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Old 12-14-2015, 07:21 PM   #1
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Default wildlife refuges - should they be open?

Aldo Leopold said, in a Sand County Almanac in 1949, after the WPA and CCC had spent a decade pre-WWII creating national parks and refuges, and putting roads into all sorts of places they had not been before:

"A roadless marsh is seemily as worthless to the alphabetical conservationist as an undrained one was to the empire-builders. Solitude, the one natural resource still undowered of alphabets, is so far recongnized as valuable only by ornithologists and cranes.

Thus always does history, whether of marsh or market place, end in paradox. The ultimate value in these marshes is wildness, and the crane is wildness incarnate. But all conservation of wilderness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish."

This came to mind as I was with my husband watching tundra swans at Lake Mattamuskeet NWR and Alligator River NWR in eastern NC last weekend. The refuges were closed to the public when originally created, but in the past twenty odd years, the policy has been to open them, to create a love of nature in the public and thus generate the funds to keep them open. They even allow limited hunting in the refuge, which kind of takes the "refuge" out of the equation.

More and more places I go have lovely boardwalks to enable people to walk out over marshy or uneven surfaces, to reach and appreciate areas they would not have been able to reach before. I admit to loving these, and using them. However, every time a person goes by, all of the birds take off. Clearly, the birds and presumptively other wildlife are disturbed by the presence of increasing numbers of people.

There is less and less land area available as undisturbed habitat available.

My question for open discussion is, should we continue to encourage and assist public access to nature, so they will grow to love it and support its conservation, or should we be setting aside larger areas of undisturbed areas with no roads and very limited access so the animals have a chance to live in peace and thereby increase the chances of many species surviving?
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Old 12-14-2015, 08:50 PM   #2
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Great topic for discussion. This quote and idea are new to me.

It seems to me there is no easy answer.
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Old 12-14-2015, 10:43 PM   #3
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" Is it ethical for conservationists to tear logs apart to explore what's inside? Bears do it. Kids learn passion for science through such discoveries. But if forests are small and rotten logs few, are critical habitats being lost, if there are too many eager scientists?" - Stephen Packard, in Vestal Grove: Log of Life and Death, from Gloria's post about rotten logs. (Vestal Grove: Log of Life and Death)

This is the same kind of question as my original one, just on a smaller scale. Do we destroy what we seek to save, in the process of study and education as well as recreation? I know I have explored rotten logs to see what critters lie within. Should I leave the poor things alone, since there are so few places left with rotten logs for them to inhabit? I know I would not like some being lifting the lid off of my house to look within.
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Old 12-15-2015, 06:29 AM   #4
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Great thread and questions. I wish we as a society could find ways to do a "both/and." People will only learn to love nature if they have access to it, but the animals need areas with limited access. Another issue (for me, anyway) is that with the growing human population, it makes a certain kind of ecological sense for people to live closer together, leaving more areas reasonably wild for the animals--human homes clustered in a central neighborhood surrounded by greenspace. These greenspaces would not be "wild" as they would be buffers between towns/neighborhoods/housing developments, but they would be corridors with less disturbance than a typical strip mall area.
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Old 12-15-2015, 06:51 PM   #5
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As to the original question, on my drive to work this morning, I wondered about limiting hours or days to the preserves...I'm not sure that that would be enough to keep wildlife feeling secure. As I said before, there seems to be no simple solution. Catch 22...each generation must feel a connection with nature in order to want to preserve it.

Also, I want natural areas to explore--maybe not unique habitats which support rare species, but at least a quality woodland, pond, meadow...oh, and a bog or other wetland would be nice. Hmm...honestly, I was just going to say woodland,,,but, I guess I want it all.

Perhaps encouraging more and more people to create mini-habitats in their own yard to represent these places is the way to go. That is what I am doing...but, I already have a deep passion for preserving these things.
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Old 12-15-2015, 06:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rebek56 View Post
Great thread and questions. I wish we as a society could find ways to do a "both/and." People will only learn to love nature if they have access to it, but the animals need areas with limited access. Another issue (for me, anyway) is that with the growing human population, it makes a certain kind of ecological sense for people to live closer together, leaving more areas reasonably wild for the animals--human homes clustered in a central neighborhood surrounded by greenspace. These greenspaces would not be "wild" as they would be buffers between towns/neighborhoods/housing developments, but they would be corridors with less disturbance than a typical strip mall area.
I am not a city person...and, even though I grew up in the suburbs, I was surrounded by open spaces, forests and a family farm or two. I immensely enjoy living where we do with few neighbors; I would not do well in a crowded, city atmosphere.

