You may or may not consider yourself an environmentalist. Most people that move to rural areas are concerned about maintaining the beauty and character of the area. Whatever your beliefs, the following sections will help you fit most logically into your surroundings.
Avoid excessive clearing. Limit the removal of vegetation to the area needed to build your home and provide wild fire protection. Clearing alters wildlife habitat and diminishes wildlife numbers. Retain natural vegetation to provide buffers between your home and surrounding properties. Why tear it out only to buy replacement plants that the deer will eat?
Avoid excessive grading for driveways and building pads. Consider a stem wall foundation with stepped footings rather than grading a large pad for a concrete slab floor. Use decks to provide outdoor flat areas. Use retaining walls to avoid excessive vegetation removal. An architect can assist you with building designs that are both site sensitive and functional. Depending on the species and the setting, tractor work within the drip line of trees may kill them over 2-3 years. Plan your grading accordingly. A landscape architect can assist you with saving trees. The Uniform Building Code and other laws require a grading permit under certain circumstances. Check with your local Building Department for requirements and local practice. Often, precious topsoil is covered over or lost during grading. Ask your engineering contractor to stock-pile topsoil from the graded areas and place it back in finished landscape locations. A landscape architect or landscape contractor can help supervise this effort and to assist you with a final planting program that meets your needs.
Erosion control means keeping all of your dirt in place on your land. Good soil took ages to be created, but when soil washes away, it is lost forever. After it leaves, it plugs culverts and drainage ways increasing flooding. It carries nutrients that interfere with fish and other water life. Cover all exposed earth during winter months with some type of protection. The easiest and cheapest temporary protection is to seed exposed soils with annual rye grass and to cover the areas with straw. Both are obtained from a local feed store. Usually this is used as a temporary measure and then final measures are installed with landscaping. Permanent erosion control can be accomplished with gravel, mulches, grass or lawn, landscaping, and other techniques. Contact your local U. S. Soil Conservation Service or Resource Conservation District for help. They provide excellent, free information on erosion control plans. Your local farm bureaus and agriculture supply stores can help, too.
You can help the natural environment by reasonably containing your pets. Dogs chase deer and domestic livestock. Cats chase birds, lizards, and rodents. It's not a big deal for one house, but by the time a thousand households are out there, it gets significant. I've been using a radio fence for my dog that works pretty well. About 3/4 acre is ringed by a small buried wire leading to a little electrical box. The dog wears a radio collar that warns when she's too close, and gives her a mild static electricity shock if she starts to cross. It might not work for every dog, depending on how difficult they are to train.
Regardless of the price of gas this week, rest assured that energy prices of all types are going up. Plan for it now to minimize your future problems. Many rural sites are above the foggy areas and offer excellent opportunities for passive and active solar homes. Look for a south facing site with deciduous trees. Consult an architect if you need assistance. Don't move too far out in the country if you have to go into town everyday. That long commute burns a lot of gas. Check into telecommuting. What could be better than earning your living from the comfort of your country home? Air Quality Speaking of that long commute, it's not good for air quality either. Rural areas are getting much worse in terms of air quality. The automobile is a major contributor to poor quality. As much as I love mine, I must tell you that the wood stove is also a major problem. Many areas have adopted regulations establishing emission control standards for wood stoves. Choose chipping or composting yard waste over outside burning.
Many rural homesites contain historical resources such as Indian grinding rocks, old structures, even cemeteries. Disturbance of Native American artifacts is prohibited by law. All prehistoric and historic resources are important to preserve for further study and as incredibly valuable antiques and artifacts for our descendants. There are various local, state, and federal agencies that can assist you with the identification, preservation, and restoration of historical resources. Most agencies aren't interested in taking over these sites, just in preserving them.
Follow the advise under erosion control to help protect water quality. Minimize the use of pesticides and herbicides. Keep your septic system working properly. Take used oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, and other toxics to recycling centers.