Focusing in on conservation

So much of life depends upon your point of view. Everyone has different experiences and learns from a unique perspective.

My grade school consisted of two classes per grade level and each had a different teacher. I discovered early on that, although I was in the same grade at the same school as my first cousin, his teacher frequently offered different methods of teaching the same lessons as did my teacher.

Again, when I entered college I rediscovered that people with the same major as me often held very different views based upon their past teachers, their parents, and their life experiences.

Focus those experiences down to their components and you have the building blocks that make up each individual.
New world for me. These days I find myself focusing my conservation experiences in order to grasp my responsibilities in a new job as district conservationist here in Tuscarawas County. My education and experiences have prepared me well for these duties, however my past focus has been quite different.

I come from a prior career as a wildlife biologist where my daily focus was on the management of lands and habitats, endangered species, and/or wildlife damage. These practices and issues involved knowledge of the soil, water, and wildlife as well as the social aspects of the human environment in which these elements exist. So, in that respect, my past experience has really not been all that different. It’s just my perspective that has changed.

Life on Earth occurs primarily on the surface. People go about their daily activities dependent upon the soil that they walk on, drive on, and in which they grow their food. An early lesson I learned as a wildlife biologist was that animals are dependent upon plants, which are in turn dependent upon the soil.

To me that was somewhat of a revelation. Wildlife are where you find them for a reason and that reason can be traced to the soil.

People and many other vertebrate animals are at the top of the food chain, but cannot exist without plants to sustain them. And those plants exist where they do because of the soils and the climate that formed them.

Aldo Leopold

This is the central idea of ecology, the study of the interrelationships living things have with each other and with their natural environment. There are several references to call upon from pioneers in the field of ecology. Not the least of these was Aldo Leopold and his writings in both A Sand County Almanac and Game Management.

Leopold spawned the concept of a “land ethic” that related to an individual’s responsibility to be a steward of the land that included the soils, water, plants, and animals. This was put into practical terms by May Theilgaard Watts in her book Reading the Landscape of America.

It was in this series of essays that the concept of ecology became clear to me. Watts related her travels through America in terms of the geology that shaped the land, formed the soils, and sprouted the plants and the wildlife that evolved and occur here.

All of these elements are interrelated and they all begin and end with the soil.

My new job deals with conservation largely within the agricultural community. But there is much overlap between this and the wildlife management community. I have long been familiar with and professionally promoted the various conservation practices offered through the federal farm bill.

For example the Conservation Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program have basic benefits to soil and water protection that translate to benefiting agriculture while benefitting wildlife as well.

Again, it is a matter of perspective and the building blocks are the same. We only need to sharpen our conservation focus to achieve the desired result.

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