Blank Spot

“For a transitory enchanted moment, man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent.” F Scott Fitzgerald. Before Europeans ever came ashore in the New World, ancient forests stretched in an unbroken expanse from the Mississippi to the Atlantic Ocean, from northern Canada to Florida. In the West, vast open prairies were bounded by great stands of majestic forests in the Rockies and along the Pacific coast. The native tribes of North America had been living in harmony in these forests and in these open places for thousands of years before Jamestown and Plymouth were settled. Just four hundred years later though, that landscape is a distant memory. In contrast to how the indigenous people regarded this continent, the newcomers saw it quite differently. To them this New World seemed like an infinitely vast stretch of land with inexhaustible resources to be exploited. That mindset,/ of seeing nature as a limitless provider blinds us to our role in its degradation. Our modern concerns and distractions, as well as our myopic, locally-focused vision prevents us from seeing the uninterrupted loss of the land just beyond the horizon. In the face of this challenge, conservancies and land trusts race to save as much of our natural heritage as possible. However, they’re hamstrung by limited funding and a lack of public awareness and resolve. Providing answers to the question of why we should protect open space is a critical starting point for the effort both to increase awareness and resources to save what’s left. Public recreation and aesthetics should not be the only reasons for saving our remaining open lands. There are important water quality, environmental, economic, and quality of life reasons too. And, of course, there is our responsibility to posterity.