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Chicago, another example of destructive “restorations”

March 5, 2011

We were first introduced to the native plant movement about 12 years ago when we began to notice that trees were being destroyed in our parks in San Francisco, but we couldn’t comprehend the scale of the project until we were finally successful in getting access to the first draft of the management plan for the Natural Areas Program in San Francisco.  Frankly, we were appalled by the planned destruction and restrictions on recreational access outlined in those plans. 

Hoping to understand the motivation for a project that didn’t make sense to us, we began to read about the native plant movement.  The first book we read was about “restoration” efforts in Chicago(1) which began in the late 1970s and apparently is one of the first projects in the country, influencing all others.  We were immediately struck by the similarities between our experiences in the Bay Area with those in Chicago.

  • The pre-settlement landscape was arbitrarily selected for replication in both places, despite an acknowledgement that the prairie and oak savannah were artificially maintained by frequent fires used by Native Americans.  Man had prevented the natural succession of grassland to shrubs and ultimately to forest.(2)
  • “Restorationists” in both places were essentially hobbyists, using trial-and-error strategies that rejected scientific methods of controlled experiments as too slow for their urgent mission.  The phrase “adaptive management” was adopted in San Francisco to describe these unscientific strategies.
  • Stealth methods were used in both places to hide controversial practices from the public.(3)  Trees (in Chicago, both native and non-native trees) were girdled to kill them and the scars hidden from view.  In Chicago, all activities (broadcast and brush pile burns, herbicide use, etc) were conducted behind visual screens.  In San Francisco, volunteers use herbicides they are not authorized to use.

Girdled tree, San Francisco

  • In both cases, “restorationists” developed a sense of ownership of the land that denied alternate views or even the authority of the theoretically official managers of the land.  As one of the local leaders said in a public hearing in San Francisco, “We know what to do and we want you to leave us alone to do what needs to be done.”

In Chicago and in the Bay Area, the criticisms of these “restorations” are also similar:

  • We do not want to destroy healthy trees whether native or non-native
  • We do not want to use toxic herbicides
  • We do not want to pollute our air or take the unnecessary risks associated with prescribed burns
  • We do not want to kill animals whether they are native or non-native
  • We value the landscape that exists and we do not consider a landscape that is exclusively native superior to it.  We have an inclusive view of nature, based on an acknowledgement of its dynamic quality.  We reject the arbitrary division of nature into “good” and “bad.” 
  • We believe that our public lands are owned by everyone, not just those who choose to volunteer in them

Ten years ago, we were encouraged to learn that the critics of the Chicago “restorations” were successful in getting a moratorium in 1996 on destruction in the areas being contested.  The moratorium was theoretically for the purpose of negotiating a compromise between “restorationists” and their critics. 

When we were recently contacted by restoration critics in Chicago, we weren’t at all surprised to learn that the effort to reach agreement had failed. The moratorium was lifted in most places in 1999 with the exception of a small, contested area where the moratorium was lifted in 2006.  We weren’t surprised because although we have participated in many efforts to negotiate with “restorationists” we have found that they are unwilling to compromise. 

Every scrap of park land originally claimed as a “natural area” in San Francisco is still under the jurisdiction of the so-called “Natural Areas Program.”  Nearly 15 years after the inception of the Natural Areas Program, there is still no environmental impact review, yet herbicide use continues unabated and trees are destroyed when funds are found to pay for their removal.   And in the East Bay, grant funding of restoration projects has been delayed for over 5 years because project managers will not budge from their demand to clear-cut all non-native trees.

Here are photos of the consequences of the “restoration” effort in Chicago:

Photos courtesy Natural Forest Advocates, Chicago

And here is a photo of one of the efforts to bring shame onto the destruction:

Since this photo was taken, the managers of public land have quit announcing prescribed burns and  work days in advance, hoping to prevent crowds such as this from gathering in protest.  Keeping their eyes and ears open, the critics gather as quickly as they can when they learn of a burn or a work day. 

