Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has been hosting habitat restoration projects over the last 27 years to restore and enhance wildlife habitat. Many of the past and present projects are included in Habitat Restoration in the Community, and a recap of several ongoing recent projects is described below.
While we see an array of blooms from spring to fall while driving around Loudoun County, not all of those blooms have benefits for wildlife. Some are even detrimental. In spring the white blossoms of Bradford pear trees offer very little value for wildlife and outcompete native trees that can support hundreds of pollinator caterpillars and birds. The purple flowers of the Paulownia trees or Japanese wisteria vines that draw attention in late spring also have little ecological value. In summer some unmowed medians and roadsides intended for pollinator habitat may be covered in Chinese bush clover and teasel that are displacing natives like asters, goldenrod, and Common Milkweed. In winter the green vines of invasive English ivy can easily be seen wrapping and killing trees. A movement is underway by volunteers across the county to eradicate those non-natives and replace them with native plants. The importance of native plants to support insects, wildlife and people cannot be understated. Native trees are essential not only for helping to purify our air and giving food and shelter to wildlife, but they also help in our efforts to slow habitat deforestation and climate change.
Over the last few years, Loudoun Wildlife has partnered with the Willowsford Conservancy to increase riparian buffers in the Broad Run watershed. Last October 25 volunteers planted 300 trees to expand a riparian buffer along Broad Run to improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat. Those trees are thriving with a very low percentage of loss after the first year. This fall on October 8, we will be partnering with the Willowsford Conservancy again to plant 300 or more trees to expand a riparian buffer in the Bull Run watershed. These projects are made possible through the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. Money for this fund is provided from the purchase of Friend of the Chesapeake Bay license plates – $15 is contributed for each plate sold! The Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund supports environmental education and habitat restoration projects for the Bay and its tributaries.
Grass Roots Efforts
Two active restoration efforts also began with nature lovers identifying a need and calling on volunteers to support a project.
The Ball’s Bluff Garlic Mustard Pull project brought volunteers together to remove invasive garlic mustard in March and April of 2021. March 2022 Garlic Mustard removal continued with additional members from the Virginia Master Naturalists Banshee Reeks chapter. Garlic Mustard was beginning to overtake the beautiful spring ephemeral flowers found along the banks of the Potomac River at Ball’s Bluff. By the end of spring, instead of Garlic Mustard, the main focus of the forest floor was now Virginia Bluebells, Trout Lily, Bloodroot and so much more!
The Harrison Street Pollinator Meadow was established in 2018 by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers and members including Virginia Master Naturalists in collaboration with NOVA Parks and other partners along the W&OD trail near downtown Leesburg. In 2020 the Leesburg Garden Club awarded a grant to install interpretive panels to educate the public about the benefits of native plants and their value for pollinators and wildlife. We are continuing to call on volunteers to keep the non-native invasive species in the pollinator meadow at bay to allow the planted native species to thrive. Our efforts are helping ensure the native species succeed to benefit bees, butterflies, and pollinators by providing food, shelter and host plants.
Greening Your Neighborhood
We are continuing to share stories from our local community of habitat restoration projects in Northern Virginia HOAs. Greening Your Neighborhood projects began in 2019, and this work is made possible through a grant that the Audubon Naturalist Society was awarded to improve habitat in Loudoun HOAs. We were excited to coordinate and promote the project with interested HOA landscape committees, so they could learn how to get buy-in from their boards of directors, educate their community, remove non-natives and plant natives! Big changes are happening with the assistance of additional grants from Microsoft ChangeX and working alongside our partners at Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District. This collaborative project is a great success story for our community.