an area through native plantings or natural regrowth

Our watershed is lucky to have both long-term monitoring, carried out by Harbor Watch which publishes reports annually, and a Watershed Action Plan, overseen by the Norwalk River Watershed Initiative which guide our work. The role NRWA plays is through the removal of invasive plant species and revegetation of open space with native plants, especially along the banks of waterways. To get involved, check our events page for restoration projects.