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Saving endangered species in gardens  RSS feed

 
Gilbert Fritz
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So I going through lists of endangered or recently extinct species. Some have very specialized and or very large habitat needs, and only the government can/ could do anything about them. Or maybe somebody with a 500 square mile ranch. But could / can some of them be saved in gardens? Is there an entity that would provide mini-grants for this?

I hoping that people on this thread could post in detail the habitat requirements for various species, so that we can see if any of them are garden/ small farm candidates.

I'm guessing that many invertebrates would be happy in a small area, but where would we get the starting stock for a population? To avoid legal hassles, we would have to work with some scientific/ political entity.

E. O. Wilson, in his book Half Earth, listed the 20 best places to see the Earth's Biodiversity. One of them was the gardens of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Apparently, most surviving wild species in Ethiopia are in these garden preserves.

Could we permies set up a network to do something similar? The government in the USA is doing a good job, or a fairly good job, on the large swaths of land. What can we do in our little corners?

Could we fund our sites this way?
 
Casie Becker
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The problem with getting government involvement if you're sheltering endangered species on your property is that then you have the government taking a specific, detailed, and sometimes controlling interest in how you manage your property. I would be very wary of inviting close government oversight of my personal actions.

On a personal level I love the thought of supporting endangered species. Even in my suburban lot I make a lot of conscious choices to support wildlife with undisturbed corners, available water, and diverse plantings. I'm probably not doing it in a way that would be what the local government would demand. I think the city would hate my backyard brush pile, for instance.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Casie, that is my biggest problem with this idea. So we are faced with a dilemma. A neighborhood of suburban gardeners working together could probably save some invertebrate species from extinction. A small farm with a pond might be able to save some amphibians. But they would never find us before their last homes in the wild are bulldozed out. A conservation entity might help with a reintroduction program. But then all of a sudden our land is a ward of the state, and we are driven off of it because of the valuable critters we are hosting.

The mindset of opposition of man and nature, whether used for exclusion or for exploitation, is causing lots of problems.

In Britain, they found that "degraded" urban brownfields, suburban gardens, and green roofs are hosting all sorts of endangered critters. But I could imagine bureaucrats showing up to "protect" the critters to the detriment of the owners!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I don't really have any good way to identify the species that are living in my garden. Therefore it isn't possible for me to know whether they are endangered or not... However, I manage my garden so that I offer more protection/resources to rare and unusual plants, insects, fungi, and animals than I do to those that are common. I never apply -cides to my garden. All species benefit from that. If I only observe a particular species a couple times a summer, and it is associated with a particular plant, then I'll plant more of that plant next year, or allow more of it to be weedy on the farm. I'm unlikely to weed out a plant if it's the only weed of that species growing in my garden. I'll allow some of it to go to seed. I have one field that I manage for squash bees. It only has squash plants growing in it. I keep non-vegetated soil next to the field in which they can make their burrows. I don't plant common varieties of vegetables in my garden. I only plant that which is rare, unusual, exotic, etc... I might not know the names of the alleles in my tomato plants, but I am constantly inviting new alleles into my garden. Instead of growing one species of squash, I grow five or six. Instead of growing a few varieties of of one species of bean, I grow hundreds of varieties from ten species...

If I were curating a known endangered species, I certainly wouldn't tell anyone about it!!!
 
Tyler Ludens
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In Texas, we get the same property tax break for Wildlife Management as we do for Agricultural use of land. So instead of ranching badly, we can be restoring habitat for endangered critters. And that's in fact what my husband and I are doing on our 20 acres here - we manage for Songbirds and Amphibians. We don't know if we have any endangered Golden-cheeked Warblers, but we do have habitat which could be restored to foster them. And even though we have no "live" water on the place, we have at least six species of amphibians.

Adjacent properties can join together to make a Wildlife Management Property Association to manage for critters who need larger tracts of land. If enough folks get with this idea, huge areas of Texas could be devoted to wildlife and habitat restoration. I think all states should have this great deal.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote: The government in the USA is doing a good job, or a fairly good job, on the large swaths of land.


