How We Do It
With nearly 16,000 acres to protect, Five Rivers MetroParks conservation efforts require collaboration among dozens of partner agencies and the continued support of residents who value their environment.
Funding Land Protection
Approximately 50 percent of MetroParks’ funding for land protection comes from state and federal grants. The Clean Ohio Fund has supported much of the park land that has been acquired since 2000. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, and Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program have provided additional funds for land protection in the past.
Land protection efforts also are supported by conservation easements, which allow property owners to protect land from development while retaining ownership. Easements are a cost-effective way to support conservation efforts. Five Rivers MetroParks protects more than 3,000 acres through conservation easements. These include private land that contains important natural features such as headwater streams, large tracts of forest or farmland adjacent to existing MetroParks. The Three Valley Conservation Trust has been a valuable partner in acquiring easements.
Habitat Management & Restoration
Habitat management in the parks is guided by our understanding of pre-settlement conditions in the Miami Valley. While primarily forested, prairies and wetlands also were an important part of the historical landscape. To preserve this diversity of habitats, park lands are carefully managed to preserve and protect native plant and animal communities of the Miami Valley. Numerous methods are used.
- Controlled burning is an important tool for managing prairie and edge/thicket habitat, as it releases nutrients and stimulates the growth of certain plant species.
- Succession is the gradual process by which ecosystems change over time. While succession happens naturally, it also can be controlled through land management practices to create early forest habitat called edge/thicket habitat. This is a particularly important feeding area for both grassland and forest species.
- Mowing is used to prevent establishment of woody species and maintain grassland areas.
- Non-native invasive species, such as honeysuckle, compete with or eliminate native plant species and are controlled with mowing, a forestry machine called a Fecon and, in some cases, controlled treatment with herbicides.
The variety of habitats in MetroParks support a large number of wildlife species. From bald eagles to bobcats, willow flycatchers to seepage dancer damselflies, many species would not have a place to live without MetroParks. Enjoying wildlife is a great part of visiting MetroParks, and the goal of habitat management is to provide food, water and shelter for wildlife to thrive.
Conservation department staff create habitat for wildlife when natural sites are limited. For example, kestrel nest boxes have been installed at Germantown MetroPark, Medlar Conservation Area and Twin Creek MetroPark. Wood duck boxes can be found at Germantown and Possum Creek MetroParks.
Yet in some cases, overpopulation of wildlife can damage habitat. Of particular concern to Five Rivers MetroParks is the overpopulation of white-tailed deer and Canada geese due to the negative impacts on maintaining biodiversity. Indeed, wildlife management is one of the most important ways to preserve habitat and rare species for future generations.
The population of white-tailed deer has soared because of food availability, development of adjacent land and a lack of former predators, such as wolves. High, out-of-balance deer populations lead to extensive grazing that significantly damages forests. In some cases, those forests never recover, and deer can even become more susceptible to disease and starvation because of overpopulation.
Ohio Division of Wildlife regulations limit alternatives for deer management. Neither relocation nor birth control are permitted. MetroPark uses two methods, which are used by numerous park and conservation agencies, to control deer population:
- Culling is the use of specialized firearms in the hands of specially trained MetroParks rangers at night when the park is closed. All venison from culling operations is donated to local food banks through the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program.
- Controlled bow hunting, used in areas away from public access, is the harvest of deer by archers selected for experience and marksmanship. All hunting is located away from trails and adjacent properties. Bow hunters are required to pass a hunter education course or equivalent test, possess a current hunting license and be able to place at least four out of five arrows in a 10-inch diameter target from a distance of 20 yards. They also must complete an orientation to ensure understanding of safety regulations and MetroParks’ conservation goals for the program.
Similarly, the population of Canada geese also has soared. They lack natural predators while an ever-growing abundance of suitable habitat — with the expansion of retention ponds, golf courses and other aquatic habitats — has allowed them to reproduce quickly.
One of the biggest problems with geese is their feces, as a single goose can produce 1.5 pounds of feces per day, creating a contamination risk. Geese also can be very aggressive when defending nesting sites. Geese are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Ohio state law. It is illegal to harm any goose or nest without a permit from the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
MetroParks uses a variety of methods to deter and control geese. These include making some areas less attractive to geese simply by allowing pond edges to grow tall with vegetation. MetroParks also uses a service in which specially trained border collies chase away geese. This doesn’t harm the geese, but makes the area less attractive to them. Also used are such techniques as egg drilling and goose round-ups. No one method is effective everywhere and each site is unique.
Five Rivers MetroParks is committed to sustainable practices that minimize the organization’s “ecological footprint” and conserve finite resources for future generations. However, just as you are learning what it means to be green, so are we.
To further our efforts, we have designed a Sustainability Committee within MetroParks. This committee is responsible for researching new ideas & pushing environmental efforts forward across the organization, while being responsible stewards of the Montgomery County taxpayers dollars. The agency adopted a five-year, agency-wide sustainability plan in early 2016 and all Five Rivers MetroParks 16 staffed facilities have been certified for the Dayton Regional Green (DRG) Green Business Certification.