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Education for conservation

Created date

January 31st, 2009

Shue THE ERICKSON TRIBUNE This winter, Riderwood became the only retirement community in the country designated as an official Corporate Lands for Learning site by the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC). ' The certification means that Riderwood will use its lush habitat to provide site-based conservation education experiences to students, scouting groups, and community members. Erickson Retirement Communities should be commended for achieving this certification and take great pride in knowing that they have made important contributions to conservation education, says Robert Johnson, WHC president. This valuable accreditation reflects Riderwood s commitment to environmental stewardship and outstanding environmental education and voluntary efforts, says Donna Mason, Riderwood s executive director. It s amazing to see how staff and residents work together to protect the natural resources, habitat, and native species of this region. Community of firsts This recent distinction is not the first time Riderwood has been recognized for its environmental efforts. In 2005, it became the first retirement community in the world certified as a wildlife habitat by the WHC. Working in partnership with local organizations, Riderwood strives daily to fulfill the four basic goals of a certified Wildlife Habitat Management Plan (WHMP), which include improving nesting sites and cover; improving the quantity, quality, and diversity of food sources for wildlife; removing invasive plant species; and providing environmental education year-round. Each year, more and more of the fields and woodlands near Riderwood are turning into shopping centers, commercial buildings, and homes, says Anne Blackburn, community member and chair of the WHMP. Our campus is providing a small green oasis for uprooted wildlife. The WHC has offered valuable assistance in our efforts to maintain and improve the quality of our habitat. I m just thrilled to be a part of this international effort to involve corporations in managing their lands in wildlife-friendly ways. Good works At Riderwood, we are fortunate to have a large group of people who are actively involved in environmental activities both on and off campus, says Senior Community Services Manager Claudia Farr. Our community is made up of people who have had government positions related to the environment, sciences, and many other related fields. Others have played an advocate role throughout their lives. Together, they are able to focus on environmental stewardship and on making things happen that really make a difference, Farr says. One of the community s longestrunning efforts has been to celebrate Earth Day with seminars and exhibitions since 2001. It s important for members of our community to know that there are a myriad of ways they can individually promote more earth-friendly practices, says community member Becky Hedin. Earth Day is just one way to help get that message out. Going back to school Several of the other ways Riderwood promotes earth-friendly practices are off campus. The community recently formed a unique partnership with nearby High Point High School, called the Greenhouse Association. Community members carpool to the school twice a week to use its greenhouse in exchange for sharing their agricultural knowledge with the students. During these visits, we water plants, start new plants by propagation or division, plant seeds, and pot plants in discarded Styrofoam cups, says Riderwood community member and group founder, Peter Kach. In Project Budburst, volunteers monitor and record when certain plants, shrubs, and trees first bud, flower, and bear fruit or seeds. Their observations are then sent to a nationwide study being conducted by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. The Sightings Project gives Riderwood volunteers the opportunity to develop an inventory of the small mammals, insects, birds, amphibians, plants, and trees on campus. All of the bird-sighting data is provided to the famous Ornithological Laboratory at Cornell University. Working in collaboration with the Audubon Naturalist Society s Green Kids program, an educational outreach program to foster on-site environmental stewardship in local Montgomery County schools, Riderwood donates plants and funds for the creation of a butterfly garden at East Silver Spring Elementary School. Moving forward As spring approaches, Riderwood looks forward to continuing all of their wildlife improvement projects both on and off campus. Specific goals include diversifying quality food for campus wildlife; offering more nesting opportunities and better cover; and eradicating invasive vegetation that threaten native trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, and other plants. Riderwood s WHMP has a joint resident-staff Steering Committee that will coordinate specific educational opportunities to promote an understanding of these issues and encourage active involvement in related activities.