What is Integrated Land Management?
Integrated land management (ILM) is a unique stewardship-based approach to land management, development and restoration. It is the lens through which we evaluate, plan and execute our projects. ILM inverts the paradigm that isolates a particular land owner goal as the complete focal point of our efforts. We have learned that this conventional approach leads to oversights, poor “hand-off” and degradation. Instead, we seek to focus attention on the process and, by extension, on entire properties and ecosystems. In this way landowners work from the outside in. Their projects evolve in logical ways supported by solid stewardship, thorough planning, precision and accountability. Through strict adherence to four simple principles Integrated Land Management seeks to insure project success while eliminating oversights and redundancies, lag time, environmental degradation and unnecessary costs.
1: Your Land Comes First
This is the foundational principle of Integrated Land Management and its most important idea. “Your land comes first” means we take the time to thoroughly explore and evaluate our clients’ properties, their limitations and attributes, before we begin work. The common practice of forcing land to conform to preformed desires that lack a fundamental comprehension of what can, or should, be done on a given piece of property, yields disastrous results. Nearly all of the costly mitigation projects we are called to result from failing to abide by the simple rule of taking the land first: driveways on inappropriate grades or soils, massive logging destruction, eroding or incomplete site work, collapsing walls, spreading invasive vegetation etc. Mistakes can be brutally expensive to fix and generally contribute to the pervasive degradation of our delicate mountain ecology. Each of the principles of ILM serves the foundational principle of considering your land first.
It’s simple. Education is where it all begins. V & V is an education-based service provider with a passion for the pursuit of higher standards in the field of land management. We want our clients’ participation. We want their difficult questions. We want passionate landowners and dedicated stewards. The more our landowners understand about their individual properties, their soils, plants, timber, hydrology, habitats, history etc. the more they can help us fashion wise strategies that yield positive long-term results. We are working toward multi-generational stewardship enhancements that depend upon the evolution of our shared understanding.
We know this works both ways as well, which is why we want to learn as much about our clients’ lifestyles and aspirations as they learn from us. Regardless of property size, education is the cornerstone of good planning, stewardship and cost savings.
Lack of planning or poor planning is where most projects go awry. From driveways to retaining walls, timber harvesting to pasture restoration, it has been our experience that if landowners researched and planned more thoroughly better results could be achieved at much lower costs. Most landowners would never feel comfortable building their home without blueprints or the oversight of a contractor, yet often initiate projects outside the home without the benefit of either. On the whole, land management projects such as road building, site preparation, pasture restoration, structural walls etc. tend to be more expensive and less clearly defined than most home construction projects. This means
clients must not only spend more “boots-on-the-ground” time, they must also take advantage of modern planning tools, such as digital mapping, aerial photography, quality engineering, soil profiling, computer modeling etc. These efforts ensure there is a clear and comprehensive plan that thoroughly accounts for the characteristics of a given property before expensive projects begin. Planning is incredibly cheap compared to even a small mistake on the ground. We have learned many times over that thorough planning contributes to clearer visualization, builds communication and saves big money from the start.
Hire a single competent contractor to oversee your land goals, just as you would to build your home. The common practice of landowners acting as their own contractors, choosing multiple sub-contractors of various skill levels to complete multiple tasks over time, has proven even more unsuccessful in land management than in home construction. Consolidating tasks under the guidance of a single contractor means the right hand always knows what the left hand is doing; it means tasks are taken in proper sequence, in a timely fashion and redundancies and re-dos are eliminated. Does it make sense for your road builder to compact and surface your driveway before your utilities contractor trenches the roadbed? How often does a timber extraction go well without the oversight of a licensed forester? Why initiate site preparation activities without the benefit of a landscape plan? We see mistakes such as these constantly, by even the most reputable “green builders.” These errors cost thousands while contributing to the waste of resources and lost time. Consolidation reduces mistakes, hastens task completion and eliminates gaps in scheduling. Weather exposure, a major cause of budgetary overruns, is also minimized. Finally, consolidation means there is strict accountability and one simple and transparent billing structure.
Integrated Land Management doesn’t fight with Mother Nature – it works with her. ILM employs solutions and methods that imitate the wisdom of the natural world. This means: driveways are installed on appropriate grades and soils, retaining walls are correctly footed, fitted, battered and back-filled, forestry mulching is practiced with an emphasis on natural succession and soil improvement, pastures are restored with as few inputs as possible, homesites are excavated with an eye toward minimal impact and integration, and so on. Through ILM we learn as much as possible about a particular site before the work begins. We recognize in all decisions the disastrous long-term cost consequences associated with ignoring natures’ wisdom for cheap initial savings. ILM is really quite simple: let mother nature’s preferences and provisions inform every decision and budget by trusting that that is where value, success and integrity ultimately reside.
We have learned to trust these principles in all aspects of our consulting and service work. We want you to see your land through the clear lens of integrated land management so you can truly create and nourish the home and habitat you want your property to become. Whether you live in our service area or thousands of miles away we want our website, staff and philosophy to be a source of information and inspiration for you. Let’s all help raise the bar on land management in the Southern Appalachians and elsewhere. Please contact us if you wish to discuss your project or have questions. If you want to learn more about Integrated Land Management please check out our instructional video.