We hope you will visit their website and sign their petition to encourage them in their challenging task. 

We are dedicated to preserving our public lands for the benefit of the animals that live in them and the humans who enjoy them.  We will use every means available to us to prevent as much destruction as we can.  We impatiently wait for science to catch up with our effort to bring this destructive movement to a halt by educating the public about the futility of trying to destroy deeply entrenched non-native species, the damage that is done in that futile effort, the value of a diverse ecology composed of both native and non-native plants and animals, and the changes in the environment that inevitably result in a changed landscape. 


(1) Restoring Nature, editors P. Gobster and B. Hull, Island Press, 2000

(2) Miracle Under the Oaks:  the revival of nature in America, William K. Stevens, Pocket Books, 1995

(3) Ibid.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Busybody Buttinski permalink
    March 5, 2011 4:55 pm

    Human beings that are born (complete embryonic development and become autonomous) in the territory of the United States are defined as “natives”. I’m surprised that restorationists are not assigning the same rights to trees and plants that they assign to people. Or do they want to redefine native citizenry?
    Webmaster: It is truly ironic that you should ask this question. In fact, the most prominent native plant advocate in the Bay Area does not believe that children born in the US to parents of illlegal immigrants should be granted citizenship. In one of his recent “nature newsletters” he expressed his opinion that the constitutional amendment is misinterpreted to grant citizenship. He offered some legalistic explanation for his opinion that I can’t repeat because the logic of it escaped me. And so, you have identified one of the roots of the native plant movement, which is sometimes indistinguishable from a similar attitude toward humans.

    • Busybody Buttinski permalink
      March 6, 2011 1:13 pm

      Perhaps a better description of being born is: completing the process of development from zygote to autonomous member of the species.
      BB

  2. tree girl permalink
    March 6, 2011 10:16 am

    Don’t restorationists find it ironic that as they chop trees and destroy animals that they themselves are primarily European American transplants — perhaps the most rapidly reproducing and noxious of all invasive species?!?
    Webmaster: In our experience, native plant advocates have dismissed what seems to us an obvious contradiction, by saying simply “plants are different from humans.” In fact you can see this particular argument here on Million Trees from “Charlie, the Naturalist” in his comment on the home page. Another approach from some native plant advocates is to advocate for population and immigration control, a more philosophically consistent position, but perhaps even more odious to those who value our free society.

    • Busybody Buttinski permalink
      March 6, 2011 1:17 pm

      This gets to the question of whether humans are a part of nature or seperate from it. I believe that the answer to this is blindingly obvious, but many hold the position diametrically opposed to mine. My question is then: If we are not part of nature, what the heck are we?

  3. Busybody Buttinski permalink
    March 6, 2011 1:29 pm

    By the way, the picture of the girdled tree in San Francisco makes me so,so, sad, sad, sad.

  4. Paula Fitzgerald, Natural Forest Advocates permalink
    March 7, 2011 3:24 pm

    I agree. Of course humans are a part of the environment. The restorationists talk about pre European settlement as if Native Americans and their predecessors did not carry, eat seeds, plant seeds and burn areas of the environment. In fact Hitler tried to purge the Black forest of non native (German) trees! Many in the pro restoration community seek to create people free environments in our parks and forests. Nature constantly changes and adapts to our ever changing environment.

