Now that Gary and Ronnie's reckless fun had initiated the restoration process at Stone Prairie Farm, I couldn't wait to get into the patch between the barn and farmhouse to start a vegetable garden. I had a great assignment in Nebraska that next week, doing the botanical survey of hill prairies and pastured lands along the Missouri River. But it was hard to focus, as I kept daydreaming about what I was going to plant.
When I got back I found the oat seeds sprouting across the north field, just as Larry had predicted. So I fired up the tractor and motored it between the outbuildings to dig up a small area that seemed big enough to keep me busy, small enough to still be manageable. The levers already felt more comfortable in my hands, and I had the ground well turned in less than an hour. I parked the tractor in the corncrib and slapped it affectionately like a trusted horse.
Next I walked into the center of the tilled ground, where I crouched and closed my eyes to let my ears and nose take it all in. The air was pungent with fresh soil, autumn blossoms, sunshine, and the musk of cows and manure wafting downwind from the neighbor's farm. It was one of those thickly comfortable days that muffle sound and make everything languid. I put my palms on the earth and memories flickered by of a younger me crawling headfirst into a childhood bunker, wide-eyed, looking for raccoons. I took a deep breath, opened my eyes, and let the present stream back in. Then I began hoeing straight lines in the soil for the seeds.
I lost myself in further childhood reveries as I fished out uprooted weeds from the ancient clay soil that had once nourished the historic prairie grasslands. The fertile black dirt I scraped from under my fingernails, a mixture of decomposed plant matter and sands, gravels, and clays, had been ground up and deposited by thousands of years of glacial activity. And now I was waking this slumbering soil from its fallow state.
During the previous week, I had devoted my free time to studying up on the geology, topography, drainage, and soil mapping of the area. The soil dynamics were particularly important, because they seemed to me part of an essential puzzle that I needed to piece together in my mind before I could move forward with the physical restoration. And now here I was, with my hands in the soil, interacting directly with these millennia of geology.
What had brought me here, kneeling in reverie on this rectangular plot of land, obsessed with ecology and the untested idea of restoring the land to a "better" state?
Many of my formative early experiences in ecology were shared with Pat and Rob Dunlavey, twin brothers who were my closest friends when I was at the University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign. Particularly influential were the weekend excursions we took to Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo, Wisconsin. While most of our classmates went to football games, we three couldn't wait to get out of town. While they climbed onto bar stools and studied the effects of alcohol on their nervous systems, the three of us scaled quartzite rock cliffs, lured by the intense view over deep, crystalline Devil's Lake, where we snorkeled, fished, and harvested clams. To satisfy our adventurous appetites, we foraged wild plants, cooking elderberry and strawberry pancakes, steeping staghorn sumac for pink lemonade and sauteing morels.
The twins shared a passion for the outdoors, but their temperaments and abilities were unique. Rob was an extremely inquisitive artist. He was always moving a pencil across his sketchbook, recording and interpreting the natural world around him with quick, easy strokes. I remember watching him draw, seeing a series of owl feathers coming to life under his hand. With a simple sketch he illustrated how all the minute parts of the feathers held together to keep a bird aloft. Pat, on the other hand, was analytical. He took up mapmaking and also did orienteering, a competitive form of land navigation in which participants are given a map and compass and they race to various control points through an unmarked wilderness.
My attempts at drawing were laughable, which may be one of the reasons I turned to science. In any case, the three of us were quite different. Rob would eventually become a highly regarded artist, Pat a professional cartographer, I an ecologist. But for a few years we learned together, sharing formative experiences along three separate paths that converged at interesting points. For example, I was fascinated by Native American uses for wild plants and was set on learning what plants were used for which purposes. This exploration is what led to our foraging for food. Rob and Pat looked at me with skepticism as I gathered my first handful of puffball mushrooms. These plump, doughy-looking fungi seemed a little too foreign at first. But after I diced them, added garlic, and sauteed them perfectly, they looked pretty much like store-bought button mushrooms. The boys relented, tasted, and were won over. We gathered plants and small animals and learned about them in the most intimate way, by tasting and chewing, so that they literally became a part of us.
