I commonly get questions or comments related to the need to manage one’s property rather than setting the land aside and let nature take its course. One is not necessarily better than the other, but the outcomes will likely be very different. Certainly keeping land in a more ‘natural’ state provides better habitat for wildlife compared to a parking lot – both scenarios above achieve this. However, there are several reasons why you should at least consider a more active management approach. What you do on your property is your choice first and foremost.
The way our landscape is configured now is different from long ago so we can’t expect processes to function the same way as they once did. Setting land aside for preservation often has the goal of letting the land return to pre-settlement conditions. While looking into our past can help inform management decisions, it doesn't make much sense biologically to completly rely on this approach. At what point in time should it be? Remember, part of Indiana was covered by glaciers and flocks of passenger pigeons (now extinct) numbering in the billions used to call Indiana home. Just think about what your car looks like after parking under a tree occupied by a few dozen starlings – imagine what roosts of billions do to tree limbs and the soil nutrient levels. Moreover, natural processes, or wildlife responses to them, may not be desirable. For example, having too many deer or raccoon may be problematic.
Invasive species have also completely changed the way we view habitat management. Their control requires regular monitoring and appropriate control measures, preferably before they become overabundant. Simply letting nature take its course can have unintended, and undesirable, consequences. Setting land aside is certainly one option to consider. Just don’t be mistaken that approach is best for wildlife and our natural resources.
I would argue it is better to inventory what you have on your property, identify what your potential options are for what you want out of your land, and then determine the approach that meets these objectives. To learn more about this type of approach, read Assessing Your Land's Potential for Wildlife, http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR-175-W.pdf.