  5. March 8, 2011 8:22 am

    Trees for Life just documented an area called McMahon Woods in the southern Cook County Forest Preserve where hundreds of mature, healthy, native trees were cut down all in the name of “restoration” . Well over 200 acres of formerly wooded landscape have been stripped almost bare. It was done ostensibly to protect an endangered Dragonfly. Many of these trees were native white oak, red oak and black cherry, well over 75 – 100 years old.
    It is heartbreaking and it is the “wrong kind of green.” It is our understanding that the project was funded with a $500,000 grant (tax payer money) performed by the Army Corps of Engineers. It is unclear where the logs from these beautiful trees were shipped and if they were sold.
    Webmaster: In our experience here in the Bay Area, endangered species are the proverbial Trojan Horses of the native plant movement. Native plant advocates try to reintroduce endangered species into parks where they have not existed for at least 100 years. Then they justify their destructive actions–such as herbicide use and tree destruction–as supporting the endangered species they are trying to reintroduce. On the whole, these efforts have not been successful, but we have a local example of the potential costs associated with these reintroductions. In this case, there are two endangered species that exist in a park where native plant advocates have recently sued to close the golf course, claiming that this will benefit the endangered species. We hope that this will help the public understand the cost of reintroducing endangered species into the urban environment. The consequences will be that the parks will be closed to people. Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to the Endangered Species Act. We are opposed to its misuse by native plant advocates as a means of accomplishing their “Fortress Conservation” in an urban environment.

    • Patsy Cotterill permalink
      April 6, 2011 4:21 pm

      Yes, but the problem is, that the urban environment keeps on expanding, doesn’t it, taking out natural environments full of natives (or maybe a mix of natives and non-natives)? And population growth (to which immigration contributes two-thirds in Canada where I live) is the cause of urban expansion.
      Here in Canada we are more backward than you in the US, obviously: we simply destroy our natural environments for agriculture, urbanization and industrialization, and do not compensate with restoration, so there is none of the backlash that you clearly have. And none of us would think of cutting down our boulevard non-native elms or suggesting horticultural species in our major gardens be replaced with natives, although some of us do remove weeds (aliens) from natural areas within cities and advocate that people who enjoy gardening accept the challenge of planting native perennials in their gardens.
      I suggest that if there was less loss of natural habitat (and this could be achieved with zero population growth and a stable, i.e., non-growth) economy, restorationists wouldn’t need to be so active, and semi-natural, people-accessible environments could also preserve their status quo. Moderation in all things! But the bigger our populations get, the more we are going to fight over these things.

    • Buttoutski permalink
      May 15, 2011 1:06 pm

      Where I live golf course are closed to ‘the public’ and only paying customers can enter, so closing them won’t make a difference to me.
      Webmaster: The golf course we refer to in this comment is open to the public. Your view of the issue is rather narrow, i.e., focused entirely on whether or not you are personally affected. We don’t play golf at all, yet we can understand that it is an issue for those who do.

  6. Renee Bennett permalink
    March 8, 2011 8:54 am

    I have seen herbiciding, cutting of mature trees and burning in the Cook County Forest Preserve with the ridiculous explanation that “they don’t belong here”. We are losing our forest canopy and the woods are being carved out to create artificial prairies. Our area was originally a wet woodland. I am equally disturbed to read about what is happening in California. We need to fight this. What was “native” may not even be relevant in today’s climate..regardless “restoration” is not working and is wrong.

  7. Petra M. Blix, Ph.D. permalink
    March 8, 2011 10:48 am

    Anyone concerned about the toxicity of herbicides, the accumulative effects of herbicides on health and the environment, and the misinformation disseminated by Monsanto should take a look at this video, The World According to Monsanto (1 hour, 49 minutes). You can watch it online for free:
    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-world-according-to-monsanto/.

    There is no such thing as a safe herbicide. Dr. Relyea, ecology professor at the University of Pittsburgh says, “I think what’s clear is that pesticides have an immense potential for unintended impacts, and organisms – humans or otherwise- are immensely complicated and those unintended impacts are really hard to predict.”

    Commercial pesticides contain over 800 active ingredients and Dr. Relyea’s research has shown that many of the most commonly used pesticides, alone or in combination, are lethal to amphibians. His research has also shown that many pesticides are lethal at concentrations lower than those reported to be safe. Since the decline of amphibian populations is considered an indicator of environmental degradation and pollution, these studies are very important.

