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Home is where the habitat is
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
June 27, 2007
Excuse my boyish exuberance, but our native landscaping is going off with wildlife. Coastal live oaks are blossoming, the sycamore is in full leaf, and bird song is constant. Above the hot tub a pair of house finches are tending a brood in a beaded lantern. Lizards are everywhere, and of several species. An alligator lizard residing in the wood pile measures in at about 2ft, head to tip of tail. And a small mammal, or two, is living under the deck.
Skunks, possums, a raccoon? It hardly matters. Critters are cool.
Co-habitating with birds and bees is quite enjoyable, and adds considerably to the quality of life in suburban Southern California. By undomesticating our suburban landscaping we devolved the yard into a thriving habitat, complete with California gnat catchers and a wealth of wildflowers.
More conservative than drought resistant non natives, indigenous plant species support indigenous animal species, reduce water usage, and significantly reduce the need of herbicides and pesticides.
In a region always teetering on the edge of a water crisis, water conservation though habitat conservation is an obvious choice. Habitat conservation, which is now a matter of tightly manipulated bureaucracy, is made simple if one merely restores the habitat disturbed by development by replanting the disturbed species.
Conservation, preservation and restoration, are easily achieved goals, yet city, state and federal governments fail to employ the most basic of reasoning when implementing policy in regards to urban and suburban development.
Take for example the City of Encinitas. Encinitas staff relies on out dated state recommendations such as the CalEPPC (California Exotic Pest Plants Council) 1999 to prohibit the use of invasive exotic species for landscaping new developments next to sensitive habitats. According to city staff there is a 2006 Cal-IPC (California Invasive plant council) list published, yet Encinitas city planners will not recognize the updated list until state resource agencies adopt them first.
More telling, in regards to the lack of ecological stewardship on the part of Encinitas City hall, Encinitas does not have any policy regarding or encouraging the planting of native species. At a time of looming drought, shrinking resources, and growing populations. Requiring residents and builders to do the right thing by planting natives hardly seems wrong.
To fill the vacuum created by bureaucratic inaction and apathy, Encinitas residents are taking the lead, by greening their neighborhoods, and asking elected officials and city staff for an environmental stewardship policies encompassing more than just foot dragging and triage.
Doing the right thing by the environment only elevates the quality of life one experiences. Ecological restoration does not have to be expensive. Given the opportunity native flora and fauna will reclaim the spaces the were driven from by bulldozers and lawnmowers.
All humans have to is stop fighting nature, embrace balance, and enjoy the show.