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The Myth of the "Untouched Wilderness"
Tom Remington over at the Black Bear Blog has written a very thought provoking article on this subject entitled "How Pristine Were Our Ecosystems Before Western Exploration?" Tom cites some primary sources, such as the journals of explorers and Mountain Men, who had great difficulty living off the land as they found it. Indians and white explorers alike faced a scarcity of edible resources in many areas, and some of the best hunters in history were compelled to eat their horses. The picture that emerges from these primary sources is an environment that had reached an unhealthy imbalance rather than a bountiful paradise.
Even though people have made mistakes in managing the environment, this article reminds us that WE are part of the equation that leads to a healthy ecosystem. People are not just the destroyers of the "untouched wilderness." Hunting, fishing and trapping, within wise limits, are absolutely necessary to keep our ecosystem balanced, to ensure healthy and stable game population levels, and to limit natural predators so game species can thrive.
What really struck me about Tom's article is how it reminds us that WE....hunters and trappers....are an essential part of a healthy environment. Environmentalists and animal rights activists assume that we are unnatural elements in this world, that humans and our needs are out of place, and the world would be pristine if not for our utilization of the environment. But we are not above or beyond the ecosystem. We are part of it, and hunting and trapping activities are our contribution to the balance of the system. I can't do full justice to Tom's article, so go have a look at the full story here. I'll leave you with a snippet from his conclusion:
"These and more accounts certainly paint a far different picture of how things actually were than what we are often taught about how balanced and bountiful our forests and wilderness were before man arrived. Man certainly made his share of mistakes in being good stewards of the land but in time we figured out what we had to do to sustain game populations and to control the predators that destroyed them."
"With the presence of man, and bringing with him agriculture and the knowledge to plant and grow crops and tend the land, this began to create a better habitat that would support a heartier and healthier crop of game animals. We controlled the predators so people could harvest the game to feed their families and over time devised a pretty decent wildlife management plan that many around the world now envy."
Labels: Odds and Ends