The mission of Wild Woods Restoration Project is to restore the health and diversity of our Hudson valley forests with local native plants grown by volunteers and to inspire a passion for continued stewardship.
Although they look green, forests in our region are suffering. Multiple stressors have caused their degradation: invasive species, over-browsing, development, and increasingly, climate change. We need to help our forests because they serve so many important functions— primarily, as storage reservoirs of carbon, helping to combat climate change.
Efforts to restore forests by planting trees alone often fail in their restoration goal because they overlook the rest of the forest, the understory. Healthy forests require a diversity of structural layers to function: an herb layer at ground level, a shrub layer, and a sub-canopy of young trees. A forest with multiple layers of biomass provides a variety of food and a protective habitat for birds and animals.
A forest with a diversity of native plant species provides even more abundant food. Native plants form the basis of support for the insects, birds and mammals that have co-evolved with them over the millennia. Their fruits and seeds are eaten and distributed by birds, bats and other animals. Insects feed on flowers and plants, spread their pollen, and are a food source themselves. Dead leaves and woody debris on the forest floor provide habitat and food for soil-dwelling organisms, such as mosses, worms and fungi. All parts of a forest work together to form a healthy ecosystem.
Our native forest communities are threatened. Invasion by non-native species and over-browsing by white-tailed deer are reducing native plant diversity and altering the structural layers of our forests. Urban development is another threat. As forests are cut down, paved over, and sliced into pieces, the support system they provide disappears. Whittled down to smaller and smaller patches, native species and the genetic diversity they carry are lost, further jeopardizing their ability to adapt to changing climate conditions.
We are losing the diversity of our forests, and land managers don’t have the support they need. Our local parks and preserves work to manage their lands, to prevent or remove invasive species and control deer numbers. But all too often, once these stressors are removed there are few existing native seed sources to regenerate the native community naturally. Parks and preserves often lack the resources to purchase or plant native species to restore these areas.
We can do something to help preserve the rich biological diversity of life in our region. By collecting the seeds of local native plants, preserving them, growing them and then replanting them in impoverished forests, we can restore the diversity of both the species and the structure that is missing. Our team has the ability and expertise to help.
- We collect local native seeds to preserve the genetic diversity of the species that have evolved and adapted to local conditions. We work with the Mid-Atlantic Seed Bank, part of the national Seeds of Success program, to store our extra seeds for future use.
- We involve community volunteers teaching them how to identify, grow and plant local native species while we foster a culture of ongoing stewardship of our lands.
- We organize volunteers to rescue native plants from areas planned for development to help preserve the local genetics from that spot.
- We guide volunteers to propagate our local native seeds. We hold seed cleaning and sowing workshops in the fall and potting up workdays in the early summer, and provide support to the volunteers as they care for the plants at their own homes over the growing season.
- We provide the expertise to select appropriate restoration sites and target species for restoration projects.
- We run volunteer work days to plant the native plants we’ve grown in restoration sites.
- We partner with preserves on grant applications for invasive species removal and native planting restoration projects.