Happy 60th Birthday to the Nature Conservancy! The group celebrated recently by issuing a list of nature's greatest revivals.
The bald eagle and the grizzly bear are the stars of Nature's Top 10 Comebacks of the 20th Century. And why not? Both were driven to the edge of extinction. But with some help, these emblematic species have bounced back. When my family visited Yellowstone last summer, we had to work pretty hard to avoid Grizzly sightings, which was a far cry from how it was during our 1989 trip, when we didn't see a single one. And recently while sitting near a lake in Vermont, we were stunned to see a bald eagle fly above then land nearby. These random sightings represent impressive victories.
Then there is the Eastern Forest. Look at pictures of Vermont from the mid 1800s, and you'd think you were staring at African savannah. There's barely a tree in sight and indeed most of the state had been clearcut for sheep grazing. It was the same from Maine to Miami as the great East Coast woodlands were cleared for the towns being built with its lumber. Less than half remained by 1900. But 100 years later, there is more forest than there was during the Civil War.
Clean air has made an incredible comeback, too. It wasn't too long ago that most of us could actually see the air we were breathing thanks to all the gunk it contained. But surprise! The Clean Air Act of 1970 and its 1990 amendments actually worked. Today our air is cleaner overall than it has been in decades. And when was the last time you read an article about acid rain?
Yet all this is nothing compared to the Mauritius kestrel. In the mid-1970s, this species of tropical raptor didn't even have enough members to fill a tree. Just four remained alive, and the kestrel was declared the rarest bird in the world. Yet the creation of a wildlife refuge and a captive breeding program were enough to save it. Today, there are over 800 Mauritius kestrels in the wild -- almost as many as its habitat can support.
Nature, it seems, is quite capable of bouncing back. No matter how bad things might seem, they can almost always get better and pretty quickly, too. That's something to remember as we head into a new year. Hope is never extinct.
photo: Velo Steve