Stuff For Our Reading List — Wildlife, Farmland and People

We just read a book review of Jim Sterba’s book “Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comeback Turned Backyards Into Battlegrounds,” and it seems to us that it belongs on our must-read list. It’s not that the book is so great, though it may well be. It’s that by reading this book review we were alerted to stuff we didn’t know. The book review is: Hector Tobar, Warning: People Ahead, L.A. Times, Dec. 9, 2012, at p. E9, and we better read the book.

Our perception of the conventional wisdom as far as land utilization goes, has been shaped (or at least influenced) by endless newspaper stories about the maw of development swallowing up fertile farmland and replacing it with — what else — sprawling development. We have no doubt that some of this is true, but now we learn that it ain’t necessarily so; it depends on where you are. It turns out that there are lots of places where the opposite has been the case for a long time. In northern New England, for example, farms have been disappearing — taken over, not by development, but on the contrary, by the wilderness. And the same is happening in the Great Plains where entire small towns are being abandoned.

Beavers are coming back big time because people have stopped wearing beaver hats, and they (the beavers, not the people) are wreaking havoc on trees which they use to build beaver dams and lodges. Wild turkeys have metamorphosed from national symbol, to a pest. We wondered about that a couple of years ago when visiting the Carmel Valley in Northern California and noticing flocks of them wandering along roads,  showing no fear of people and cars. Modern wild geese have taken to inhabited lands and cozied up to people to such an extent that some of them have ceased migrating south for the winter. Then there are deer. Just try to put in nice landscaping in some parts of New Jersey. Before you can say “Nice Bambi,” the local white tailed deer will reduce it to a few twigs sticking out of the ground.

But for us, the most important thing is the encroachment of wilderness into farmland, because that is contrary to conventional wisdom that is fed to us regularly by the media. We will likely have more to say about all this after we read this book. So stay tuned and while you wait strike a blow for nature by having some venison for dinner — the flora you save may be your own.


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