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From landscape architecture to conservation agriculture | Thomas Woltz | TEDxCharlottesville

From landscape architecture to conservation agriculture | Thomas Woltz | TEDxCharlottesville
the

conservation

agriculture

studio at nelson bird waltz

landscape

architects is a highly collaborative design methodology that seeks to lend the skill set of

landscape

architecture

to land in need we seek to rebuild the compromised depleted dilapidated ecological infrastructure large scale systems within active farmland when i finished my graduate studies studying under warren byrd i realized that

agriculture

was the largest contributor of non-point source pollution in the united states how is
from landscape architecture to conservation agriculture thomas woltz tedxcharlottesville
it that the way we feed ourselves can end up killing us the toolkit that i had just acquired and was in the process of developing had shown me that

landscape

architecture

is a profession that stands at the intersection of restoration ecology soil science horticulture civil engineering could it stand also amidst

agriculture

could these tools be lent to this very important use of land in a way that rebuilds this infrastructure you can dream all you want and it remains theory until a highly
enlightened client comes along and says i'm willing to let you experiment with my land that highly enlightened uh

conservation

ist is right here in albemarle county and we began a project that has lasted for the past 18 years he allowed us to experiment with his land to do things we didn't really know how to do like reestablishing warm season grass meadows we began with a year of master planning something i believe in today this document along with the subsequent hundreds of pages of
drawings of schematic design through design development construction documents but this document this master plan has guided the construction of this property for 18 years we began with the waterways rebuilding badly eroded streams and drainage ways replanting them with marginal species to create habitat for amphibians and reptiles we started to manage the larger open ground we replaced the fescue the non-native thatching grass with deep-rooted warm season grasses we reforested the edges we then
said can we set your farm on fire and he said absolutely so every three years a big puff of dark smoke goes up in albemarle county and the ground plane is reset burning out invasive plants invasive grasses you have this kind of sublime result of this blackened

landscape

that then quickly comes back to life with an incredible biodiversity this is the composition at the end of summer this rich bird habitat small mammal and reptile habitat so as we worked on this project we realized we might have
not been rigorous enough about documenting about measuring about who could be our scientific partners who could help us gather data that eventually could be shared with people who couldn't hire us or hire scientists information that could be shared with extension agents around the country the work of the studio started to grow in many many different states and even abroad one of the fun ramifications of this was neighbors started watching and another very enlightened neighbor a writer poet
an actress near nearby she said whatever you're over there doing to them i want you to come do it to me and so this is her managing her own burn of her native grass meadow so pretty exciting positive radiating influence now over 2 200 acres of albemarle county have been managed in this method we began a relationship much more rigorous with scientists this has been a game changer for us working with

conservation

biologists to give us the data of what are the compromised systems within a piece
of property so what i love is gathering a team of scientists and a team of designers

from

our office putting them together camping on site for a week to learn what are the dynamics of the site what is compromised you can't tell a designer

from

a scientist and that's a dream come true this is a white sheet that attracts moths by night and we count all the insects amphibians the native plants and non-native plants it gives us this baseline data then we begin to design with it about this
time another very enlightened client came along and had acquired a 3 000 acre sheep station in new zealand and that's what i want to focus my comments on today it's on the east coast of the north island three thousand acre sheep cattle citrus and crop farm that had been um as almost all farmland in new zealand have been highly compromised over uh generations of farming practices this is the site to those of you who love bahamian islands this is sublime to somebody who knows the ecology
of new zealand this is borderline disaster the native ecology of the north island is temperate rainforest can you see a tree the erosion was horrifying the lack of biodiversity um saddening so we set about a mission of could we retire the most fragile areas of this farm that should never have been cultivated i'll show you some of the erosion problems some of the some of this land that should never have been cultivated could we retire that

from

agricultural production could we rebuild the
from landscape architecture to conservation agriculture thomas woltz tedxcharlottesville
wildlife infrastructure encourage biodiversity rebuild parts of the rainforest this client said yes i believe in this and for the past 12 years we've been building a model farm for the country of new zealand that demonstrates best management practices of

agriculture

with highly researched

conservation

biology rebuilding these systems and re-weaving them together this map shows another layer of this project that has been a real game changer for us at nelson bird wolves this is the layer of
cultural history the cultural