We were all interested in illuminating nature in one way or another, and we shared the philosophy that nature needed somehow to be preserved as "natural places," untrammeled by humankind. At school each of us was active in efforts to accomplish this. I became the Illinois representative of the Minnesota group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. This entailed organizing and giving presentations on the current legislative movement to protect once and for all the beautiful 1.2-million-acre wilderness in northern Minnesota. Rob and Pat focused on protecting wild places in Alaska. They helped to prepare graphics and flesh out the nuts and bolts of the arguments used to support this cause.
Our work to protect these natural places was tangible and concrete. At the same time we incorporated the broader value of wilderness into our daily lives. We anticipated the weekend escape not just as a break from the rigors of academic life, but also as an ideal time for physical and psychic rejuvenation. Nothing cleared our overtaxed college student minds like a hard hike and a plunge into crisp lake water.
After long active days, roping our way up the quartzite cliffs and hiking to and from the climbing areas, or snorkeling around the shallow margins of Devil's Lake while foraging for crawfish and clams, we would end up back at camp. Exhausted, we would light a fire and prepare the evening meal—either something experimental, such as freshwater clams (unbelievably rubbery!), or something basic, like macaroni and cheese (perhaps sporting wild mushroom embellishments). Around the campfire we often discussed our course assignments and the corresponding materials we were reading. We brought the occasional essay or poem to share in the deepening stillness of dusk, reading aloud from
Whitman, Emerson, and Thoreau. Their naturalist insights seemed timeless and offered a poetic context to our discussions. But in a fundamental way their ideals reflected a nineteenth-century worldview that couldn't encompass the scale of the twentieth-century issues that we were dealing with in the nuclear age, when the fragility of our earth and biosphere could be measured on a global scale.
One late-autumn weekend in 1973 Rob brought along a book entitled A Sand County Almanac. It was written by Aldo Leopold, a renowned ecologist and educator, and published posthumously in 1949. Leopold was revered within ecological and environmental circles, but his work was not yet widely known. Rob had heard about the book from an inspired English professor who spoke of it with a certain ineffable adulation. This professor also told Rob about the Sierra Club, of which he was a member, marking the first time I'd heard of the group.
It turns out none of our biological sciences professors knew about Leopold either. But this was just at the time of a major shift in public awareness of the environment. Soon the mainstream media began to cover environmental problems, particularly pollution in its myriad manifestations: the burning Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, the toxic waste disposal disaster of Love Canal, the lethal impact of the pesticide DDT on eagles and peregrine falcons, whose eggs would break under the weight of the parent bird, even the very notion of endangered species. These all became part of the zeitgeist, together with renewed interest in books like Sand County Almanac and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and the popularity of a new wave of books starting with Edward Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang.
For the three of us it was the Sand County Almanac, years after it was initially published, that opened the doors of perception. To me the book was nothing short of revolutionary. It is a candid journal, written in a folksy poetic style, that paints in-depth pictures of the natural world, illustrating it as vividly as Rob did in his drawings. By chronicling the splendor and awe of the changing seasons near his home in southern Wisconsin, Leopold presents a sobering and instructive narrative about land. He posits that our relationship to nature is an ethical question, requiring all humans to expand their concept of community to include the land itself.
But the clarity of thought that I would glean from Leopold's writing did not come readily. The first time I read it I was confused. He pulls from a lexicon that went over my head, and I had to consult the dictionary so often that I regularly lost his train of thought. Nonetheless, it left me with the intense feeling that we humans needed to give nature a much more substantial place in our lives, in our hearts, and in the way we behave. I savor my collection of Aldo Leopold quotes from Sand County Almanac as reminders of the influence he has had on my life. Several stick out as particularly important:
A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
Conservation is the state of harmony between men and land.
To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.
We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
The more I revisited the book, the more I embraced the pragmatism of Leopold's ideas. Unlike many of my textbooks, Leopold wasn't obscure or didactic. Rather his stories were both poetic and tangible. He spoke of planting trees with his sharp shovel, of burning prairies with a crackling hot fire, and of inferring the history of the land from the rings of an ancient oak as he sawed through it. He revealed the history of ecological changes on the land, because he read the land as one would read a book. According to Leopold, nature saves information, and all we have to do is find out how to interpret its records. I was already well aware of the precepts of conservation, but he was the first to introduce me to the notion of restoration. It was clear that just conserving nature, that is protecting the existing condition, wasn't good enough where the land had been trammeled. It needed more. With each hole he dug out and each tree he planted, he was focused on returning the land to a better state. This notion spoke to my very core and became central to my life.
