A couple of years back (November 2014), I wrote a piece in this newspaper about the importance of preserving our natural environment, where even dead trees play a vital role.

We live in a virtual paradise here in the Lowcountry. Many of us snowbirds move here because of the area’s natural beauty. But then, by successive increments, we drain swamps, cut down forests, pave roads, and plant lawns and greens that require high amounts of chemicals to maintain.

Before too long, we transform our environment to look different from the Lowcountry’s original pristine beauty.

Call it “progress,” “development,” “urban sprawl.” It’s inevitable. But there are pockets of nature in some of our communities that defy the odds.

My wife and I are fortunate to live in such a pocket – on a pond, or lagoon. However, its pristine beauty is no accident. Along with many of our neighbors, we work hard to keep it that way.

Most of our neighbors support an environment that encourages a variety of birds such as Black and Yellow Crown Herons, Great Blue Herons and egrets who roost here.

Depending upon the season, osprey, wood stork and even an occasional Bald Eagle and a variety of song birds make such ponds and marshes their temporary home.

We certify our backyards as wildlife habitats with South Carolina Wildlife Federation and work with other nature-friendly groups. And we have worked with our community nature club to obtain the understanding and support of our home owners associations.

We learned that it is not good for the environment to cut grass down to the pond’s edge. A 3-foot or so buffer of relatively taller grass filters contaminants and allows small animals to feed and hide.

We let snags (dead trees or branches) decay naturally at the water’s edge; they also serve as perches for birds to fish and a source of food for woodpeckers.

These buffers seem to have a side benefit. Alligators tend not to cross buffers and climb onto our yard, allowing us to enjoy them but from a safer distance.

We call each other when we spot a new bird in trees. We take pictures. We do everything possible to keep our pond as natural as possible.

A less manicured, natural yard might not be for everyone. A pond or marsh like ours is the antitheses of a neat looking lawn or golf course green. However, wherever you can, we recommend you explore the possibilities. You will not regret it.

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek.