Friday, January 28, 2005
Land management trade-offs
Successful management of conservation land involves much more than mowing fields and clearing trails. It includes balancing divergent needs in a way that best meets overall management goals. Attaining an equitable plan can be difficult. This was demonstrated by the controversial Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) recently issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Great Meadow National Wildlife Refuge. (The Carlisle portion of the refuge is on the eastern side of town bordering the Concord River, and includes the former O'Rourke Farm lying between the town's Greenough and Foss Farm conservation parcels.)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received over 2,000 comments from the public in reaction to the draft version of the CCP, circulated during 2003 and 2004. I doubt so many people would have spoken up if the plan had adequately met the needs of all refuge visitors and abutters.
One controversial decision was to open the refuge to hunting. In fact, it may be impossible to please both hunters and non-hunters. Across the country, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers more than 95 million acres in over 500 wildlife refuges. Most of the acreage is in the less populated western states, and hunting has traditionally been an approved activity on refuges. But is it a good idea to permit hunting on Carlisle's portion of the refuge? While hunting is not allowed on town conservation parcels, many people still hunt on private land. As more homes are built in Carlisle, hunting will become increasingly problematic. The CCP does give refuge managers the flexibility to limit the area, the species and hunting season, to protect both the wildlife and human populations.
Another facet of the CCP that has been questioned is the new ban on dog walking. The ban may make some sense for the crowded Concord dike trails but does not seem appropriate to Carlisle's less-frequented refuge land. Here, the ban discriminates unfairly against women. Many women will not feel safe walking the trails alone without a dog.
From the website www.doiu.nbc.gov/orientation/fws2.cfm, the mission statement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is: "working with others, to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people." In refuges, unlike parks, priority is given to protecting the wildlife, and the CCP states that dogs disturb wildlife. However, dogs on a leash do not stray off the trails, and I find it hard to see how they pose a credible danger to turtles, birds, or any other wildlife. Would not shooting the birds disturb them much more?
Refuge planners might better balance the needs of wildlife and the community by banning dogs only in those specific areas where they have proven to be a problem.
To read more about the new refuge regulations, which are to be phased in gradually, see "New regs for Great Meadows" by Seba Gaines in last week's Mosquito, or obtain a copy of the CCP by contacting Refuge Planner Bill Perry at Bill_Perry@fws.gov or by phone at: 1-413-253-8371.
In the bleak mid-winter
Recently, a friend here in Carlisle lost a mother who died after a brief illness and swift decline. She had lived to a ripe old age and had seen her children well settled, her grandchildren well on their way in their young lives. One might say that she breathed her last, full of years, and was gathered unto her people, as the Bible has it.
At such times one goes back to the deaths of one's own parents: the shocking unreality of the knowledge that such a monumental figure in one's life is irretrievably gone; the hollow feeling in the heart; the river of memories, secretly building over a lifetime, suddenly unleashed to overwhelm its banks and flood the countryside as far as the eye can see.
Those children who have unresolved issues with a parent usually feel the death of that parent more keenly than those who have come to some understanding and peace with the parent. Spouses are left behind when the partner goes into that good night. My sister, a social worker, claims that, according to studies, the death of a spouse trumps even the death of a child in terms of trauma.
A death always comes at the worst possible time, breaking in on cares for family and work. Everything must be put aside. Many older people die in the winter in New England, as did both of my parents. My mother died in December, just as exams and reports were due at Concord Academy where I teach. My father died in March. I vaguely remember correcting English compositions as I watched at his bedside. Somehow I managed to write comments on each of my sixty students in that first week of March.
The first death of a parent will inevitably be followed by a second — at which time the first is mourned afresh. Usually, there is an estate to deal with, perhaps a house and possessions. Objects become endowed with memories and passions; possessions have to be divided, sold, thrown away. Then one turns to one's own possessions, which no longer seem so precious or pristine. We are really only conservators, keeping our heritage for only a short time, to be handed on to the next generation, who may or may not possess our reverence for the old china plate or Aunt Millie's favorite cooking spoon.
The wisdom of children helps at such times. They weep freely at the death of a grandparent. But there are next week's game and school dance, the play-date with a friend. They move forward, as inevitably all children move forward and then beyond parents.
Time may not heal all wounds, but it does bring distance and in most cases some comfort. Most of us eventually leave the valley of the shadow of death for the broad, sunlit uplands. Forgiveness and reconciliation wash away the gravel, and leave behind the gold nuggets, however small. And then one day you realize that you yourself are an orphan in a strange land, with, perhaps, others looking to you to stand between them and that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. That's when the ice-rutted roads of Carlisle, its frozen woods and wind-swept fields start to feel like home once again.
© 2005 The