Out in nature with Rob and Pat, it was easy to feel a connection with Leopold. Back at school, I struggled to correlate his tenets with my classroom research. At first the scale of our laboratory seemed far too constraining for his expansive ideas. The interconnected natural realms that he described stretched beyond the walls of the world of academia.
After moping about this for a few days, sketching out ideas that were too complex, I decided to create a small, simple, self-contained environment. Working with my professor, I ran a simple experiment that impacted my thinking greatly and allowed me to comprehend the sensitivity and vulnerability of nature. I placed a snail in a glass test tube with some water, a pinch of soil, and an aquatic plant sprig. I heated the open end of the glass tube over a Bunsen burner until it was malleable enough to twist shut, effectively creating an enclosed environment that would theoretically be self-sustaining, like a miniature biosphere.
The test went as I had predicted. As the plant grew, the snail would eat it back, and bacteria and fungi would recycle the snail's waste, thus providing nourishment for continued plant growth. The snail and the plant survived in this microcosm in a kind of circular dance. (In fact this bottled microcosm would continue to survive for more than a decade until one winter night I absentmindedly placed it against a frosted windowpane, killing first the plant, and ultimately the snail.)
Although simple, the test tube model was an excellent microcosm of nature's vulnerability, whereby even minor changes —in this case one small plant—could have grave consequences on mutual survival. Although small in scale, the snail experiment loomed large in my esteem and informed my developing approach to nature, which placed critical value on learning to recognize the differences between healthy and unhealthy environs. Surprisingly this difference is often not always easy to discern.
Also, this constant awareness can be painful. As Leopold said, "The problem with having an ecological consciousness is that we live in a world of wounds." I began to see these wounds wherever I traveled, whether it was the plowed agricultural swath cutting through a prairie or a wetland converted into a parking lot. So I actively sought out areas that were not so wounded, those untrammeled places that Rob and Pat and I cherished—places like the calm stretches of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, the mountains and deserts of the western United States, and many more. Here I was able to learn about healthy wild lands without scabs or scars, to gain perspective on the ultimate ends of healthy restoration.
I contemplated where to focus my ecological efforts. Compared with the natural areas I had explored, saving the fragmented patches of prairie, wetland, or woodland where I grew up seemed irrelevant, if not futile. These patches of land were like scattered organs at the site of a deer kill. Each part still played a role, however weakly, in the life force of the region. They weren't quite dead, but without the thriving corpus of a connected ecosystem, they seemed to me like doomed remnants. The streams, like arteries, still carried the lifeblood from one scattered area to the next. The remaining trees, like brittle lungs, still absorbed toxins and released carbon dioxide. The soil, like a shriveled pancreas, still provided whatever nourishment it could to the vegetation. But how long could one expect those elements to continue to function without a healthy heart? The flesh of the urban centers was gone, leaving only a frail and imperceptible skeleton, and even through the outer reaches of suburbia and into the country, the heartbeat was getting weaker and weaker.
It was a conundrum, but for the time being all I could do was immerse myself in every promising ecology class, undergraduate or graduate. I studied obsessively, learning as much as possible about the different systems and giving myself the necessary tools to do relevant work in the future. The requisite weekend field classes were pure bliss for me, as were discussions on wilderness ecology with Alan Haney, my undergraduate advisor, who shared a mutual passion for wilderness, canoeing, and travel. This fertile period culminated in my graduate research on the fire ecology of the Boundary Waters Wilderness of Minnesota, where I focused on how plant and animal communities reassembled after habitat disturbances such as wildfire.
As small as it was, the garden I planted on Stone Prairie Farm turned out to be quite productive and provided a good lesson on sustainability. How gratifying to walk out the door and pick fresh produce! I planted tomatoes, potatoes, squash, greens, broccoli, and other garden plants. It felt great to dig my hands and feet into the soft earth and work the land. In my zeal I went a bit overboard at first, planting thirty zucchini and sixty-four tomato plants. And while I often ate half of what I picked before bringing the rest back into the house, what could one do with dozens of three-foot-long yellow squash that looked like beached whales? Refusing to let anything go to waste, I began dehydrating everything, slicing tomatoes, zucchinis, and broccoli until two in the morning and laying out the neatly organized slices on trays that I carried down to the basement and placed in a secondhand chicken egg incubator a neighbor had given me. I'd return the next day and flip over the slices, and re turn the following day to bag the fully dried ones and add more fresh slices. After two weeks of this, I was pretty sick of dried tomatoes.