I don't think it is, because of political reasons. Here's an interesting article about some critter politics: http://idahostatejournal.com/members/it-s-not-biology-controversy-about-wolves-is-cultural-politics/article_f66787bd-d02f-5458-b22f-8111b48ae62d.html

(if anyone wants to discuss critter politics, let's start a new thread in the Cider Press)

 
Su Ba
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When I lived in NJ I had an endangered plant growing and actually thriving on a part of my property. In the years I lived there, the population boomed. I gathered the seed and produced seedlings which I transplanted out in the preserve adjacent to my neighborhood. I never revealed that information because the government would have forced me to relocate my livestock and kennel facilities. I would not have been able to use my land as I saw fit. When I sold that land I pre-warned the buyers. They were thrilled to continue my clandestine operation. They fully understood that the information had to be kept strictly secret. The only alternative was to destroy every trace of those plants, which by the way, the other neighbors did on their own land. Government regulations that were designed to protect the plant in reality resulted in the destruction of most of them in my neighborhood.

I really love the idea of propagating endangered species, but it's a tricky path to walk.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Some folks got together to save one of the largest concentrations of mammals on Earth (so big it shows up on radar): http://www.batcon.org/our-work/regions/usa-canada/protect-mega-populations/bracken-cave
 
Tyler Ludens
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These ranchers got together to preserve nearly 1 million acres for a bunch of critters: http://www.malpaiborderlandsgroup.org/
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Looks like those ranchers have the right model; they don't loose their livelihoods, but the wild land is preserved.

Su Ba, that is so sad. I've heard of lots of similar cases. Is there any organization that could be formed that would "manage" land where endangered species were found, thus getting the government off our backs? (In other words, we would manage so that both we and the species were happy. But if some official group signed off on it, the government might be more happy.

I'm especially thinking about all the people in suburban areas like myself, and all the endangered bees and soil creatures we could save.

Joseph, I agree; I wouldn't let anyone know if I had an endangered species on my property! Probably just boasting about it here on permies would be dangerous.

With the Ethiopian forest mentioned earlier, outsiders are now trying to get the church to stop using the resources in the forest. My question would be; if they saved the forests for 2000 years, how come they have to stop using wood now? (Though I can see how they have to keep others from chopping down the forest for crop land.)
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gardeners can play a pivotal role in creating wildlife habitat: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/july-august-2013/how-create-bird-friendly-yard
 
Tyler Ludens
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Some folks in San Antonio decided to restore an ecosystem: http://www.sanantonioriver.org/mission_reach/ecosystem_restoration.php
 
Tyler Ludens
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These people in Los Angeles decided to create a wildlife corridor: http://www.babcnc.org/2016/04/wildlife-corridor/
 
Tyler Ludens
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Landscape architects are getting into it: https://www.asla.org/sustainablelandscapes/Vid_Wildlife.html

Sorry, I think my posts are a little off-topic. Mostly I wanted to show that people can get together to preserve habitat, without needing the government or authorities to tell them to do it.

Document about Golden-cheeked warbler habitat: http://www.aquiferguardians.org/PDF/Warbler_recovery_plan.pdf
 
Alder Burns
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Those interested in this idea should look into some videos by Connie Barlow about assisted migration, which basically means that people can help slow-propagating plants, like trees, to move north and/or uphill as climate change progresses and their present habitats become unfavorable. Already certain endangered trees (the Florida torreya comes first to mind) are thriving when planted further north than their remnant distribution in the wild.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Alder Burns wrote:videos by Connie Barlow about assisted migration, which basically means that people can help slow-propagating plants, like trees, to move north and/or uphill as climate change progresses and their present habitats become unfavorable.


I love it!!! I am definitely a citizen naturalist.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I've just finished watching some Connie Barlow videos. The premise of the videos is that the climate is warming, and that as it warms, species will need to move (or be moved) to stay in the climate that they are most well adapted. And because of the rapid pace of change, and the long life cycles, that we should be actively moving trees, so that they can keep abreast of the rapid changes. Governments can be expected to remain paralyzed, and broke, so they won't be able to accomplish this task, so it will be up to individuals, and corporate foresters to do the work of moving species. Of particular interest to me was the western usa video. The take away message for me, is that I aught to be actively moving tree species (without airborne seeds) northward 300 miles, or upslope 600 feet, or some combination of the two... It's of interest to me that three pieces of land that I am steward over differ in elevation in 600 foot steps. The closest tree species needed to replant the next lower valley could be imported from 200, 300, or 400 miles away, because there are no nearby lower level areas from which to acquire tree propagules.

Johny Appleseed is widely considered to be a folk-hero for spreading apple trees. Perhaps there are others willing to take on the task of moving specific species, or even whole ecosystems northward, and/or upslope.

