A weekly blog for all things conservation
: THERE’S A BIG DIFFERENCE AND HERE’S WHY IT MATTERS!
By: Dan Rhodes, Education Coordinator, Bradford County Conservation District
Walk down the street and ask the first person you meet to define the terms ‘conservation’ and ‘preservation’. Repeat this test a few dozen times and you’ll most likely find that when confronted with these two very different terms and concepts, it is often difficult for people to differentiate them. Many people within the media, within government and within environmental activism groups even view the terms conservation and preservation as interchangeable in their meaning, so don’t feel bad if these terms confuse you!
Differentiating these terms is important for many reasons. Firstly, staff at the Conservation District are in the business of helping county residents conserve their resources, rather than preserve them. After all, we are not the Bradford County Preservation District. Conservation is really the million-dollar word for the conservation district. It essentially defines our goals as an organization and provides a blueprint for how we hope to accomplish them. Conservation in a nutshell is all about helping people learn to use their natural resources wisely and in such a way that most resources will be available for future use by future generations of people.
Conversely, the term preservation, when it comes to natural resources, is all about setting a resource aside and never allowing people to use it for virtually any foreseeable reason. A preservationist mindset is about putting the environment in a ‘glass-case’ scenario so to speak, much like the treatment a priceless painting or other work of art would receive at a world class museum. Critically endangered plants or wildlife species such as the snow amur leopard, the Sunda tiger and/or the Cross River Gorilla, may rightly benefit from the hands-off approach of a preservation mindset. In some of these cases less than 100 individual animals are left on the entire planet within the entire species. Hunting these animals for instance; or continuing to utilize their often limited and degraded natural habitat, would not benefit them or the environment.
On the other hand, resources such as PA’s healthy forests, thriving wildlife populations, clean water, productive soil, and clean air, are resources that should be used, but used wisely! You might be surprised to hear someone from the county conservation district say that cutting trees, hunting & fishing wildlife, or utilizing productive soil resources are good things. In reality, by using these resources wisely, we can usually IMPROVE their quality over time through careful management decisions.
Believe it or not, all of our most prized game species like whitetail deer, black bear, wild turkey, grouse, woodcock, cottontail rabbit, gray squirrels and the predators that feed on them NEED a mixture of freshly cut forest, young forest, middle aged forest and old growth forest for optimum food and habitat requirements. Think about how hard life would be for you if you were an eastern cottontail rabbit living in a vast, old-growth forest and the closest living branch on a plant or tree was 75 feet off the ground! I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rabbit that can climb large trees or jump that high to find its’ food! By selectively cutting trees with poor growth habits and leaving at least a few high-quality seed source trees in place after we log, we are protecting the soil from erosion, protecting local water quality and setting the stage to provide optimal habitat for a huge variety of wildlife while we let the forest regenerate. The durable wood products we get from the lumber, if cared for properly and not allowed to rot back into the ground, are reservoirs of stored carbon trapped in buildings. Meanwhile, the regenerating forest continues to trap even more carbon as it grows back.
If we didn’t selectively cut and manage our forests, we also wouldn’t have a valuable forest products industry that supports thousands of jobs across the state, and we wouldn’t have healthy wildlife populations for the many species we all know and love. By contrast, in the western US, the preservationist mentality of forest management has really taken a catastrophic toll as invasive species, drought, and wildfire have wiped out millions of acres of forest, thousands of homes and buildings, and killed dozens, sometimes hundreds of people per year. Because some states in the western US have for decades completely suppressed low intensity, natural wildfires that would have reduced dead/dry wood fuel loads, in addition to disallowing logging across millions of acres of forests, much of the west has turned into a tinder box ready to explode! With such unnatural, high intensity fires, the soil is so terribly scorched that even grass won’t be able to grow back for extended periods of time. Massive amounts of carbon that could have been stored in lumber of newly constructed homes, is ejected into the atmosphere as hundreds of millions of trees are vaporized, people and wildlife are killed, and millions of dollars of products, jobs and services are lost!
Unfortunately, when environmental preservation mindsets are used in the wrong circumstances with the wrong resources, profoundly negative consequences can result both for the resource itself, and for the prospect of reaching the general-public with true natural resource conservation-based messaging and solutions. Here at the Bradford County Conservation District, we are not out to stop you from using the natural resources that you need to live, work and play. Our job is always much harder than a preservationist’s because we must implement win-win solutions that balance economy, environmental, and social considerations along with the use of natural resources. In a world where global populations continue to grow and it becomes ever more difficult to provide access to quality natural resources like clean water, healthy productive forests/soils, and thriving wildlife populations, continuing to conserve our natural resources as we use them will become ever more important over time.
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.
Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District