I continued my little operation, bagging countless bushels of spinach and lettuce, until the giddy satisfaction turned toward a sober reflection on the history of land development in the area, and how it had been so completely converted from wilderness to either agriculture or paved cities and neighborhoods. I thought about the condemned "wild" remnants from my youth in Chicago, empty urban lots where we occasionally stumbled on a sunflower or coneflower. The treasures were holdouts from when the land had been prairie, and it saddened me to think that the current generation of children didn't have even this residual connection to what this land had been. I tried to picture how those empty lot remnants were once part of a continuous flow of natural systems, and lamented the string of ignorant decisions that destroyed the prairies and tree-lined streams in the name of progress.
The empty lots and occasional prairie plant connected me to a place, but most of the connection was cerebral, to a time when the entire landscape was one big empty lot, where the isolation of a lone coneflower wasn't symbolic of the near loss of the entire prairie ecosystem. The connection to the grandeur of intact ecosystems that were large and expansive, and at a remove from the influence of present-day humans, would come during my graduate school training.
"Surviving grad school" had a different meaning for me than for most students. Each year I spent four to five weeks deep in nature, learning how to survive in the wilderness for extended periods. I would pack a canoe with dried vegetables and soup stock, a fishing pole, lures, and a variety of scientific gear— collection forms, measuring implements, and the like. Then I'd launch myself into a lake or river and paddle away from civiliza tion. Usually, other students, assistants, or maybe a friend would accompany me. The first time out it truly was survival, as the rainy and snowy late-May, early-spring weather made it difficult to light warming and drying fires. Worse, the fish weren't biting. Day after day we breakfasted on what we variously called "gruel," "cream of nothing," or "bloat meal," and dined on macaroni and cheese. Eventually we added in a few scavenged vegetables, like fiddlehead ferns and a patch of morel mushrooms. The combination of foods proved unfortunate, as what the gruel had clogged up, too many fiddleheads and mushrooms loosened. So the night was spent with mad dashes away from the tent, relieving ourselves in the midst of a bone-chilling rain.
Regardless of the food, the hordes of mosquitoes and blackflies, and the myriad other distractions and challenges, after each trip into the wilderness I felt spiritually renewed. Nonetheless I kept coming back to Leopold's "world of wounds." No matter how far we travel into untrammeled wilderness, we aren't escaping the existing problems, which keep spreading outward like a slow-moving plague that takes no prisoners. If the globe is a single entity, then clearly the sickness affecting one region will eventually prevail everywhere. I began to think I had made a terrible mistake by avoiding any effort to address urban environments in my research.
Over time this reasoning encouraged me to work with the agents of change themselves, the land developers. I began by exploring strategies to protect and restore deteriorated resources within existing and new developments. Beyond that, however, I hoped to encourage ecological stewardship and protection on the part of the developers themselves—a "teach a man to fish" strategy, as it were.
It was clear that I needed to get some dirt under my fingernails, to learn what working with land actually involved. What of the soil in which I was making both my new garden and my stand against land degradation in the name of so-called progress? Some historical perspective is helpful.
In 1837 the General Land Office surveyed what is present-day Green County and established section lines on a grid that divided the territory into units of one square mile. Surveyors walked up the middle of what is currently Mill Road, dragging measurement chains and recording vegetation types, as well as wetlands, dry and wet prairies, and timberland. They also distinguished first- and second-rate farmland based on the surveyor's assessment of the quality of the lands and soils for agricultural and animal husbandry purposes. They categorized my property as composed of "first-rate dry prairies" on the ridges and "good and first rate land" across the deeper wet soils and tall grass prairies of the lower areas, which meant the latter were suitable for crops. The surveyor assigned these designations to encourage settlement and agricultural land use on the most fertile regions. The choicest farmland was "first rate ground with little or no tree clearing." But as every settler discovered, farming this land involved tilling the prairie sod, a task more difficult than clearing trees, even for a strong team of oxen or draft horses. It's hard to say whether the surveyors had been intentionally deceptive, coaxing the farmers to backbreaking work on this "good and first rate land," or if they were simply naive and overly optimistic about this golden land. I imagine it was a bit of both.
