Saving Ecosystems and Native Habitats: The Journey of Ecological Stewardship Volunteering

April 19, 2020
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Saving Ecosystems and Native Habitats: The Journey of Ecological Stewardship Volunteering


Born in 2011, the Trail Conference’s Ecological Stewardship program engages volunteers in the fight against invasive species. Controlling and ultimately eradicating these damaging pests and weeds is vital to protecting and restoring the natural habitats that surround our trails. Hundreds of outdoor lovers have volunteered with us in a variety ways to combat invasives. Volunteers Cliff Berchtold, Arden Blumenthal, and Elaine Silverstein spoke at the Volunteer Appreciation event about their roles in the Ecological Stewardship journey. Here’s how it all comes together:

The journey starts with our volunteer surveyors. They are the eyes on the trail, identifying where various invasive species are present throughout the region. The newest members of our team, conservation dogs Dia and Fagen, also detect invasive populations. They are quite literally the noses on the trail, using their incredible sense of smell to identify the presence of emerging invasive species difficult—or near impossible—for the human eye to spot.

This survey data then comes back to the office, where it’s put into our system by data-entry volunteers. This information translates to maps that are used to determine where our Invasives Strike Force (ISF) crews target their removal efforts each season.

ISF Crew volunteers then remove the invasives encroaching on native habitats. Bringing us full circle are the Habitat Helper volunteers, who plant and manage a large variety of native species to foster ecosystem diversity. You can see a fine example of their native habitat cultivation on the grounds of Trail Conference Headquarters.