The assault on wild places continues. As I wrote about here, two national monuments, both in Utah, are much closer to being (drastically) reduced in size: Bears’ Ears by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante by half. What’s next? I would guess plenty; we’ve already heard that drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is part of the current tax bill, now undergoing the reconciliation process.
But we don’t have to look to the far corners of the US for proof that natural habitat is ever-shrinking and pretty much always under attack. We’ve all seen wild places disappear much closer to home. Bruce Adams, a WNY writer that I work with, wrote about this recently in his weekly column, Long Story Short:
These fields were home to rodents, snakes, birds, deer, just to mention the animals I personally encountered. These were my fields, mine and my friends. It’s where we played, hiked, camped, and picked wild berries. I got my Boy Scout fire-starting and cooking badges in the fields. We made “forts,” and had adventures. I read my first Playboy there.
Then they built Maple Road, and with it came traffic that cut off our neighborhood from the endless horizon. The Boulevard Mall came soon after, and more traffic, and then more streets and houses, and gradually our fields shrank until they were gone. I didn’t know it then, but I was witnessing suburban sprawl.
Other commonplace examples, of course, are the increasing incursions of unwanted wildlife into our urban centers. In Buffalo, we now have a coyote issue in huge Forest Lawn Cemetery, which is located in the middle of the city. The coyotes are eating fawns from the cemetery’s largish deer population and startling the many human visitors who walk there regularly. (The permanent residents seem OK with the whole thing.) The cemetery, with the help of the SPCA, is now responsible for maintaining this ad hoc habitat.
There will be lawsuits regarding the loss of these big wild places. We can support those efforts and speak out against those losses. We can also do our bit to maintain the new, ad hoc habitats that are once again appearing near our homes. Sprawl happened, as Bruce says, but the animals are still here. We can keep our trees growing, plant hospitably, feed the birds, and nurture the insects. Nature will punish us, no doubt, but I’d still rather be in its dugout.