Regardless, while the spirits of those pioneers may have been temporarily dampened on discovering the reality, their determination prevailed. In the decades since the first team of oxen pulled John Deere's steel plow through those fields, agriculture has broken and tamed this prairie landscape, destroying the thousands of square miles of dense root system that had held the soil together. This has led to soil degradation on a massive scale, most spectacularly in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. It is no wonder that today meager hay crops, stunted corn, and soybeans struggle to grow in once "first rate" soils.
Thomas Jefferson was the president who requisitioned the national survey and set up the General Land Office process of surveying and subdividing land in the United States into square-mile sections, quarter sections, and so forth. This frame of reference has been absolutely instrumental to the economics of land and enabled an efficiency in defining land for transactions and land ownership purposes, for taxing landowners. Beyond economics, these subdivision procedures have left their mark on the land's ecology as well. By carving everything up on a regular grid, this survey allowed for mismatches, leaving behind myriad small scraps of irregularly shaped pieces of land where property lines didn't conform to the topography of the land, or where rail lines cut across the grid at a diagonal. It is these scraps with uncertain ownership that were often left alone, and where we find remnants of prairies, wetlands, and savannas.
Given the degraded quality of the soil, my success growing beautiful vegetables was quickly noticed by my neighbors. They began to stop by when they saw me hauling produce between garden and house. Dick often appeared silently behind me, like a Native American scout. He didn't say much, but I could tell he approved of my technique by the satisfied grin he wore as he looked over the entangled rows. In particular, Beverly and Bud, neighbors and, increasingly, friends, came by when they realized I was giving away bushels of food. They were dumbstruck by the lushness of the garden and the amount of produce it yielded. I may not have been a farmer, but I obviously knew a thing or two about gardening. For years afterward, when we met at the post office, or when they'd stop by on their Sunday drive, Beverly would interrogate me on the varieties I was going to plant and try to get me to reveal my secrets. As amazed as they were by the fecundity of my crops, they still clung to their old ways, neglecting, for instance, to move their garden into the full sun despite my repeated urgings.
Juicy vegetables notwithstanding, I was procrastinating about my long-term goals for Stone Prairie Farm. I hadn't pursued my education to be a farmer! I realized that I had to break away from all the standard expectations of land ownership in farm country. Zucchini and corn and lettuce and tomatoes weren't meant to dominate this landscape. I enjoyed farming it, but I yearned to see this prairie landscape growing again, with its waving golden grass and copses of savanna oaks that once loomed, ghostly, behind the morning fog, scattered across the ridge tops on sandy and bedrock knolls and secluded slopes.
I closed my eyes again and took inventory of my plot and the surrounding landscape, trying to recall what features existed where, and at what distance. I had spent so much time in the haymow loft that I had a pretty good picture of the landscape in my mind. But now I played another game; I envisioned what wasn't there, and what should have been there, had history taken a different course. I could easily envision sparse scatterings of oak and basswood poking like fingers into the sweeping prairie, and the colorful arrays of seasonal flowers: midsummer's golds, late fall's yellows and drifts of blue wildflowers, and sunlit patches of golden puccoons amid purple birdfoot violets on mornings in early spring. And through this variegated landscape, where springs and seeps coalesced, the meandering brook must have danced through the lush green overhanging prairie with colorful baby brook trout and even more vibrant darter fishes. Then, in my mind's eye, I walked two hundred feet south of Mill Road to the remnant gravel hill prairie that had cast its spell on me during my initial visit. I could see, as clearly as the first time, embedded in the hill, those ancient chunks of bedrock, visibly striated by the bulldozing ice mass, resting peacefully amidst pale purple coneflower and yellow lousewort beneath the shooting stars.
But a scientist can revel in the poetry of his thoughts for only so long before he needs some real data. I knew what the land was like up until the time of the settlers, and I knew firsthand what it had become by the 1970s. What wasn't clear was the progression from unified wilds to truncated farmlands. I needed to learn as much as possible about the recent history of Stone Prairie Farm. I finally went to the county clerk to find relevant historical materials and uncovered the old aerial photographs that I had hoped to find. They were both informative and startling.