    Anyone who believes that herbicides are relatively harmless or degrade in 24 hours in the sunlight is sadly mistaken. The video states that Monsanto’s own data shows that only 2% of the herbicide RoundUp is broken down after 28 days.

    The most important question the video raises is:
    If Monsanto hid the deleterious effects of other products for years knowing that they had a serious impact on human health, what are they hiding from us now?

    • March 8, 2011 11:28 am

      Thank you for this information. Native plant advocates want the public to think that the herbicides they use are harmless because they can’t accomplish all their destruction without them.

      There is an unholy alliance between the manufacturers of herbicides and the native plant movement. For example, look at the fund sources of the “wildland weed management” conferences and the like. These conferences are funded by Dow, Monsanto, etc.

      It is a profound mystery how the native plant movement came to be associated with environmentalism. They poison our air, our water, our land and then they call themselves environmentalists. We don’t get it.

      • Patsy Cotterill permalink
        April 6, 2011 4:26 pm

        I am no friend of Monsanto and what it is doing to agriculture but I think it’s absolutely ludicrous to complain about the use of herbicides/pesticides in restoration projects when billions of gallons of the stuff is sprayed on the crops which, so agribusiness says, is essential to feed the 7. something billion people on the planet!
        Webmaster: We think you would find that most critics of the use of herbicides in our urban parks, are equally unhappy with the use of pesticides in agriculture. You would probably find that most are consumers of organic products. While it may seem silly to object to the use of herbicides in our urban parks, these are the places we occupy–often with our children and our dogs–so we are more concerned about them than places that we don’t visit, such as agricultural fields.

        However, your point is well-taken that more pesticides are used in agriculature. Still the pesticides used in urban areas are not insignificant. A few examples: The East Bay Regional Park District used 1,700 pounds of rodenticides in their properties in 2009. The city of San Francisco used 600 pounds of ACTIVE ingredients in pesticides in 2009. Since the active ingredient is a small portion of the total pesticide, that’s quite a bit. The “Natural Areas Program” of the city of San Francisco sprayed their so-called “natural areas” 69 times in 2010.

    • Busybody Buttinski permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:23 pm

      Dr. Blix, you are preaching to the choir in my case, but please do not use “herbicide” and “pesticide” interchangeably. This leads to cheap but irrelevant criticism. Make the “native” plant advocates work to support their position.
      Webmaster: We struggle with this semantic issue, so thanks for bringing it up, BB. For the benefit of readers who are not familiar with the difference between “pesticides” and “herbicides,” let us explain. Herbicides are a type of pesticide that kills plants. “Pesticide” is the global term for all the poisons, including herbicides, that kill both plants and animals.

      The dilemma when discussing this issue is that using the term “herbicides” communicates our concern about poisoning plants and so we are inclined to use it. However, this should not mislead readers into forgetting that all pesticides are harmful to animals, including humans, and the environment. For example, the rodenticides that are used to kill rodents are killing birds of prey and other animals that eat the rodents or inadvertently get into the poison. They die a horrible death because these rodenticides are anti-coagulants, so they bleed to death, sometimes slowly.

  8. May 11, 2011 1:08 pm

    I am opposed to pesticides period. However, I think urban dwellers should not feel that there are less hazards in the urban environment.
    As I understand it one of the largest uses of pesticides are for lawns, that then run into stormwater systems and affect all rivers and streams. At least in Wa. state puget sound had a higher rate of chemical contamination than did agricultural areas. Of course with GMO’s we have to assume that there will be more and more agricultural runoff. PAN Asia has recently published a study on glyphosate, one of the most prominent pesticides used worldwide. Its pretty scary. Anyone who supports the use of pesticides to control or get rid of non-native plants/animals or so called invasives should not think of themselves as an environmentalist. And if it is done to protect an endangered species I would say it is sacriligious and ignorant. Our earth is already burdened by human activities. Spraying pesticides should be one of the easiest insults to end if it weren’t for the politicians and the corporations.