I have been doing this sort of work in my garden for a long time. Bringing in warm weather species that are not really comfortable growing here, and localizing them to the current growing conditions. I send my seeds, upslope and downslope, and to far away gardens, and then they come back to me. Always with the goal of keeping a wide range of genetics available to hopefully handle whatever climate is coming. I grow lots of different species of squash, and beans, and corn, and lots of varieties of each species. Something always produces food, regardless of what the weather does... Too cold, then the runner beans thrive. Too hot, then the teparies do well. etc etc etc.

 
Rick English
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I think it is awesome that everyone is taking the time and effort to make their property a better place

The time to protect a species is while it is still common.


Rosalie Edge

It took quite a lot of thinking for me to understand that quote. I made friends at Hawk Mountain, the raptor conservation group that was founded by Rosalie Edge. They insisted that quote was important to understand.

By the time a species is threatened or endangered, it is a coin flip whether or not it is too late to save it.

It is estimated that over 99.9% of all species that ever lived are extinct.

Extinction From Wikipedia

I think it is important to make a better place for all wildlife, and not get tunnel vision on a specific species. Huge amounts of time/money have been invested in trying to save a single specific species. One could argue that those resources may have been better invested in a long-term broad effort that made the world a better place for many.

For example, $20 million has been spent on saving the California Condor:
Is This Bird Worth $20 Million?
(that article was written in 1997 - more money has been undoubtedly spent since then)

I have nothing against California Condors or trying to save them, but I question if this is the best investment of $20+ million dollars.

It looks like we saved them for now, the population is up to 450 birds:
California condor From Wikipedia

Any thoughts?











 
Tyler Ludens
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Rick English wrote:
I think it is important to make a better place for all wildlife, and not get tunnel vision on a specific species.


We can make habitat throughout our gardens, all the way in to Zone 1. One reason to get focused on specific species is because some are what's known as "keystone species," that is, if they are eliminated, the entire ecosystem begins to collapse. Often these are large predators who need vast space, and their presence indicates sufficient space has been preserved to have an intact ecosystem, but sometimes they are small and seemingly inconsequential. Bats are a keystone species, especially in the tropics. http://www.batcon.org/why-bats/bats-are/bats-are-important
 
Rick English
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First, let me say I love Bats

I hadn't heard the concept of keystone species before, so that was an interesting read. I wanted to read more on it, and of course wikipedia
Keystone species From Wikipedia

Something about this concept bothers me. I think because it almost assumes a static system. Aren't there many cases were something shifts in a system, an imbalance forms, and then then mother nature "fixes" the imbalance in a different way.

For example, say the feral cat that keeps the mouse population down in your backyard exits your local ecosystem for some reason. If there is enough food, the mouse population will explode. Either the mice will run out of food, or a new predator may move into the ecosystem to bring the system back into balance.

In a way, you could call humans THE keystone animal. We are the reason coyotes are spreading across the country:
A General Overview of the Coyote

Hopefully that didn't go too far off topic...
 
Tyler Ludens
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Currently, most extinctions are occurring because of human activity. It is not inevitable that a new species will step in to "fix" the imbalance.

Mother Nature may "fix" this situation by allowing a lot of animals to go extinct, including humans.
 
Tyler Ludens
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This article discusses why keystone species are important: http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/trophic-cascades-across-diverse-plant-ecosystems-80060347
 
Rick English
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Totally agree humans are the majority of the cause of recent species extinction, but not the only cause. The majority of species that have gone extinct on earth, did so long before humans existed as a species.

Again, more reading:
Human influence on extinction

I think humans causing extinction is bad, but the whole reason I posted to this topic was to get a few people to think about making a difference at a macro scale instead of a micro scale.

I do lots of things at a micro scale to make my little piece of the planet a better place for all, but I wish I was making a bigger difference. I didn't used to think at the macro scale about this type of thing. Ignorance is bliss.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Rick English wrote:Totally agree humans are the majority of the cause of recent species extinction, but not the only cause. The majority of species that have gone extinct on earth, did so long before humans existed as a species.