A photo from 1956 showed a forested roadway running by an orchard, some outbuildings, and a house with a white picket fence around the yard and scattered horse-drawn farm implements in the fields. It turns out that they had bulldozed those large basswood and elm beauties only a few years before I moved in, backfilling the logs and debris into one of the gravel excavation pits on the hill prairie created when Mill Road was straightened. Going a bit further back in time, a shot from 1937 confirmed the existence of lush cornfields that overwhelmed the pasture and the gravel hill prairie. As with the surrounding farms, the rest of the property grew row crops that typically alternated with hay production. Cows grazed the pasture adjacent to the barn, along a badly eroded spring brook.
A stream is a vivid indicator of changes wrought on the land. Factories and cities have long battled the consequences of runoff. Pesticides, chemicals, and other wastes are a common blind spot in urban planning. Society simply creates more waste than it can handle. Even in a poorly focused aerial shot, the degradation to the stream was clear to me, a scant two hundred feet from the crystal-clear spring that fed it. I was particularly disturbed to see documented erosion going that far back in time. It made me yearn even harder for that idealized image I carried of its once pristine condition, and I vowed that I would find a way to restore the stream from its muddied, eroded, cattle-trampled condition to a rejuvenated state where it would flow again through lush prairies, lacing together restored wetlands between the scattered oaks.
But these bird's-eye views made the task at hand seem even more overwhelming. I found it difficult to see how my farm and the surrounding ones had ever been a unified ecological landscape. Our style of farming, first developed in Europe and fur ther refined on the massive tracts of land in America, and the straight grid-line perspective of the American bureaucracy had clearly overwhelmed the natural evolution of the land. Gone were the sounds of nature, replaced with the motoring drone of tractors plowing and disking soil, the mechanical switching sounds of cutter heads on dinosaur-sized farm combines, and the early-morning buzz of the milking machines and their vacuum pumps. This had become a region dedicated to cheese and beer production and other traditions brought by the settlers.
With hardly any indigenous elements remaining—neither the inhabitants and their traditions, nor the coexisting plant and animal species—how could I really expect to resurrect the past? Perhaps I could repair certain elements, but was it credible to believe that I might restore the landscape to a healthy, functioning ecological system? Was this practical science or foolish hopefulness, or perhaps academic idealism? Besides, my mind's eye regularly trespassed over a broad landscape, but I owned a mere 2.7 acres. And calculating the amount of time it might take to restore the farm on my meager income, it was clear that no matter how much I cared about the land, I wouldn't have time to do everything I wanted.
Rather than become despondent or paralyzed, I focused that first year on definitions: What constitutes ecosystem restoration? What are my targets? How do I balance expectations and actual outcomes? I resigned myself to whatever restoration could be implemented with the available time and, most important, decided to work with nature's tendencies as I embarked on the restoration of Stone Prairie Farm. As inspiration for the future, I continued to dream and scheme about ecological regeneration, while challenging myself to put my scientific training as a plant and animal ecologist to the test. So many of my formative experiences had percolated through my mind during those first months, and they proved to be a wellspring for my evolving approach to restoring nature.
What I did know for certain was that ecosystem functions have yet to be reproduced by human ingenuity. In fact, efficient ecosystems produce and generate no waste products. Plants process the air we breathe. No industrial process approaches the scale, efficiency, and sustainability of this or any other ecosystem function. Ecosystems are complex. They are not designed for arbitrary disruptions, and cannot always recover. So I had to ask myself if the notion of trying to restore one was hubristic folly, like putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. I used that as a starting point, with the intention of proving myself wrong.
With the characteristics and definitions of a healthy ecosystem as the scientific background for restoration, I next sought to measure restoration success. What would be the indicators of the development of healthy ecological systems? Could they be robust enough to indicate when and where management intervention was needed?
And even if I could recognize the parameters of an ecosystem and knew what success looked like, how could I work toward that success? Could I maintain the work and fund it? Could I develop the relationships required to succeed? I was pleased to have composed a comprehensive set of definitions and goals, but the prospect of manifesting a full restoration was still a daunting proposition.
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