Belt Woods Needs You! Pulling Together in Loving Relationship with the Land
Master of Arts in Earth Literacy
From the fall of 2004, through early spring of 2006, I enlisted the help of high school and college students, and adults, for an ongoing restoration effort to remove exotic, invasive plants from Belt Woods Wildland, a 624 acre preserve near my home in Bowie, MD. In addition to the recruitment of work groups, my project also involved training and supervising these volunteers in identifying, and then, hand-pulling, cutting, digging-up, or otherwise removing plants that are on a hit-list of non-native invasives. My recruitment flier—Belt Woods Needs You—invites participants to become guardians of biodiversity, to develop a deeper sense of place, to discover an eastern old-growth forest, and to learn what it takes to protect a global treasure. Although exotic, invasive species include animals, plants, and microbes, the focus of this project’s removal efforts is on exotic, invasive plants. I also used this project to raise awareness about the ecological crisis caused by exotic, invasive species in general, and how our communities might begin to address the tremendous challenge this crisis offers us. This paper draws upon a broad array of influences that intersect during the unfolding of the project, including: the history and story of Belt Woods, and of the cultural, economic, and ecological aspects of the invasive species problem; instruction and information that might be helpful in addressing the problem in our communities; examples of the civic environmentalism that is required for us to live in a sustainable way; and finally, but most importantly, a recounting of the hours spent in Belt Woods, physically engaged in healing ritual to preserve and restore biodiversity.