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Improved Ecosystems, Marquette, WI

Featured Site Created By Nicholas Weber

Improved Ecosystems is a model habitat map. Nicholas Weber has worked tirelessly to convert his land into a wildlife sanctuary. This hard work has paid off, as year after year he adds new features and native landscape resulting in more and more wildlife taking refuge on his land. The beauty of his completed projects are they require little maintenance or water. Nicholas’ long-term vision is to create a property where a short walk allows him to be immersed in native landscape, surrounded by thriving wildlife. Consider following Nicholas’ blog where he provides pictures and details on each project. Backyard enthusiasts will be impressed with his work and dedication.

EcoRegion: Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Continental) Province
Planting Zone: 5a

What work has been done to improve this site for birds and other wildlife? How long did it take?

After the burn

Photo © Nicholas Weber
Since 2004 I have been working to restore our property into a native ecosystem that may have existed there prior to the area being settled.

Photo © Nicholas Weber
Over the course of many years, invasive species have crept into the landscape and some areas that had been used for agriculture had turned into neglected grassland. I started by removing invasive brush from those areas and, once it was removed, the areas were planted with native wildflowers and grasses. Each year I chose a new area to tackle. Since I started my efforts I have seen an exponential increase in the amount of wildlife utilizing the property. The primary food needed to sustain birds in an area is insects, which require native plants as a food source and for laying eggs. In addition to land improvement, I created and improved several ponds on the property which provide wildlife with a source of water and, in itself, adds a fair amount of species diversity to the property.

This is a project spanning over a decade and I’m inclined to believe that I’ll still be working on it a decade from now. The property is far from being perfect and I already have several years worth of improvement projects knocking around in my head.

What are some successes that you've seen since the improvements were made? (alternatively, "What are you most proud of, or excited to share about this site?")

Karner Blue Butterfly

Photo © Nicholas Weber
Since I started planting native prairie plants I’ve seen many new butterflies and insects that I’ve never seen before. The property has a substantial amount of sandy soil, so I have focused on planting wild lupine to encourage the Karner Blue Butterfly.
Low-maintenance fields

Photo © Nicholas Weber
Each year I plant new areas with seed that I collect and, as a result, I have converted thousands of square feet that was lawn into low-maintenance meadows.

Favorite Bird Sighting: Pileated Woodpecker

Are there any tough decisions that had to be made regarding its management? How were they handled?

The toughest decisions I make are how to manage invasive species. I’ve chosen to use herbicide on invasive perennials because it guarantees success when planting wildflower seed which would not grow if there were existing competition. I have planted areas without using herbicide through repeated cultivation to deplete the seed bank and kill the perennials, but it is very labor intensive. One application of herbicide that will last for decades on a low-maintenance area which does not need to be mowed is a fair deal. When using herbicide, I prefer to spot spray and kill the vegetation over a period of time as opposed to using heavy blanket applications.

Stone Hillside

Photo © Nicholas Weber

For more extensive information on Nicholas Weber’s land management projects and many more photos, visit his detailed blog: http://improvedecosystems.blogspot.com/.

And, make sure to explore his YardMap, which is one of our best!