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Our neck of the woods

I love this place.”

These simple but profound words from a park trail user reflect the human response to what our natural resources embody for us. A stewardship ethic comes out of that feeling of relatedness, but is more engaged by going a step further toward meaningful action to protect, promote, preserve and restore what we perceive as created gift.

This deepening involvement - doing what is right - in caring for the land depends on a familiarity with what belongs or fits best for inviting habitat, promoting good natural functioning as water filtration and creating something beautiful for all creatures to enjoy. Stewardship has, therefore, a cognitive content, much like parenting has.

When the Iron Mountain Management Plan was conceived, an assessment was taken, an inventory of plant species compiled and a vision with a plan of action implemented for what needed to be accomplished to affect a more integral, ecological health. The creators of this plan, familiar with the history of Iron Mountain and buoyed by former work projects that have brought new life to invasive cleared sites, labored over the mundane but germane work of goal setting, objective and guideline framing, and dividing up the responsibility for projects.

Using parental metaphors, it was like getting the forest ready to go to college. We had to educate ourselves to see how best we can manage and undertake what we love. Stewards become guardians of a land’s health. This commands a respect for the complexity of life systems, physiological and biological, just like parents must have for their children or pets.

It helps to know when something is going wrong. Most of those who work with Friends groups in Lake Oswego realize to some extent that our public properties and natural spaces have been degraded from prior use or neglect. They beg for creative attention that knows how best to partner with nature’s own generative potential for long-term results.

Years ago, I wanted to commemorate a friend’s passing by restoring a heavily ivy-infested slope that had a few native plants struggling for survival. (This man’s spouse was also endeared to our public lands and natural resource areas.) In finishing the project that comprised about half an acre, I named it “Matt’s Slope” and waited for rebirth. The next years brought an abundance of trillium, vine maple and ocean spray, along with a resurgence of lower canopy species. Without the entitled bullies dominating this landscape, the natives returned and more birds, more animals and more neighbors came to enjoy this vegetated site.

All Friends groups hope, through tireless energies that benefit the land, to leave a beneficence to later generations. We wish to avoid the indictment of future citizens who would ask why more was not done to improve where we lived and belonged, to rectify and restore, to admire and inspire, to revere and make whole.

Aldo Leopold wrote, “Your woodlot is, in fact, an historical document which faithfully records your personal philosophy.” May the landscapes of our natural resources reflect the best of our community’s moral care. May our “documentation” be known on this natural canvas of green because of our restorative trust.

Michael Buck chairs the Friends of Iron Mountain, which works to restore native habitat to public park land.

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