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NANTUCKET ISLAND, MASSACHUSETTS— A Piping plover scurries along the beach towards its nest.  He switches place with his partner who returns to a dead seal to eat flies.  The nest is surrounded by an exclosure of wire and netting designed to reduce predation on the threatened shorebird’s nests.  The wire mesh is wide enough for plovers to enter, but too narrow for predators such as the Norway rat or feral cat.

The predator exclosure is not only a tool to reduce predation, but also is a symbol of stewardship.  The exclosure shows that we care about our heritage and what is rare, unique, grand, ancient, scenic, historical, or beneficial to humans.

Research by Lloyd Raleigh and others shows that exclosures are effective on Trustees of Reservations managed barrier beaches on the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, decreasing predation significantly compared to nests without exclosures.  In addition to exclosures, beach closures, fencing, signs, and educational materials help minimize human disturbances to the nesting birds.  Raleigh also contacted a local humane organization, Cat Trap Inc., to safely and humanely address the issue of predatory feral cats.

“Stewardship means different things to different people, but the one thing most people can agree on is that stewardship implies a harmonic and active relationship between humans and their environment,”  says Raleigh.

Human structures are an important part of stewardship, as they can link us to our environment and provide space for shelter, community gatherings, education, storage, and more.

In the News:

Pulitzer-prize winning author Geraldine Brooks follows Lloyd Raleigh into the field as he inventories, assesses, and monitors conservation easements and fee owned land for the Vineyard Conservation Society on Martha’s Vineyard.

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Author and former The New York Times Science Editor Cornelia Dean joins Lloyd Raleigh in a sandplain heathland before a prescribed burn with partner The Nature Conservancy.  In this heathland, Raleigh monitors vegetation structure and composition, breeding bird diversity, soils, and rare species.  Monitoring to ensure that habitat objectives are being met is an important part of stewardship.

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