Our land base is a defining feature of Sewanee and represents a strategic and integral part of the educational mission of the University. We seek to promote sustainable land stewardship through strategies of adaptive management that promote and protect ecological values including biodiversity and ecosystem services and the protection of cultural heritage all within the context of a working educational landscape.
The Domain is a landscape of ecological communities draped across an ancient topography. It is the existence of these dynamic, diverse and functioning communities that provide and sustain the ecological services and opportunities that we depend upon at Sewanee, including clean water, clean air, soil productivity, pollination, and places to study, to find recreation and be inspired. The foundation of all management decision-making is to safeguard the long-term sustainability of the Domain’s ecological landscape and to develop policies, protocols, and practices that are in accordance with this principle. Specifically, management decisions are based on our best scientific understanding of the ecological interactions and processes necessary to sustain the composition, structure and function of ecological communities on the Domain. The University is currently developing ecosystem management plans for deer population control and the spread of exotic plant species.
The Domain is a landscape reflecting past and present land-use. People have been and will continue to be major drivers of ecological change within this landscape. The study of this human interaction is important to our understanding of history and to the interpretation of the present ecological condition of the Domain. As an educational institution committed to the study of people and the land, the legacies of past land-use can represent important landscape features in need of documentation and stewardship. Such legacies include old homesites, fences, old roads, trash dumps, Native American rock shelters, etc. The King Farm area represents a major assemblage of many of these types of cultural legacies. We have a commitment to the long-term protection of the Domain’s archeological and historical sites.
There are also more recent human land-use signatures such as abandoned fields, small reservoirs, USDA experimental plots, silvicultural treatments etc. that have educational values that may also warrant protection.
On the other hand, there are legacies of past land-use that we may not want to conserve, such as those that currently impact the sustainability of ecological communities and their resilience to future change. Examples of these would include fire suppression, predator removal and overabundance of deer, overharvesting of timber, overproliferation of roads, some reservoirs, and the introduction of invasive species. We encourage the scientific study of these human impacts so as to inform management programs of ecological intervention and restoration.
The Domain is a landscape of educational opportunities and benefits. Just as ecological sustainability and the protection of cultural heritage informs management so does the promotion of educational opportunities. As a liberal arts college and a school of theology, we have an institutional mandate to use our land in the mission of educating students. This is the overarching goal for why we own this land. Direct educational opportunities associated with the Domain reflect a variety of interests and needs: including scientific research, forestry demonstration, environmental studies, outdoor lab exercises, recreation, leadership training in environmental stewardship, spiritual reflection and aesthetic appreciation, etc.. The Domain is also the source of our water, where we treat our wastewater, where we are housed, and where we demonstrate to students how to generate food, timber and energy in a more sustainable fashion.
Our biggest challenge in managing land is to accomplish these often conflicting education-related goals while sustaining the integrity of the ecological landscape and being proper stewards of the cultural landscape. We are committed to land management that allows us to optimize the wide diversity of educational opportunities and benefits associated with the Domain. In addition, a critical component to the successful educational use of the Domain is our commitment to ensuring its safe use and access.