landscape

is such a critical thing that remains often invisible the traces of people who have been on land before you came in this case the maori great migration arrived at this property in 1300. in 1769 captain james cook arrived at this property his first landing in new zealand it was just north on the bay uh not onto this exact land so what you're seeing are three maps the cultural

landscape

the agricultural

landscape

and then the green lines are the
reforested

landscape

rebuilding wildlife connectivity but we're using the fragile erodible slopes rebuilding wetlands places that really should never have been farmed this was my first trip in a fragment of new zealand rainforest the scale of the plants is absolutely phenomenal we created a partnership with the maori leadership who have become dear personal friends and tremendous supporters of this work they really understand it they see all land as an interconnected living body and i would
say my view of land is more connected to their cosmology than it is to perhaps the ones i've grown up with this is what timbering in new zealand did you build railroad tracks right into the rainforest put the trees and hold them back out this is what timbering looks like today the highly erodible volcanic soils dissipate into the ocean this is the scale of trees we're putting back part one of our partnerships with the maori the local maori tribe has been to collect seeds in native
forests locally propagate them they have a small nursery and then we buy the trees back to plant on the farm so these go in and i want you to watch this one cabbage palm that's still on the land each one of those white pegs represents a tree is a steak for one of our trees so far to date we've planted 600 000 rainforest trees on this property so i'm just going to pull back you might want to grab your armrests so you start to get a sense of the scale of these plantings we're
reforesting the entire coastal edge so that this property will look as it did when james cook landed in 1769. the wetlands they'd all been drained to maximize grazing land so we thought let's rebuild them but let's not pretend and naturalize them let's actually build them as a living visible painting let's let's be artists here but let's work closely with the

conservation

biologists and scientists to know exactly what we're putting back so the ecological services
are remain but that this is a visible designed construction a kind of living painting if you will these are the grading plans uh two kilometers of river of deep water and then 14 islands of varying slopes planted with different native species to become the homes of many of the flightless birds native only to new zealand we took inspiration

from

paintings by roberto burleigh marks a

landscape

architect

from

the 1960s brazilian who is also a great painter these are natural forms but they're
abstracted so this was our inspiration this was the construction site that lasted for nearly three years 75 acres of constructed wetlands where wetlands had once been 100 years ago and this is the result we have this spectacular broad

landscape

of freshwater wetlands and salt marsh these are the pre-treatment swales that gather hundreds of acres of fresh water uh filter them with plants and then hold them in this wetland that is now filled with native birds we also rearranged the agricultural
lands of the farm this is a citrus production and you'll see we've reforested the edge again with small trees used instead of nylon screens used trees shorn into shelter belts to protect the citrus

from

freezing and then in honor again to this cultural

landscape

to the maori traces in the distance in this image you're seeing mount taranaki a very sacred site to the natomanuhiri the local tribe that we've been working with for so long this bridge is on axis with the peak of that
from landscape architecture to conservation agriculture thomas woltz tedxcharlottesville
mountain so every day the farmers the workers as they cross this bridge they have this kind of moment of homage to a sacred site for the maori the maori have a long tradition of earth mounding and earth building fortifications settlement sites food storage these are some of the traces that remain this is a kumara pit kumara was a vegetable that the maori cultivated

from

1300 to today these pits are dug out into the clay lined with leaves filled with food and then arches of branches and leaves
over to cover it

from

from

the wet weather we wanted to honor these traces honor these traditions amidst the farmland as we're rebuilding ecologies let's rebuild a respect for these valuable cultures that are nearly invisible in this slide we've oriented the drives between the citrus production and these high sheared hedges as an homage to a 300 year old burial site this is a cemetery in the midst of the farm that we wanted to honor the maori actually commissioned us to do this work
to be a white person

from

overseas as to work with them was a deeply emotional connection that we had with with this tribe you can see this axial relationship to this burial mound has now been brought into honor instead of being back of house we then worked with them in a to ask how can we respectfully honor this tradition and demonstrate this tradition in the midst of the gardens around the farmhouse and so this uh developed as an homage to the maori culture of earth mounding this terraced and
abstracted