  9. August 1, 2013 11:30 pm

    I AM A FOLLOWER OF LANDSCAPER JENS JENSEN WHO TURNED THE WORLD ON TO CHICAGOLAND’S PRAIRIE ECOSYSTEM CALLED “THE ELM-ASH-COTTONWOOD” & “THE OAK-HICKORY” SYSTEM WITH THEIR LISTINGS OF PLANTS, VINES AND FUNGI ALWAYS FOUND GROWING NEXT TO THEM. “RESTORATION” WAS ONE OF THE MAIN PREREQUISITES FOR JENSEN’S “PRAIRIE STYLE MOVEMENT” CAUSE CHICAGO’S EARLY FARMERS THINKING OPEN PRAIRIE LAND’S SOIL WAS WORTHLESS SEEING NO TREES GROWING ON THEM & EARLY PLOW TECHNOLOGY COULD NOT BREAK INTO THE ANCIENT ROOT SYSTEM, SO THEY CLEARED ALL THE RIPARIAN FORESTS FOR FARMLAND. THEN JENSEN HAD IDEA TO FORM COOK CNTY FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT, AND WHEN THEY BOUGHT THE LAND OF THESE OLD FARMS IN THE 20’S &30’S, JENSEN WAS GONE AND DECISION WAS MADE 2 LET MOTHER NATURE RECLAIM IT INTO FOREST AGAIN. OUR VIRULENT NATIVE ASH SPECIES DID JUST THAT, AND NOW TODAY WHOLE ACRES OF FOREST(SOMETIMES 75%-100%) IS SUCCUMBING TO THE EMERALD ASH BORER. BEFORE JENSEN’S ERA, SETTLERS HAD ABUNDANCE OF EXOTIC PLANT SEEDS TO CHOOSE FOR THEIR GARDEN. BUT BEFORE ILL EFFECTS WERE REALIZED, CHICAGOLAND’S NATIVE PLANTS WERE PUSHED OUT. BY SELLING NATIVE PRAIRIE WEEDS FOR PEOPLES BACK YARDS, IT IS HOPED THAT INVASIVES NOW GET PUSHED OUT. ASH WILL SOON BE EXTINCT, AND THIS GIVES US A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO “GUIDE” WHAT LIFE FILLS IN THESE GAPING HOLES…EVEN BEFORE THE EAB YEARS, VOLUNTEERS GIRDLED NATIVE GREEN ASH TREES IN THE WOODS IN ORDER TO REGULATE SPECIES DOWN TO PRE-SETTLEMENT PERCENTAGES WHICH IS WRONG AND IRONIC SINCE CCFPD QUIETLY UTILIZES INSECTICIDES FOR INVESIVES WHILE ALLOWING EVERY SINGLE ASH TREE TO DIE WHEN THEY COULD HAVE POURED $5 WORTH OF PRODUCT AROUND IT’S BASE, KEEPING A FEW FROM EXTINCTION. .

    YOUR FACTION OF ENVIRONMENTALISTS TAKES A STRANGE STANCE FOR KEEPING EVERYTHING ALIVE IN WOODS. WHILE YOUR APPRECIATION FOR LIVING THINGS IS THERE, AND I AGREE THE COUNTY SCREWS THINGS UP WITH THE BEST INTENTIONS, ANY OPPORTUNITY TO BRING BACK WHAT HAS ONLY BEEN GONE FOR 160 YEARS AFTER EVOLVING ON THAT SAME LAND THERE FOR OVER 14,000 YEARS WILL GIVE OUR NATIVE TREE & PLANT SPECIES WHAT THEY DESERVE, IT’S HOME GROWN ECOSYSTEM THAT TIPS PROPER GROWING CONDITIONS BACK IN ITS FAVOR.

