This summer marks my seventh year with TPE and completes our 50th land protection project. One of the special responsibilities that comes along with completing all these projects is the care we give these sites by burning, brushing and planting more prairies and savannas. Now that TPE is accredited, one additional activity we must do is complete an annual visit to all our conservation easements and fee-owned properties to complete a monitoring report. We now need volunteers to help with the monitoring.
Besides documenting the results of our management, and protecting the land use on the conservation easements, doing these visits gives us a chance to see firsthand the amazing places TPE’s chapters have protected throughout the years. Most of these visits are done in the late fall, and consist of walking the property boundaries and taking landscape photos at certain points and corners. Once done with the visit, a written report with photos and a corresponding map are kept on file.
Last year, TPE invested in a software platform called Landscape (www.landconservationsoftware.com), owned by Caleb Pourchot of Madison, Wis., who created the software program while working for Groundswell Conservancy. This new cloud-based software enables monitors to use a smartphone to take pictures, use the GPS to mark its location, and load everything into the software program on line. Things have come a long way since I was taking 35mm film photos for the first conservation easement baseline back in 2003. Now I can walk the property with my cell phone, take the pictures and fill the report out with my computer back at my desk, and save it all electronically.
In 2018, TPE added seven new sites that will need to be monitored this fall. We have had a dedicated but small group of conservation easement monitors for the past several years, and most of our site stewards also have completed an annual monitoring report. With our growing land protection program, we need to find additional volunteers to help.
I’ll be hosting an on-line Property Monitoring Training Program at 7 p.m. Sept. 18, with the goal of training new volunteers to help TPE and its chapters continue to monitor our protected lands. If you enjoy taking hikes on TPE’s sites, can navigate a property using a map, and are interested in using the technology of your smartphone to help TPE in carry out its mission, please consider an RSVP to TPE’s Property Monitoring Training. You can reach me at 608-638-1873 or email@example.com, and I can help get you out on the prairie!