P80214Nature has been getting by just fine for a very long time before humans started to interfere. It has survived all sorts of catastrophes literally longer than anyone can remember. It was here when dinosaurs were exterminated by a meteorite or comet or vulcanism or whatever catastrophic yet natural event finished them off. In fact, Nature was here for all of the few mass extinction events of the very distant past, including the Permian – Triassic Extinction, which only about 4% of life on earth survived! We all know that “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.”, or serve her margarine that tastes like real butter; but we should also realize that it is rather presumptuous to think that we can be more efficient with correcting all environmental damage. Very often, it is best to let nature do what nature does best.

For example, forest fires are perfectly natural. They are more frequent now because of human activity; but they are less extensive, likewise because of human activity. Humans contain fires that would naturally burn much larger areas. Preventing vegetation from burning allows it to accumulate and become more combustible. If deprived of fire long enough, vegetation within ecosystems that rely on fire as part of their natural restorative cycle eventually deteriorates, or become so combustible that when it does burn, its seed gets incinerated.

Many box elders along the San Lorenzo River have been dying for the past many years. We have not identified the pathogen associated with the necrosis, but it is probably a naturally occurring pathogen that is an intricate component to the natural ecosystem, (although after last winter, an inordinate number of box elders succumbed at the same time). Regardless, trees succumbed and fell. A significant void developed within the collective forest canopy on the Eastern Bank, near the Graham Hill Road Bridge. ‘Environmentalists’ wanted to ‘help’.

These new trees in the picture were planted within the area vacated by a few deceased box elders. The closer of the two is a coast live oak. The other is a bay laurel. There are a few more beyond those in the picture. Native vegetation that developed ‘naturally’ but happened to be in the way was removed to facilitate this project. To prevent native deer from damaging the trees as deer would do ‘naturally’ the trees were imprisoned in small cylindrical cages. Because the trees did not grow there and disperse their roots ‘naturally’, they must be irrigated until they can survive on what they get ‘naturally’ from rain.

The irony of all this is that native vegetation that was growing ‘naturally’ was removed to install ‘unnatural’ nursery grown trees intended to restore a ‘natural’ ecosystem that was already doing what it does ‘naturally’. Although native, the coast live oak ‘naturally’ prefers to avoid riparian environments such as this. It ‘naturally’ prefers a more exposed and drier situation. Bay laurel trees live there ‘naturally’, which is why a few had already started to grow from seed. These seedlings would not have needed to be caged or watered, but were removed to plant the new trees. Yes, bay laurels that would have survived on their own were replaced by bay laurels that must be watered and protected. Willows and cottonwoods that were quite prolific in the area were likewise removed, although many more remain lower on the bank of the River.

In the background, in the upper right corner of the picture, the bright yellow flowers of an Acacia dealbata can be seen. It is a seriously invasive exotic species that displaces native vegetation. Although it is impossible to exterminate the species, this individual tree that has been dispersing profuse seed into the San Lorenzo River for many years, really should be removed. Even if nothing were to be installed to replace it, the removal would benefit the ecosystem. Nature would have no problem finding native trees that would like to occupy that spot.

17 thoughts on “More Misplaced ‘Environmentalism’

    1. Not only are they close together, but bay trees are vectors for the Phytophthora ramorum, the pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Dean Syndrome. They are ‘supposed’ to be kept away from oaks. (Although this recommendation was formulated by ‘environmentalists’ who have no idea how forests work.)

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  1. You are concise and spot on . The earth is a living breathing planet and will evolve and out survive all living organisms if left to it’s own resources . Thanks for the education.

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  2. In 2011 Texas underwent a severe drought. Near the end of the summer a wildfire started in Bastrop, an hour east of Austin, and burned for so long it ended up destroying 90% of the so-called lost pines (a stand disjoint from the pine forests of east Texas). The following spring I went on a field trip there with botanist Bill Carr. I remember him complaining about how people were planting thousands of pine saplings instead of letting vegetation come back on its own, which it was already starting to do.

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    1. That happened in the blast zone of Mount Saint Helens too. In that region, it was an easy way to exploit environmentalism to promote the more lucrative timber crops rather than a normal mix of native trees.


  3. I agree completely with your sentiments and enjoyed the post, but your argument breaks down a bit when you reference the acacia. We really can’t pick and choose what lives/what dies without ultimately creating the same issues you are complaining of in your first paragraphs. If Nature sorts herself out, then she sorts herself out – ‘invasive’ species or not. Some invasive species are the only things that will grow in areas that humans have decimated – such as quarries or mines. If it is the height of arrogance to pull out some trees to plant others – the principle must be applied across the board. An acacia is no less ‘natural’ than another tree deemed native at this point in time.


    1. In your first sentence, you both agree completely and disagree. What sort of logic is that?
      The acacias are completely unnatural here. Not only do they displace native specie, but the distract pollinators from native specie that rely on the pollinators. They more aggressively deplete the soil of nutrients needed by native specie. They were introduced by humans and pollute the environment like so many of the other pollutants that ‘environmentalists’ dislike, such as smog, herbicides an trash.
      This is a statement of facts, and is not intended to be an argument or a complaint.
      There is no arrogance in realizing the damage that humans have done to the environment by arrogantly importing invasive exotic specie without regard for the ecosystem.


    1. Hopefully, people are more careful about it now. There are certain plants that nurseries are not allowed to grow or sell. Even the ‘sterile’ pampas grass is on the ‘do not plant’ list because it can hybridize with the more invasive Cortaderia jubata. (It is only sterile because all the flowers are female, without male pollinators. However, other male flowers can pollinate it.) Most of the modern ‘garden varieties’ of plants would not survive in the wild for long.

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  4. Well said. I recently watched a really beautifully done movie at the Siskiyou Film Festival here, called A River’s Last Chance”. It was about the Eel River in Northern CA and the “decades of over fishing, abusive logging, catastrophic floods and droughts, a hydro power dam” and the battle for water by the huge of cannabis and wine industries using the land along the river. It was an amazing film in showing the resilience of the native salmon and the river – if we just give nature a chance… We humans are so ignorant and short sighted.

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  5. A very interesting post on the complications involved in trying to “help” the environment. I do think that intervention is sometimes helpful and it isn’t always easy to determine which interventions make sense and which don’t. Ideally these decisions would be driven by the best science available, but we all know how often that happens. I have had arguments with neighbors about clearing invasive buckthorn out of local parks (which I support, because buckthorn tends to create an impenetrable monoculture). Others feel that all plants are created equal and are endowed with a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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