After seeing the Grand Canyon in 1908, Teddy Roosevelt uttered the five words that would save it: “Leave it as it is.” Unfortunately, it is no longer an option to leave most of our country as it once was.
Acclaimed author and ecologist Douglas Tallamy says only five percent of the lower forty-eight states are in anything close to a pristine ecological state. Ninety-five percent of our country has been logged, tilled, drained, paved, and otherwise “developed.” Our rivers have been straightened and dammed (damned?), and several no longer reach the sea. Our air has been polluted, our aquifers pumped nearly dry, and our climate changed for centuries to come. We have purposefully brought thousands of species of plants from other lands—3300 of which are now “naturalized” and aggressively displacing the native plant communities on which local food webs depend.
Think for a moment about your own yard, he says. When choosing plants for your landscape, you have only considered their decorative value; you have given no thought to the many roles your plants could have played within your local ecosystem had you chosen them wisely. We must accept the new reality that how each one of us treats our local biological heritage impacts not just us but our neighbors and our neighbors’ neighbors.