|Once an Urban Habitat|
|By Mid Summer, it Could Get Crazy|
The thing that is nagging at me the most is the loss of habitat. We had created a wildlife sanctuary in an urban neighborhood, and now it is gone. There were a lot of beautiful and interesting native plants in our yard, some rare or endangered that I rescued and propagated. We rarely had to water and never used fertilizers or pesticides. We composted the fallen leaves in place as mulch. What is going to happen to the native bees and butterflies that used the nectar and host plants in the yard? Where will the tiny pinewoods snakes, glass lizards and southern toads hunt and hide? I planted foxtail grasses and berry bushes, and left the seed heads on flowers in the winter for the birds. Will they be expecting to find seeds in that space when they migrate next year? Where will the families of brown thrashers who tossed through the leaf mulch go for their bugs? What happens to wildlife when we create safe spaces for them, but then take it away? This must happen all the time. Homes switch owners. People move. Neighborhoods change. Yards are redone. Empty lots get developed. But what happens to the wildlife? I guess the creatures move on and adapt, if they can. If there are other suitable habitats nearby, which is not always the case, especially in the city. I know of only a handful of wild, native yards in our former neighborhood, so I worry. I tend to anthropomorphize, and I keep imagining bewildered pipevine swallowtails, bees and baltimore orioles trying to find their way back to a home that is no longer there. But short of some sort of homeowner's covenant that requires nature friendly landscapes, you can't force future owners of property to carry on the plans of the past inhabitants. So what can you do? Is creating a backyard nature habitat ultimately futile? I would like to think not. In the end, I would venture that, to mangle Tennyson, "'tis better to have created a garden and lost it than to never have created one at all". We made a difference, if only for a few years. One thing that could help would be to make sure that the wildlife garden you create is not the only one in your vicinity. If you are going to create a backyard nature habitat, encourage your neighbors to plant at least a little patch of sanctuary in their yard, too, so that the loss of one habitat won't be catastrophic.
|Brown Thrasher Feeding Chick|
|Woodland Poppymallow (Callirhoe papaver), Endangered and Rescued|
|Glass Lizard on the Front Porch|
|Pipevine Swallowtail Eggs in the Front Yard|
But the question remains--what happens to the wild places after they have been preserved? What happens when the next generation does not share the conservation ethic of its predecessors? Can any place be preserved forever? This is playing out all over the country. Our national program of wilderness preservation in National and State Parks and public land, "the best idea America ever had", is being viewed with new sets of eyes. These eyes do not see wild majesty that should be left alone to protect it for the future, as President Theodore Roosevelt did when he dedicated the Grand Canyon as a National Monument, saying "Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it; not a bit. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American, if he can travel at all, should see. Keep the Grand Canyon as it is." These new eyes don't see the point. They see instead vast tracts of wasted opportunity. Empty land for off-road recreation or new sub-divisions, untapped resources to be exploited, money to be made. Anti-government activists in the West occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon for weeks in a violent takeover, claiming that the land belonged "to the people", not to the government. My beloved Paynes Prairie State Park Preserve, as well as other state parks in Florida, is being seriously examined by the Governor and the aptly named Department of Natural Resources as a potential source of grazing, logging and hunting fees. Oil derricks pump and chug across the beautiful and remote high desert of Utah. It is so discouraging. Personally, I think we should be preserving more, not less of our land, and am intrigued by the idea proposed by biologist E. O. Wilson who believes that we should set aside half of the earth, free from people, to protect our planet's biodiversity. Our fragile interdependent web of life is at risk from human activity and we are all going to suffer if we don't act to protect as many of the earth's biological systems as we can. We humans are not alone on this planet.
|Somewhere in Desolation Canyon, Utah|
On a happier note, we have a new wildlife garden in the early stages at our new home in Georgia. It is still very new and young, and we had a native plant landscaper start the planting for us this time so it wouldn't take 10 years. Soon it will be humming and buzzing and alive with wildlife. And at least 3 other houses on our street have similar gardens, so we have strength in numbers. But someday someone else will move into our house or our neighbors' houses and they may want a new garden. And then what will happen to the wild places when we are gone?