    AND THAT MEANS NO TREE OF HEAVEN OR BUCK THORN BECAUSE THAT WOULD MAKE IT AN ABANDONED LOT, NOT A REAL CHICAGOLAND PRAIRIE FOREST WHERE TOURISTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD COME TO SEE WHAT LIFE IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE ON THIS PART OF OUR EARTH. IT MIGHT TAKE MAN THOUSANDS OF YEARS TO REGROW THE PRAIRIES DEEP ROOT SYSTEM WHICH PROTECTED PLANTS FROM PRAIRIE FIRES AND TO ALLOW EXAMPLES OF OUR LONG LIVED NATIVE TREES TO REACH REAL MATURITY AT 500 YEARS OLD. WHETHER THE CCFPD IS DOING IT RIGHT OR WRONG, IT’S A START. SO IS EVEN MAKING SURE CULTIVARS & NON NATIVE EXOTIC TREES ARE NOT PLANTED BY MUNICIPALITIES SEVERAL BLOCKS FROM WOODS TO PROTECT AGAINST THEIR SEEDS BLOWING IN.

    NO, JENSEN TAUGHT US TO APPRECIATE OUR NATIVE LIFE AND HE KNEW OUR PRAIRIE FORESTS.WERE UNIQUE TO THE WORLD. SO PLEASE JUST HOLD YOUR BREATH IF YOU THINK MUTT MIXED SPECIES FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD HAVE A PLACE IN CHICAGO’S WOODS LIKE TODAYS MIXED MAKE UP OF AMERICA’S POPULATION. AND IGNORE THE UNDER CONSTRUCTION SIGNS BECAUSE WE WILL BE FULFILLING JENSEN’S GOAL OF, YES RESTORATION, FOR THE NEXT THOUSAND YEARS. PLEASE DON’T DELAY THE INEVITABLE, AS WE ALREADY GOT A LATE START AT IT! I DO AGREE, NO INSECTICIDES UNLESS NATURAL LIKE NEEM TREES AZADIRACHTIN WHICH EVEN KILLS EMERALD ASH BORER.

    SCOTTIE ASH TREE

    PS: I HAVE BEEN GROWING MANY NEW NATIVE TREE SPECIES FROM SEEDS COLLECTED IN OUR WOODS FOR PLANTING IN THE DEAD ASH GROVES. THIS PRECIOUS LOCALLY EVOLVED DNA THEY CONTAIN DOES NOT NEED TO BE ALTERED BY CHANGED LIVING CONDITIONS AND SCIENCE ALONG WITH JENS JENSEN KNOWS THEY GROW BEST WHILE LIVING ALONG SIDE SPECIES THEY EVOLVED WITH. WE MAY NEVER GET ALL THE RIGHT PUZZLE PIECES BACK IN THE RIGHT PLACES, BUT WE CAN SAY WE TRIED WHILE LEARNING VALUABLE LESSONS ALONG THE WAY. OUR FIRST LESSON LEARNED WAS TO NOT LET MOTHER NATURE RECLAIM ITSELF WITHOUT A LITTLE GUIDENCE FROM HUMANS WHO SCREWED UP THINGS IN THE FIRST PLACE. DON’T PRESERVE THE BASTARD THAT OUR WOODS HAVE BECOME JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK EXOTIC SPECIES HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT TO LIVE THERE TOO. BEFORE LONG WE WILL HAVE AN ASIAN LOOKING FOREST, THAT IS WHY I AM FIGHTING FOR A GENUINE CHICAGO WOODS, ONE THAT GREW LONG BEFORE EVEN THE INDIANS HAD INFLUENCED IT. AND THAT MIGHT TAKE FURTHERER EXCITING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH UTILIZING ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORDS, AND TRACING EVOLUTION OF DNA BACKWARDS THROUGH THEIR CHANGES. I AM COLLECTING ASH SEEDS IN ORDER TO BRING BACK THE EXTINCT SPECIES TO OUR WOODS SOMEDAY. OUR NATIVE ELM STILL GETS TO EVOLVE A CURE FOR DUTCH ELM FUNGUS IN THE FUTURE BECAUSE IT GETS FIVE YEARS TO SEED BEFORE KILLED OFF AT ONLY15, BUT EAB KILLS YOUNG ASH AT 1″DBH, OR SEVERAL YEARS BEFORE SEEDING AGE OF TEN! THAT IS WHY IT’S AN EXTINCTION EVENT.

