Hawk Mountain Strengthens Focus on Stewardship

Posted on July 22, 2019 in Special Projects

The once Land and Facilities department at Hawk Mountain has changed this month to “Stewardship,” reflecting the Sanctuary’s commitment to serving as a model sanctuary that uses best practices in land management.

While the job remains the same, now Director of Sanctuary Stewardship Todd Bauman feels the title change highlights the intention it carries.

“It’s a more purposeful job than just land and facility maintenance. Stewardship is about understanding the flora and fauna that are inside the forest, how they interconnect ecologically, and how to protect them,” says Bauman.

Last year Hawk Mountain placed the majority of its land holdings in a conservation easement and is guided by a new Forest Stewardship Plan that Bauman helped to create. It also works with other land conservancies and conservation partners to identify and work to protect land surrounding the Kittatinny Ridge that has been identified as highest priority for wildlife habitat.

“All conservation starts with the land and keeping a healthy habitat for the wildlife that rely upon it and the raptors and other birds that use it to nest, or to rest and feed during their migrations,” says Sanctuary President Sean Grace.

Bauman faces a number of obstacles in his work to protect the 2,400 acres that make up the world’s first refuge for birds of prey. For example, one long-term project is battling invasive plants such as stilt grass, garlic mustard, barberry, and others through a variety of best practices. These strategies require consistent removal, year after year, as well as measuring plots using GPS mapping to report success. Other challenges include over-browsing by deer, the loss of oak trees due to a variety of defoliating caterpillars, managing storm water runoff, which causes erosion and spreads invasive plants, and sharing best practices through public education.

Throughout the year, Bauman and his team of Sanctuary Stewards and seasonal crews also tackle other important jobs around the Mountain. During winter, the team plans for the upcoming seasons by identifying issues, setting goals and tackling facility upgrades at the Visitor Center, Education Building, the Acopian Center for Conservation Learning, and other outbuildings. They prepare for an influx of visitors in the spring and implement projects throughout the summer and fall.

Special improvement projects such as the upcoming upgrades at Hawk Mountain’s outdoor amphitheater falls under their domain, too. Bauman also is in charge of the Service Learning programs at the mountain which includes the Hawk Mountain Trail Stewards, the Habitats for Bats event, the Junior Conservation Stewards event, and any other program that relates to hands-on caring for the forest and conservation.

For more information of Hawk Mountain’s stewardship programs, contact [email protected].