The current extinction rate, caused by humans, is similar to a meteor strike, estimated to be about 1000 times greater than the "normal" background rate of extinctions.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I think we can all agree that

1. There are some keystone species (that many others depend on) whose removal can only be repaired over the course of a hundred thousand years or so;

2. Some of these species are large and need large areas;

3. Some of these species are small and need small areas;

4. For publicity reasons, the gov. tends to focus on large iconic animals, even if they are not keystone species, and/ or it is really too late to save them (I'd rather put a few million into establishing robust populations of a dozen species that could be really saved, instead of just slowing the loss of one that will not make it baring huge changes in the political and ecological scene);

5. Humans have been causing huge problems, and could potentially take down a huge chunk of the biosphere, and our global civilization;

6. Nature can solve even these problems, given a million years, but we might not want to wait that long;

7. In a billion years, most life on earth will be extinct no matter what we do, since the silicate carbon cycle will have shut down, ending photosynthesis, and the oceans will have boiled away in a moist greenhouse.



 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:

4. For publicity reasons, the gov. tends to focus on large iconic animals, even if they are not keystone species, and/ or it is really too late to save them



A big problem I have with the "charismatic megafauna" thing is that it helps propagate the idea that "The Environment" is out there somewhere, being taken care of by the Gov or the Nature Conservancy or someone. This idea about the environment being somewhere not in our yards leads to things like environmentalists who have lawns and no food gardens, and don't even bother to create a little habitat for critters.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Tyler Ludens wrote:A big problem I have with the "charismatic megafauna" thing is that it helps propagate the idea that "The Environment" is out there somewhere


One of the great breakthroughs in my lifestyle, was when I started nurturing the ecosystem that is inside me, and deliberately feeding and culturing the microbes that grow inside me. For me, that was the natural extension of caring for a garden. It was a long struggle of learning, and changing my ways for me to learn how to grow all the seeds needed to plant the farm. I love looking at my farm as a self-contained being. Sure, I import water and sunlight, but it's pretty clever that it produces all of the propagules for all the commonly planted crops.

 
Mel Green
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I think it is definitely possible to save endangered species in reserves - but rather than thinking about creating the perfect environment and "shipping them in", it is much better to protect and preserve an existing vulnerable area.

Where we live in Western Australia, the local government provides grants through groups such as Earth Carers and the Department of Environment. You can also privately "Adopt a Spot".
These areas are public / government owned plots of land that local communities agree to preserve or look after. The money isn't a lot - and from my experience, the volunteers are mostly retirees - but it does make a difference to vulnerable species.

One example close to us is an area of degraded public land that has been fenced off and is being allowed to revegetate. It has existing mature trees and vegetation but its location next to a water treatment plant / sports center / train line meant that the only people "enjoying" this area were the local teenagers. It's quite a large area and had several endangered species. Volunteers maintain the area with regular weeding, clean ups, walk throughs etc. They have built a dog proof barrier / fence to protect a local species of endangered marsupial.

In my opinion, a "nature reserve" in your backyard is really only creating a private zoo - with a few chosen species artificially chosen in isolation. What is needed is the creation of tracts of land where whole ecosystems are maintained in their natural environment. If my property is large enough to have a plot of land to preserve that's great! But it doesn't have to be that way - often we find vulnerable areas when we look just over our own fence. These areas of land are everywhere once you start looking - they just need someone to feel committed enough to make the changes to preserve them.
 
Casie Becker
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I don't see much in common between creating wildlife support in our properties and creating small zoos. The biggest targeted example of everyday gardeners trying to preserve a species, that I'm aware of, is the Monarch butterfly. This is a concerted national (maybe multinational, anyone in Canada or Mexico taking part?) effort on the part of gardeners, local organizations, and some government entities to grow enough support habitat and fodder to carry this species through their continental migration.

On my home scale I frequently see local wildlife making use of my backyard. I leave a small section of a suburban yard to run wild. Animals use the backyard fences as a highway, allowing them to make use of disjointed patches of land. Between drainage creeks, undeveloped lots, and usable garden spaces even in a city we support a surprisingly diverse assortment of wild creatures. This is possible only because we aren't containing the animals within a small area that wouldn't be able to support their needs.
 
Mel Green
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I agree Casie, every property should have land left to naturalise and encourage local animals and wildlife.

My reference to zoos is in reference to the original post - which asked how we might identify the habitat requirements of certain endangered species, so that we could find properties that might accommodate them.

I think that rather than attempting to create a reserve with the right habitat, and shipping animals in (like a zoo) that it is best to do what you have done and encourage and preserve local species in their local environment. I think there is lots of neglected land right under our noses, that could be preserved for the existing local species
 
Gilbert Fritz
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The animals I'm most interested in saving are bumblebees. So it wouldn't be so much a question of shipping them in, it would be a question of providing the perfect habitat and hoping they show up.

