Biologists Know Only Intact Ecosystems Can Save Species

Real conservation requires first and foremost an acknowledgement that all life is immersed in one interconnected system. Since writing 'Let The Buffalo Roam' a few months ago i've finally found the time to read Richard Manning's 'Rewilding the West'. In it Manning recounts the history, since European settlement, of 3.5 million acres of grasslands in and around the Missouri Breaks that the American Prairie Foundation is attempting to buy up and 'rewild'.

About one quarter of the earth's land was once grasslands, today little remains intact. What hasn't been destroyed by the pastoralists plows has been by their cattle and sheep including the Missouri Breaks. Manning shows how our failures to tame the grasslands of N. America have been a blessing in some ways and how their 'rewilding' will happen one day in spite of our meager attempts to control it. One day the perennials will re-inhabit the area, one day the fence posts will rot, one day the rivers will run clear and clean, The American Prairie Foundation hopes to help hurry that day along.

Species, all species, co-evolve. The earth's grasslands co-evolved with the ungulates that grazed them, with the prairie dogs whose burrows brought nutrients to the surface, with the predators, with the soil and the climate. When droughts came, as they always do, the bison, elk and deer moved hundreds of miles to better pasture. The grasses themselves being perennials would seemingly vanish, as they appeared to do during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, only to regrow from the biomass in their deep and abundant root systems.

Wheat and corn are annual grasses, they must produce seed or not regenerate, so we dam every stream, plow under the original miracle, pile on the chemicals and wait for the Great Mother to laugh at our short term hubris again. i am a conservative, i believe that real conservation's only hope is intact ecosystems. Further i believe that the re-sequestration of greenhouse gases could be accomplished in large part if we stopped trying to control the earth's grasslands [and other ecosystems] for the benefit of the bankers and special interests but instead allowed The Great Mother to once again abide, as she will one day anyway, despite our short sighted plans.

Restoring the great American prairie