For A Journey Of This Sort, One Must First Separate And Become Detached From Typical Worldly Activities, A Transfiguration Campbell Calls Both A Dying And A Birth. My Formal Leave Of Absence From My Teaching Job And My Informal Leave From My Gardens, My Housekeeping, And My Usual Volunteering Were Deliberate, Necessary Measures. Of Course, We Are All On A Hero’S Journey Of Sorts, But This Year In Particular I Sensed All The Strands Coming Together: Self-Confidence, Physical Health, Economic Means, Openness To Adventure, A Deep Love For The Planet, A Mature Understanding Of How The Planet Functions, Despair Over How We Are Changing It, And A Desire To Make A Difference.
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My Initial Anger At The Destruction Of Our Forests Had Begun To Manifest As A Respect For The Individuals Who Have Cared Enough To Save What Is Left, An Awareness Of How Many Others Care, And A Renewed Sense Of Hope For A Better Future For Our Forests And The Many Creatures That Live In Them.
What Is Happening In New Hampshire Is A Great Example Of What Could And Should Be Happening In Every State. In 1901, A Group Of Committed Citizens Formed The Society For The Protection Of New Hampshire Forests To Try To Curb The Destructive Logging. Membership Swelled, Donations Grew, And Now The Group Boasts Ten Thousand Members And Owns More Than Forty Thousand Acres, With Conservation Easements On Many More. The Society’S Original Vision Was That Logging Would Continue In A Responsible, Sustainable Manner. In 2001, However, The Trustees Recognized That Even Sustainable Logging Has Long-Term Effects. So Little Old, Unlogged Forest Remains, They Reasoned, That The Responsible Thing To Do Is Create More Of It. Consequently, They Created A Management Category Called Eco-Reserve. “This Designation,” Said Mike Smith, Chairman Of The Trustees, “Means That These Lands Will Always Stay Primitive And Wild, Free Of Roads, Timber Harvesting, Or Other Human Intervention, Except For That Necessary To Manage Hiking Trails And Other Public Recreational Use. Over Time, These Forests Will Develop Old- Growth Characteristics That Are Virtually Absent From The New Hampshire Landscape After Centuries Of Intensive Land Use. Old Forests Are Important To Wildlife, Preservation Of Biological Diversity, And To People.”
As Of This Writing, They Have Classified More Than Six Thousand Acres As Eco-Reserves And Expect To Eventually Designate 30 Percent Of All Their Holdings. There Is At Least One Eco-Reserve In Each Of New Hampshire’S Counties, And All Are Open To The Public. “The Hope Is That Three Hundred Years From Now, All Forest Society Eco-Reserves Will Contain Old-Growth Forest Structures,” Said Peter Ellis, The Society’S Forest Ecologist.
Future Old-Growth Forests: I Love That. Why Can’T We Do This Throughout The Forested States Of Our Nation? At Least One In Every County, All Open To The Public; Seeds Of Hope Sprinkled Throughout Our Land.
Good Work Is Being Done In Many Places, As In New Hampshire, But Elsewhere Long-Term Forest Protection Has Not Been A Priority. The Sheer Bureaucracy Required To Form An Organization Often Overwhelms People Who Care. Still, I Dream Of The Birth Of A Network That Would Recognize Or Create Publicly Accessible Old-Growth Or Future Old-Growth Reserves Throughout The Country. To Be Sure That No Areas Are Forgotten And Everybody Can Visit One, There Should Be At Least One In Every County. In Some Counties, Such Reserves Already Exist And Merely Need To Be Recognized, But Direct Support, Funding, Or Mandates May Be Needed In Others.
This May Seem Too Ambitious And Unlikely, But Our Federal Government Has Supported Such Ecologically Necessary And Forward-Thinking Measures Before. In The Late 1800s, A Small Group Of Reformers Recognized That Our Natural Resources Were Being Exploited And Endangered, And They Introduced Bills In Congress To Protect The Nation’S Forests. Congress Passed The Forest Reserve Act In 1891 Authorizing The Creation Of Forest Reserves, The Forerunner Of The National Forest System. I Am Forever Grateful For The Foresight, Courage, And Hard Work It Took To Make That Happen.
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