In the course of doing research for my blog posts and book writing, I recently I came across a term that deeply resonated with me. “Passive Restoration”. It resonated so deeply that I wanted to share it with my readers and followers.
I often get frustrated with those who oversee our public lands. They are always trying to “manage” something in the ecosystems that they oversee. We read about things like controlling invasive species and establishing hunting quotas as if these people had done some precise calculation in order to take a certain action or to establish the limits they impose on the public.
It is all poppycock !!! These guys have no way of effectively determining limits because science has taught us that we cannot predict what Nature will do. Our public servants are living in a world of fantasy.
It is more accurate, perhaps, to describe the role of regulators in the US Park Service, the Forestry Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management as responding to those who scream the loudest. Usually, those big noisemakers are the farmers and ranchers who are skilled at packing public hearings and raising all sorts of flack to distract our stewards of Nature from their purpose of protecting the ecosystems that they hold in public trust. Lets face it, farmers and ranchers want to use our public lands for grazing and many don’t want to lift a finger to provide non-lethal predator control to protect their livestock.
Passive restoration is an idea that would certainly trigger a huge outcry from our farmers and ranchers. But, it is a great idea for preserving our ecosystems where Nature is allowed to make the decisions for her own welfare. Our public servants won’t have to guess about the right decisions anymore.
In basic terms, passive restoration means “Let Nature take her own course“. A more formal description is: “Passive restoration means simply allowing natural succession to occur in an ecosystem.” The recovery of the deciduous forests in the eastern United States after the abandonment of agriculture is a classic example of passive restoration. So is the wolf story at Yellowstone National Park.
Recently, I wrote a blog post entitled “Wolves, Cougars, and Rivers” which featured a great video entitled “Lords of Nature” . The blog post and the video emphasize the great predators and how things changed after the Gray Wolf was reintroduced and allowed to multiply and roam on its own, without human interference, in Yellowstone National Park.
High Country News has offered an article that interviewed Oregon State University ecologist Bill Ripple who collected data on the wolf reintroduction project. It was this interview where I resonated with the idea of passive restoration.
“As wolves reduced the size of the elk herd in the Yellowstone ecosystem, chokecherry, serviceberry and huckleberry flora began to rebound and flourish in a long-term phase of “passive restoration,” Ripple said. In time, and as other food sources declined, berry production might become more and more important as a source of nutrition in the grizzly bears’ diet. It’s humbling, Ripple added, to realize that the cascading effects of wildlife management, or mismanagement, roll in both directions. If too many wolves are killed, the consequences could affect many other species.”
“But if we let passive restoration run its course, we might just see some remarkable things happen,” said Ripple. The riparian environment could once again become vibrant nurseries for birds, beaver, and a number of smaller critters. If you kill too many wolves in Yellowstone, however, their population could drop below the threshold essential to maintaining a vigorous and resilient ecosystem. If that happens, we might as well paint over the petroglyphs, cage the animals, pave the parks, dam the last free-flowing rivers, turn the last old-growth forests into toothpicks and stop pretending that we cherish the wild. “
There is a lot to be said for we humans just backing off and letting Nature do her thing. Instead of trying to control Nature, we need to focus on controlling ourselves. What do you think?
Worth Your Extra Attention :
I’m turning to my dear readers and followers for your help.
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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.