Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sand apes

Yesterday we participated in a habitat restoration at Montrose Point Dunes, helping plant 12 black oaks. Planting trees isn't typical for these sorts of things (usually they involve pulling invasives, applying pesticides and spreading seeds), but it will push forward the amazing succession already going on at the dunes. Habitat restoration is important, I think, but also unusual when put in historical context. I tried to come up with a way to convey this, so here goes:

The hominids that crossed the great ocean were a curious, destructive, industrious bunch. They came to a new land and quickly spread out, usurping everything in their way, pushing out the hominids that called the place home. The aggressive hominids found a place at the south end of a lake as a big as an inland sea, not far from a big, muddy river that stretched all the way to an actual ocean. They built a city made of wood and it all burned down. They built a new city and discovered a new way of building--straight up into the sky. They built these tall buildings over and over.

The prairies and swamps and dunes and savannas that lined the shore of the big lake soon were paved over. Streets crisscrossed the area by the lake. And when there wasn't any empty shoreline left, the hominids built a new shoreline, that jutted out into the lake in places. They needed a sandy beach to rest on. The prairies and swamps and dunes and savannas were gone.

Many years later, the hominids forgot about one section of sand. A few cottonwoods sprang up. A green plant called sea rocket took hold. A tenacious species known as marram grass began to carpet the sand. And a few low dunes rose from the ground. The hominids began to tend to the dunes, grasses and trees. They weeded the dunes and picked up trash. They fenced the dunes from dogs and volleyballs and boaters. Finally, they planted 12 young black oaks, so that the shoreline could look more like it did when the aggressive hominids set foot in the area.

Certainly an oversimplification, but maybe at least hope for the future. If we hominids keep on this path maybe more wild places like Montrose Point Dunes will spring up.

(I stole the photo of the red fox at the dunes from another site. Though I have had great views of Vulpes vulpes this spring.)

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