landscape

this wasn't a quotation of their traditions it's rather how do we work with them and be inspired by this and honor it in a new way for a new generation in the future perhaps the most ambitious part of the work at this farm was a highly aspirational project could we rebuild an ecology so stable so rich and so safe that we could reintroduce the tuatara which is one of the most endangered animals on the planet it's the last descendant of the sphenodont family which
for the the scientists in the room that is the uh the dinosaur family these animals are highly compromised it takes a year to gestate an egg and we thought nine months was bad they're very vulnerable to uh to the pests that have been introduced in new zealand new zealand has no native mammals think about it no lions bears tigers stoats weasels cats dogs or people so this amazing land mass evolved without humans and without mammals so birds diversified to fill the niches they also lost the
ability to fly they didn't need to no predators so we thought with this massive team not only do i have 40 creative devoted passionate people at nelsonburg waltz that work with me but then we have hundreds of ornithologists biologists

conservation

biologists they are our partners so deeply but we also have these cultural geographers archaeologists anthropologists so with this huge team mostly led by steve sawyer a

conservation

biologist in new zealand we said about this ambitious goal could
we reintroduce the tuatara and again without an enlightened client this would not have happened so first step build a predator-proof enclosure so that the weasels stoats possums won't eat the eggs you'll see here there's a wire mesh comes down comes forward a meter just underground life lesson when you get to the barrier and you dig and you dig and you dig maybe you should back up a little bit go under fortunately they don't know that don't tell any mammals you know that
trick it looks like these gentlemen are straight ahead of me you can see there's water in the distance but this is actually where they're working so you can draw it on paper but these guys are the ones that build it that's why i say the credit goes to others in all of this work so with the predator-proof enclosure you can see we reforested inside eighty 000 trees to rebuild the rain forest inside this enclosure we had to prove to the department of

conservation

we had a safe and
stable habitat now the tuatara lives in a symbiotic relationship with the petrols grey-faced petrols and fluttering shear waters sea birds that had not been seen on this shore for 100 years how do we start how do we rebuild this ecology we had to prove that we had three cycles of these of these seabirds nesting on the peninsula before the department of

conservation

and the maori would release tuatara into our care this fence was inspired by christo i have to say this we call it our ecocristo the
running fence project he did in sonoma but it's in service to a greater ecology so again trying to be artful with these ecological measures these are the heroes also of this project these are the

conservation

biologists that come and measure collect data are checking ink pad traps where critters can walk across and you can see their footprints if there are any fortunately we have clean papers and we are predator free within the enclosure this is our target species and that is a petrol in its
burrow they dig these eight inch deep burrows and that's what turns on a tuatara to lay an egg so we needed some burrows steve sawyer our ornithologist and

conservation

biologist had this brilliant idea first time it's ever been done using solar collectors to power speakers outdoor speakers that's what you're seeing in the distance there and he made a cd of gannets petrols um fluttering shear waters if you ever need to gaslight someone and drive them absolutely insane i'll
give you a copy of the cd so every evening around cocktail time the cd starts to play thanks to the solar collector and these seabirds way off in the distance over the pacific start to circle in and they've started to land he has pulled off a world's first of using these devices to attract seabirds we now have the first new organic colony established in the world we have uh repeat pairs of fluttering shear waters their numbers were reduced to a thousand globally this is steve with with a
petrol that's landed on his lap um they have no fear no wonder they're extinct um and this is the moment that just catches your heart where you're seeing barren eroded land that i showed you in the early slides covered with rainforest species and these beautiful seabirds coming in for the night of a safe night sleep i'm happy to report that last year 62 tuatara were delivered

from

the department of

conservation

and the maori tribes into the enclosure and they are absolutely
thriving this has been a 12-year journey of rebuilding this very fragile ecology really

from

zero i end with this picture because i feel like it's a way to say the this image of the ocean where we now have blue penguins nesting in boxes to the right is the tuatara enclosure um in the distance are the constructed wetlands and all along the shore is the edge replanted in the distance you're seeing sheep grazing land rotational grazing that has greatly reduced the impact on this land this
is where

landscape

architecture

stands at the intersection civil engineering horticulture

conservation

biology and

agriculture

thank you for your time