One of the Humane Stewardship Alliance’s newest members—Nirvana Ridge Wildlife Refuge—is a 170-acre property in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, Karen Lamb, Refuge founder and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, provides safe habitat for wildlife and essential care for orphaned, sick and injured native wildlife, preparing them for release back into the wild. Pledging to follow humane stewardship principles on her land affirms and amplifies her ongoing efforts and wonderful example of living in harmony with wildlife. Key to the Buddhist concept of nirvana is the absence of suffering, so Nirvana Ridge Wildlife Refuge—where foxes, raccoons, opossums, turtles and many other species find safe habitat and lifesaving care when they need it—couldn’t be more aptly named.
When Lamb purchased the land in 2000, no one had lived there since before the Civil War. She had a house built on the land and fenced its borders. In 2001, she enrolled 40 acres near the river and streams in the Conservation Reserve Program—a federal program aimed at improving water quality, preventing soil erosion and reducing habitat loss. Toward these goals, Lamb planted 6,000 oak trees in this area and fenced off the waterways from a neighbor’s cattle but provided an alternative water source for them. Oak trees provide food and habitat for an amazingly diverse array of wildlife species, making them an ideal choice. With careful tending over many years, the trees are now tall, and small mammals and ground nesting birds find food and cover in the underbrush.
The Refuge is within the Culpeper Basin Important Bird Area, only a small portion of which is protected as public land or with a conservation easement. Thus, pledging to manage this land following humane stewardship principles is an excellent way of supporting wildlife in this sensitive area. Among the many birds seen at the Refuge are blue herons and other water birds, bald eagles, several species of hawks and owls, and many sparrows, warblers and other songbirds. As a welcoming block of stopover habitat along the Atlantic flyway, in spring and fall the skies and soundscape are often filled with massive flocks of migratory birds.
Nirvana Ridge Wildlife Refuge also offers helpful guidance to the public on wildlife concerns, promoting effective and humane solutions for coexisting with wildlife, making it another highly effective point of light in the Humane Stewardship Alliance. Lamb says that although she’s even busier now than before she retired, helping wildlife brings her great happiness. She welcomes inquiries from those in the local area who are interested in volunteering as care providers or apprentices to help with the wildlife patients Nirvana Ridge Wildlife Refuge cares for each year.
- Cary Smith