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Environmental restoration begins at home

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
January 15, 2004


"Accuse not Nature, she hath done her part; Do thou thine." — John Milton

It's no secret that I am tree-hugging, dirt worshipping, nature-loving local who finds joy in oak trees and ocean breezes. Like most natives I understand place, possessing a vibrant memory of what existed in the region before cement and stucco became the weapon of choice and the only legacy left for future Californians. Preserving what is left while restoring what was loss is a crusade I gladly embrace.

However, one does not need to be a "tree hugger" to promote healthy communities though environmental restoration or resource conservation and wise planning. To affect a difference one needs only maintain their own habitat in such a way as to reduce the impact of their actions on the overall biotic community. This can be a simple commitment to consume less, reuse more, and encourage others to do the same.

Sadly the opposite has been the norm.

For far too long the development of human communities has come at the expense of the indigenous ecosystems of California. And instead of tempering the ecocide of utilitarianism, the most craven of our destructive impulses, state and local government serve as bureaucratic enablers, asking only for a fair share of the spoils as elements to long-term sustainability are sold to the highest bidder with utmost expediency.

Native landscaping is way Californians can promote ecological sustainability and repair past mistakes, without damaging the economy.

Over the past decade I have used this column as a forum to promote environmental stewardship on the part of every citizen. A key element of this has been the importance of restoring native ecosystems close to home. And you can't get any closer to home than you backyard, front yard and public spaces such as parks and urban landscaping. By actively restoring indigenous species to our suburban habitats residents can once again balance form with function.

Gentle readers it is once again time to plant native species, as it is the optimum time for doing so. January and February are ideal for establishing natives in the suburban yardscape. With a gentle climate, and still plenty of sunlight, young oaks and sycamores benefit from being planted as scarce rain is on the way, with the warmth of spring not far behind. The seeds of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and other wildflowers are best sown in this climate at well.

Local nurseries could better serve the community by offering the complete palate of plant species native to Southern California. As of now, only one that I know provides that service, even then coastal homeowners must drive to Las Pilitas Nursery in Bonsall to access their extensive selection. Although, if one is persistent, Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas can reward native gardeners looking for Quercus Dumosa, Rhus integrifolia, and Mimulus aurantiacus.

In a perfect world commercial nurseries would not need to be pressured into to offering a full range of native species. By providing such as service they would not only assist homeowners in conserving water while promoting biodiversity, such businesses would be taking a key stewardship role. People can only purchase what merchants sale. Sadly environmental wisdom is not offered by those most able to profit from sound ecological choices.

As usual I hope to encourage readers to research the possibility of converting their tropical, irrigation dependent, non-viable exotic plant scapes with a native and earth friendly habitat. State and local government refuse to lead on this issue, so if ecological stability is to be achieved it is up to every property owner in California to rediscover what in means to live in balance with the natural environment. As opposed to living in spite of it, which has long been the norm.

The California dream was born not of palm trees and manicured lawns. Quite the contrary. The California that supported life in all its complexity was one of redwood forests, rolling hills of coastal sage scrub, and riparian wetlands from which early inhabitants drank their fill of scare water resources, without needing to deny others the same right. Wasting water on species that can't survive unassisted by the manipulation of man serves no one.

Now is the time to go native.

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