Sustainability, conservation and preservation have been trends in gardening for several decades and many gardeners make an effort to use best practices such as fewer chemicals to improve the bit of earth they have to work with.
Imagine being the environmental steward of 170-acres of natural landscape with rock formations, native plants, waterfalls and a manmade lake. Over the past 30-years, Ken Laubenstein has worked to sustain the legacy of his land, making improvements that continue the progression toward sustainability for wildlife.
Laubenstein’s property, Forest Lake Preserve is in Muskogee’s Gooseneck Bend. He is professionally retired but is an active Oklahoma State University, Muskogee County, Master Gardener. The land he lives on is permanently protected from destruction and development because he put it into trust with the Land Legacy which is a regional version of the Nature Conservancy. Land Legacy has 30,000 acres in trust in OK.
The 6.5 acre lake was on the property when Laubenstein purchased it 30 years ago, but he has consistently improved and upgraded it to attract and support wildlife. In addition to pulling out trash, he built four islands where water foul nest and make their homes. The pond is brimming with fish and turtles.
Four-wheeler trails run throughout the property for maintenance and there are several strategically placed benches where he can sit and watch wildlife. He said that every year he observes more and more bird species as the land becomes more established as a refuge.
On a recent tour, we observed native trees such as Pine, Cedar, Ash, Bald Cypress, Sassafrass, Locust, several Oak varieties, Ash, Elm, Redbud, Dogwood, etc. Native wildflowers are present all along the paths and walkways.
The property is busy with regional wildlife, including beaver, skunk, deer, lizards, roadrunners, raccoon, armadillo, possum and rabbits. Since it is protected, hunting is not allowed.
Preserving a place for wildlife is a gift to future generations that few will take on. Laubenstein hopes that his Forest Lake Preserve will be used for research and education as well as environmental recreation.