    Webmaster: Here is another view of Jens Jensen from Stephen Jay Gould, a famous scientist who was an expert about evolution: https://milliontrees.me/2010/12/01/stephen-jay-gould-examines-the-concept-of-native-plants/. Gould was equally famous for his strong commitment to racial and gender equality.

  10. Keith McAllister permalink
    August 3, 2013 1:35 pm

    Native plant enthusiasts react in anger when people point out that their language often sounds like xenophobic objections to “alien” people. Now readers can decide if it’s just similar language, or if Scott Concertman has essentially the same objection to “alien” plants and “alien” people.
    “SO PLEASE JUST HOLD YOUR BREATH IF YOU THINK MUTT MIXED SPECIES FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD HAVE A PLACE IN CHICAGO’S WOODS LIKE TODAYS MIXED MAKE UP OF AMERICA’S POPULATION”
    and
    “BEFORE LONG WE WILL HAVE AN ASIAN LOOKING FOREST, THAT IS WHY I AM FIGHTING FOR A GENUINE CHICAGO WOODS”
    For my part, I think Chicago will do just fine with a mix of both plants and people from all over the world.

    • Patsy Cotterill permalink
      August 3, 2013 9:29 pm

      It’s absolutely fatuous that anyone should equate attempts at native ecosystem restoration with racism or racial cleansing. Clearly the people who say this know nothing about ecology or restoration science. The latter is becoming more and more of a scientific discipline as it is realized that so many ecosystems are being degraded, with loss of native flora and fauna, as a result of the activities of humans, now some 7 billion strong in the world. Restoration is an attempt to bring back the biodiverse and well-adapted ecosystems to a particular geographic area that have been thus degraded, altered, or destroyed by man. Note that I said biodiverse; natural ecosystems tend to contain many more species of plants and animals than those that are artificial, i.e., tampered with by man.

      Webmaster: We do not equate ecological restorations with racism. Nevertheless, racist language is sometimes found in the defense of nativism, as it was in the comment from “Concertman” and the publications of Jens Jensen.

      Actually, the scientific basis of ecological restorations are now being questioned by many scientists. Many of the assumptions of native plant advocates are no longer supported by scientific research. For example, scientific studies consistently report that modern landscapes composed of both native and introduced plants are more biodiverse than their pre-settlement predecessors. There is also consensus amongst scientists that there is no longer any place on earth that has not been “tampered with by man.”

      If introduced species were not well adapted, they would not persist where they are introduced. The ultimate test of whether a species “belongs” somewhere is its persistence.

      I belong to a group that promotes the use of native plants in gardens and community landscapes, and in restoration of natural areas. We formed because we live in a city, Edmonton, Alberta, where huge urban expansion is destroying a lot of natural habitat. So we decided we would try to salvage some of the local flora and maintain populations. We may be wasting our time if we think we can adequately restore native ecosystems but look at it this way, why should we stand passively by and let our burgeoning suburban gardens be filled with boring old nursery-trade species while our native flora takes a nose-dive!
      I could add that the provincial government requires restoration attempts for the wetlands that are being lost in the huge oilsands mining developments to the north of us. It is controversial whether these will be successful or not in recreating all the functions and flora of natural wetlands, but nobody is talking racism here.

      So back to the racism connection..The earlier post mentioned the European experience of ethnic cleansing and once again the holocaust was invoked as the terrible result of the ideology of an ethnically pure, aboriginal race…In North America the human situation is entirely the opposite; it was the native people who were discriminated against by the mixed immigrant, colonizing races – admittedly mostly Europeans, not vice versa.

