Habitat Fragmentation and Land Ownership

Essay for ON THE WILD SIDE January 2016

Our land is more valuable than your money. It was put here for us by the Great Spirit, so we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us. As a present to you we will give you anything we have that you can carry with you; but the land, never.”*

In this present time civilization humans are finding themselves in the midst of more than one environmental quagmire. How to get control of the plastic and junk in the ocean ? How to keep air clean enough to breath in China ? How to rid old pipes of poisonous lead and our water of pharmaceuticals waste which go into toilets ? Am I getting too personal ?

Actually, everything we do and have done in the past are exactly what professional scientists/ecologists are dealing with now. If there ever was a field in which our children will find ready employment, it will be as research problem solvers and maybe even politicians who care about cleaning up our messes. The question we all have is, however, how did we ever get to this point anyway, and what can we do about it as individual home owners, as people who care ?

To their credit, in 1621 the people native to America, the “Indians”, after prayerful consultations with their elders, dieing and weakened due to disease brought here by previous white explorers, and weary of warfare, decided it was in their best interest to make peace with the Pilgrims. In spite of the Mayflower crew robbing them of their seed corn and burial treasures, they made a pact together that would endure long enough to get squash, beans and that same stolen corn planted, harvested and then shared.**

Peace, for the natives, was the best and most productive remedy, even though strangers were encroaching on their land. Interesting…and perhaps something we can learn from during this present time of anxiety about refugees. Unfortunately, back then that fragile peace did not last very long. There will always be the good mixed with the bad, the greedy mixed with the philanthropists, and I assume this is how it will always be. Nothing seems to have changed since the beginning of time.

Of course, as years passed and more settlers arrived to colonize America, the natives were totally kicked off their land. The settlers had brought with them an entirely different ethic of land ownership from Europe, as well as military hardware far more effective than the natives hand crafted bows, arrows and spears. Over the centuries their precious land has been stolen, divided and subdivided…fragmented… sold, and some of it has sadly been misused and polluted.

I am fortunate to live in a sub-division of a beautiful old 200+ acre homestead here in the Catoctins, Due to my love of and concern for diversity in the natural world, I am allowing my 11+acres to not only feed me, but to feed all my other “relations”. The native idea of “other relations” extends far beyond human relatives and includes the wonderful diversity of flora and fauna which most of us care about…bees, butterflies, birds, wildflowers, trees. etc..These are things our children are learning to care about in school, and as wise elders, we should also.

As home owners, and landowners, we can begin to bring these various fragments of land together by allowing native plants to grown, by creating native wildflower gardens on part of our lawns, and planting native trees. That way, the habitat fragmentation which has been going on since the pilgrims settled at Plymouth Rock can be somewhat remedied. If you ever feel like giving up in despair, there is one very real thing you can do, and the opportunity is right in your own back yard, or front yard too (why not ).

The vision is to create a beautiful tapestry right here where we live of yards and properties dedicated to the health and well being of our earth. It already looks like a quilted pattern here in Thurmont, but the work is not yet finished. If anything, the work has just begun !

I belong to the Green Team here in Thurmont and am heading up a project along the rail road tracks which will not only beautify our town with wildflowers, but create habitat for wildlife. I am presently seeking volunteers to clean it up a bit in February and then spread seeds. All this must be done before March, as seeds need the time to stratify (to get the benefit of freezing weather), so as to enhance their germination.

If you are interested in helping me with this project, please do be in touch with me at songbirdschant@gmail.com. If not, then consider doing something on your own little fragment of land, no matter now small. As I always say, “Every little bit helps !”, and THANKS !

* Response of a Chief of the Blackfoot Nation when told to put his signature on a land treaty in Montana; from Touch The Earth by T.C. McLuhun

** as documented in Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

– Christine S. Maccabee

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