If nature bats last, which inning is it?

An albino fawn in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn (photo by Alan Bigelow)

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.

Previous articleInsights from Germany
Next articlePlant-Adjacent Gifts to Myself

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Donate to the Nature Conservancy this Christmas while you can still write off charitable contributions!

  2. Great title, Elizabeth, as it so readily brings to mind our current relationship with Nature. In my lifetime, I saw Santa Clara Valley (the land of endless orchards) become Silicon Valley – the land of endless high-tech buildings and freeways. The Bay Area became so crowded that we left. Now we are seeing the same thing happening in the Portland, OR area. We have an acre and we do what we can to provide habitat for native creatures: raccoons, opossums, coyote, deer, squirrels, snakes, birds, insects, etc. We have no lawn for that reason. Monocultures are not only boring, they do little to contribute to habitat. We are bringing back a forested ravine, currently smothered in English ivy and accented with English laurel and holly. It’s very hard work. But we are determined to make this an example for what people can do to help Nature and have a garden at the same time.

  3. Susan, I too find it heartbreaking to see natural areas razed and housing tracts farmed in their place. I have found a satisfying counterpoint, though. Through my business and activities as a Master Gardener speaker I encourage native habitat restoration in our own front yards, big or small.

    I know it doesn’t take the place of habitat at scale for deer or mountain lions or coyotes, but it can provide rich habitat for those lower down on the ecological totem pole from mycorrhizae to native bees to amphibians, reptiles and migrating birds. In many urban and suburban home landscapes, particularly in front yards, which are so often virtually unused swaths of ecologically barren lawn, can be put to very good use as native plant and animal habitats.

  4. I’ve spent several days in Escalante, and it is a fantastic, remote part of the United States that needs to be preserved. Urban sprawl is already overtaking our coasts, and forcing wildlife to scatter. It is heartbreaking. Thank you for writing about it – the more awareness, the better of our hopes are of preventing this in the future.

Comments are closed.