Magazine article American Forests

Sharing Our World

Magazine article American Forests

Sharing Our World

Article excerpt

AS I WALKED BLEARY-EYED THROUGH MY LIVING ROOM one cold, early morning in midwinter, I was greeted by the sight of two red foxes, sitting together on my deck. I stopped in my tracks, suddenly wide-awake. There is something magical about having an unexpected encounter with the natural world, and these beautiful critters were fewer than 10 feet away from where I stood in my robe and slippers.

My suburban community has an interesting relationship with nature. Only 30 minutes outside of D.C., the houses here are set on relatively small lots, but our neighborhood is bordered by a large tidal creek and canals that snake through one side, and by a heavily forested area on the other. Because of this, we share the neighborhood with copious quantifies of wildlife--mallard ducks, Canada geese, egrets, great blue heron, osprey, groundhogs, muskrats, deer and several families of red fox.

Neighbors here seem acutely aware that the wildlife is precious and that we are privileged to live among them. People tend plants designed to provide food sources for the birds and mammals, platforms for osprey nests are maintained in the creek, speed limits are strictly enforced on the roadways and waterways and the foxes are the subject of as much neighborhood gossip as the people.

Recently, the importance of humans sharing the land with wildlife has been brought home to me anew in big as well as small ways. I recently returned from visiting the forest reserves in Michoacan, Mexico, that serve as the migratory habitat of much of North America's monarch butterfly population American Forests has been funding forest restoration projects in the area since 2006, with nearly a million trees planted to date. Thousands upon thousands of monarchs fluttered around us as we neared the top of the reserve (nearly11,000 feet up), and fir trees that, at first glance, looked brown and dead, were actually vibrant green, but covered with so many butterflies that no underlying color was visible.

As amazing and beautiful as this experience was, it obscured a troubling fact that has been widely reported. In 2014, the migratory population was a fraction of what it was in 2013, which, in turn, had witnessed a significant drop from 2012. The monarch butterfly population is collapsing due to illegal tree harvesting in Mexico and the use of herbicides and farming practices in the U.S. that are obliterating milkweed, the sole food source for monarch caterpillar larvae. …

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