But if we could get a starting stock to populate our island from a university, say, that might be a good start.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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My daddy has always kept a place in his yard which he calls "The wild corner". It contains small trees, shrubs, forbs, etc that were planted for the birds, and is left alone.

In my village, there are a couple of farmers that grow vegetables in large fields. Much of the community grows postage stamp gardens. When I add up all the small sized gardens, the land area that they cover dwarfs the huge fields.
 
shauna carr
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Casie Becker wrote:I don't see much in common between creating wildlife support in our properties and creating small zoos. The biggest targeted example of everyday gardeners trying to preserve a species, that I'm aware of, is the Monarch butterfly. This is a concerted national (maybe multinational, anyone in Canada or Mexico taking part?) effort on the part of gardeners, local organizations, and some government entities to grow enough support habitat and fodder to carry this species through their continental migration.
.


I just felt the need to comment on the monarch, because it highlighted one really important aspect of trying to help an endangered species, or any species at all: research, especially with plants where there can be so many things that have the same name, or are in the same species, but have some very important differences that can have a huge impact.

It turns out that many of the people, including some of the larger groups, that are trying to help monarch butterflies have actually hurt them. Many people were encouraged to plant certain milkweed plants for monarch butterfly food. However, it turns out that even though the monarch can eat a few different types of milkweed, it is important to have those which die at a certain time, because it is part of what encourages the monarch to continue their migration. One of the varieties that was being encouraged to be planted stays alive for too long and many monarchs were staying too long in one place, since the food supply was still present, and not migrating when they needed to.



 
Gilbert Fritz
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Good point Shauna, I had not heard about that. Then again, what would happen if both types of milkweed were planted? Would there still be detrimental effects? I'm assuming both milkweeds are native to the USA? Do the monarch know good from bad?
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I just got done with the book, The New Wild. An interesting but flawed book.

However, one of the most interesting things was that in Britain, "degraded" land is harboring the last populations of some endangered invertebrates, and how 1 out of every 8 rare invertebrates is found in suburban gardens. I also read a paper about the limestone quarries that built the Gothic Cathedrals in Britian have now become a specialized habitat full of rare plants and animals. No conservationist would dream of messing with them. But they are unlikley to protect old brownfields and suburban weed lots, which are doing the same thing. In fact, they promote the clear cutting of diverse second growth forests in the tropics.

Despite the book's flaws, it left me feeling positive about the impact we can have in our gardens. The drystacked retaining walls I am building out of salvaged urbanite and brick, planted with sedum and strawberry, should provide habitat for dozens of species that would not have found a home in the preexisting lawn.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:No conservationist would dream of messing with them. But they are unlikley to protect old brownfields and suburban weed lots, which are doing the same thing. In fact, they promote the clear cutting of diverse second growth forests in the tropics.


Which conservationists are promoting clear-cutting in the tropics?

 
Gilbert Fritz
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I guess they want to turn second growth forests into oil crop land, thus removing pressure on old growth forests. But they seem to overlook that the second growth forest is more diverse then the oil crop land, while less diverse then the old growth. I will look up the reference when I get a chance.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Yeah, I've never seen any conservationists advocating clear-cutting in the tropics. So I don't know who these people are.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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Looks like the World resources Institute is supporting an Indonesian project to preserve rain forest by turning 90 million acres of "degraded" land into oil palm plantations. William Laurence from the University of Stirling seems to be the one to claim that most of this area is second growth forest with almost as much biodiversity as old growth.

Classic example of outsiders grabbing resources in the name of conservation.

Anyway, I can't speak to whether this is true or not. . . and maybe we should start another thread.
 
Anne Miller
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Tyler Ludens wrote:In Texas, we get the same property tax break for Wildlife Management as we do for Agricultural use of land.  So instead of ranching badly, we can be restoring habitat for endangered critters.  And that's in fact what my husband and I are doing on our 20 acres here - we manage for Songbirds and Amphibians.  We don't know if we have any endangered Golden-cheeked Warblers, but we do have habitat which could be restored to foster them.


Tyler, can you tell me some of the things that you put in your Wildlife Management Plan for the songbirds?

I understand about the endangered Neotropical songbirds, so what would you recommend that I can do to help them?  I already furnish brush piles.  And have lots of brush for them, juniper and oak trees and different native grasses.  Is there something you would recommend for me to plant?

 
I think I'll just lie down here for a second. And ponder this tiny ad:
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