I wanted to highlight some interesting information from Lance, which was embedded way down in a different thread here. I’d like to start by reiterating one of my favorite Andrew Greeley quotes
in which Bishop Blackie Ryan says about individualism:
“Actually, individualism doesn’t exist”..””the word is a label, an artifact under which one may subsume a number of often contrasting and sometimes contradictory developments and ideas. Such constructs ought not be reified as if there is some overpowering reality in the outside world that corresponds to them.” From The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Garmain. Today we might also ask of popular abstractions “who or what communities initiated these abstraction?” “why” and what other people or communities might win or lose from such framing?”
We old people remember forest management before the idea of sustainability took hold, and then the idea of ecosystem management,then ecosystem health, restoration, and ecosystem integrity. Basically, you could have the same thinning project and discuss whether it was sustainable, whether it fits in to ecosystem management, whether it contributes to ecosystem health, or ecosystem integrity, or restoration. But if you were watching, often the same folks were on the same side of arguing that the project is, or is not, sustainable, etc. all the way to integrity. I call this the “abstraction of the decade.” It’s great for producing new conferences and scientific papers with basically the same on-the ground information with a few new ideas thrown in. basically the same old disagreements (bad vs. good) under the mantle of a new abstraction. Again, as an old person, I’m not sure we’re moving the ball forward, however we might mutually envision what that would look like, by changing labels. Nevertheless it appears that a new abstraction has entered our abstraction corral.. the “intact” ecosystem.
Given that, let’s go on to what Lance observed in his comment here:
When the Greater Yellowstone Coalition talks about ecosystem integrity they state as their vision, “Our vision is a healthy and intact Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where critical lands and waters are adequately protected, wildlife is managed in a thoughtful, sustainable manner and a strong, diverse base of support is working to conserve this special place as part of a larger, connected Northern Rocky Mountain Region.”
When the Trust for Public Land talks about an intact ecosystem they highlight the area having all the species that were present during the Lewis and Clark expedition.
In my quick review a few key themes came out: viable populations of historic flora and fauna, clean water, and connectivity to other regions. Less explicit were a relative lack of a human presence and natural process progressing unimpeded by human intervention (dare we say untrammeled.) I don’t have an issue with a definition based on these key points. I would disagree with a definition based on , “ those hunks of landscape we all know of that deserve more protection than they’re getting…” since it is presumptuous of me assume that my preferences are universal. We are lucky in Montana to have ecosystems so intact. Much like the Eastern Wilderness Act allowed more trammeled land to become wilderness along the east coast than we we consider pristine in the west, a certain amount of flexibility would need to be applied to implement in other states.
Now the Bitterroot Front abuts the Selway-Bitterroot and is part of the Central Idaho ecosystem and at this time is one large furry omnivore away from having it’s full complement of animals. So one issue of the Bitterroot Front Proposal impact the future introduction of grizzlies naturally, as one did this summer, or by introduction. A related question would be impacts on connectivity to the Glacier region and the Yellowstone region. As an aside it is interesting the the core of both of these ecosystems are trammeled National Parks, indicating that wilderness designation is not an absolute requirement for a healthy ecosystem.
I am still puzzled by how you can have a heavily trammeled Park in the middle of an “intact” ecosystem. Is it really as simple as “grizzly bears and wolves are there?”. Or does it mean “impacted by recreation and tourism only”?