      It doesn’t help to quote celebrated biologist Stephen Jay Gould out of context, either. Some of his points are valid, but the situation with respect to restoration is not black and white, nor simple. In some cases restoration to an aboriginal system may be desirable, in others very difficult, in others absolutely impossible, because the original conditions of geography, climate and organism availability no longer exist. Every situation should be considered on its own merit. And give the scientists some credence….!

      Webmaster: We have not quoted Stephen Jay Gould “out of context.” We have supplied a link to the entire article from which we are quoting. The article states clearly that the concept of “native plants” is not consistent with evolutiona4ry science.

      The native plant movement is an ideology, based on assumptions about the superiority of species perceived to be “native.” Stephen Jay Gould is not alone amongst scientists in his opinion that these assumptions are not supported by science.

  11. April 7, 2016 6:54 pm

    Regarding Indians influence on surroundings…Since always evolving Mother nature forged a symbiotic relationship with “first peoples” back some 11 to 14,000 years ago. Paleo-humans can be officially classified as a native organism species, listed under our regions “Midwestern Plaines ecology”. Which contains Oak-Hickory, Elm-Ash-Cottonwood, and Sugar Maple-American Basswood-White Ash ecosystems (Along with a spectrum of other types). The latter forest contains Allium tricoccum, Chicago’s namesake Ramp Onion that kicked up its natural smell when walking through woods. See, it does not even grow on an open Prairie! Humans would not be considered a “Keystone” species, trees which are solar panels to soil life, and produce food for unique arthropods etc. are the “Systems” most influential organisms…Luckily our regions ancient ecology has been under pressure for only 180 years, and humanity which threatens its continued existence would be universal bastards if we did not try saving what remains, “Just for natures sake”. Especially since we are just beginning to understand its importance, as a living system whose every part relies on every other. In order to allow mother nature fair chances for recovering on her own time, and in her own way, without Mans noble and possibly misguided bungling (taking place today). Only a few of the most dangerously influential non native species imported from other continents by man, must be kept in check or culled, not from existing urban areas, but from our local ecosystems “Preserves”. So by going native for natures sake, what survives of the ancient locally evolved ecosystem found no where else in the universe, can continue calling Chicago home for another million years. Who thought compassion for saving an ancient ecosystem by “restoring some kind of balance”, would mean the unceremonious death of a million Buckthorn bushes, felling of bullying but beautiful Norway Maples, and clearing of whole groves of breathtaking Black Locust introduced from Americas Appalachian mountains. OK, lets get to work killing some nature to save nature! There will be failures, bureaucracy, human viewpoints, cultural protest, a S&%tload of scientific education and new unforeseen discoveries, and facing failure with patriotic pride and motto, we tried and will continue trying…Right now people do not have say in this process, and compromise is essential to keeps every final decision in check. Not even trying when we caused it, because someone says it “can’t be put back the same way”, that saddles future humanity with regret and embarrassment wishing they still had the power we take for granted today.

    • April 8, 2016 5:53 am

      “Paleo-humans can be officially classified as a native organism species…” Native Americans are Homo sapiens, the same species as all other humans alive on the planet today. But that’s not really the point of our describing their land management practices. The point is that native plant advocates are trying to recreate a landscape that was artificially created and maintained by humans. In other words, it was not a wild, pristine landscape found by European settlers on arrival in the New World. No other species of plant or animal is capable of setting fires, so in that sense Native Americans are as much a part of the modern world as any other human.

      “…allow mother nature fair chances for recovering on her own time, and in her own way, without Mans noble and possibly misguided bungling..” BUT: “OK, lets get to work killing some nature to save nature!” These two statements contradict one another. Concertman suggests we should leave mother nature alone to recover, yet he advocates for “killing” nature. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the hypocrisy in the statement that we must “kill nature to save nature.”

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