Overpopulation is looming, though, so I see your point.
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Old 12-15-2015, 09:36 PM   #7
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When our kids were all home, we used to pack them up and take them on a 3-4 week vacation every year. We always went west. We often meandered west via non-Interstate roads. We visited many NWR's. As I recall, most of them had relatively small sections open to the public with boardwalks and a Visitor Center, etc. Many of them had large areas that were off limits to the human visitors in order to give the wildlife a place of refuge. We also visited a few that were so far off the beaten path that no one bothered to stop there anyway.

I think exposure to nature and wild life and wild areas is important - both for our health and well being and also to nurture respect and caring for those places and their critters. People just don't care about what they don't know. If the NWR's are closed to visitors, I think we risk losing them because people won't care about what is there. The NWR's are a great educational experience for the kids, too. We met some wonderful Rangers, always eager to teach and to answer questions.
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Old 12-15-2015, 09:41 PM   #8
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When our kids were all home, we used to pack them up and take them on a 3-4 week vacation every year. We always went west. We often meandered west via non-Interstate roads. We visited many NWR's. As I recall, most of them had relatively small sections open to the public with boardwalks and a Visitor Center, etc. Many of them had large areas that were off limits to the human visitors in order to give the wildlife a place of refuge. We also visited a few that were so far off the beaten path that no one bothered to stop there anyway.

I think exposure to nature and wild life and wild areas is important - both for our health and well being and also to nurture respect and caring for those places and their critters. People just don't care about what they don't know. If the NWR's are closed to visitors, I think we risk losing them because people won't care about what is there. The NWR's are a great educational experience for the kids, too. We met some wonderful Rangers, always eager to teach and to answer questions.
Well said.

Assuming most refuges are much larger than the sections open to the public, I'm thinking we've already found a happy medium.
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Old 12-17-2015, 05:07 PM   #9
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The problem I see is how much of the NWRs are open to the public. It used to be that only small amounts were open. Now the policy is to open increasing amounts. Alligator River, for example, has roads running all through it that are open. Granted, they are mostly gravel, but still. Pea Island, NWR, likewise has trails along the ponds for bird watchers.

Don't get me wrong. I have very much enjoyed visiting these places, and they do increase my willingness to support creating more refuges. I just think that the poor animals are not getting a lot of refuge. The birds would take off in large numbers any time anything spooked them, which was pretty frequently. Nice photos, energy wasted for the birds.

There is not a simple answer to this. Unfortunately, with the steadily increasing world population, there is going to be progressively more pressure on habitat in general and on opening the wild areas for human recreation as well. All around Chapel Hill, wooded areas and fields are being plowed for new housing, as NC's population is growing fast.

People also don't understand how much we have already lost. In "The Homing Instinct" by Bernd Heinrich (a great book), he describes the monarch butterfly migration "millions passing for hours, even in Boston" in the nineteenth century. I am lucky to see two at a time. In Duck, NC, the skies were so full of migrating ducks that commercial hunters came down and killed thousands every week during the season. Now, I am lucky to see a handful.

We adjust our idea of "normal" to what was present in our childhood, not what was present a hundred years ago, What will be left for our grandchildren, great grandchildren and down the road if we don't take care of what we have now?
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Old 12-17-2015, 06:52 PM   #10
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People also don't understand how much we have already lost. In "The Homing Instinct" by Bernd Heinrich (a great book), he describes the monarch butterfly migration "millions passing for hours, even in Boston" in the nineteenth century. I am lucky to see two at a time. In Duck, NC, the skies were so full of migrating ducks that commercial hunters came down and killed thousands every week during the season. Now, I am lucky to see a handful.

We adjust our idea of "normal" to what was present in our childhood, not what was present a hundred years ago, What will be left for our grandchildren, great grandchildren and down the road if we don't take care of what we have now?
This really hits home.
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