Since ACRES protects land forever, I often engage in conversations envisioning what natural areas will look like during the course of forever. We think about how much bigger trees will be in a hundred years, how some lakes will become bogs in a thousand years, how rivers will move. We wonder what plants and animals will dominate, what will no longer be here, what will take their place, etc. Such worthwhile conversations help us understand the scope and importance of ACRES’ work in the context of nature’s ever-changing reality.
But to notice change, we don’t have to look hundreds or thousands of years into the past or future.
As I’ve come to work at the Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve for the past 12 years, I’ve noticed the animal species walking past my office window have changed. Eight years ago we began seeing wild turkeys; now I watch several trekking past my window on their daily morning commute. This summer we noticed the first black squirrel. We occasionally see river otters (see photos below for evidence of their presence, spotted January 13, 2019). A few years ago, bald eagles resumed patrolling Cedar Creek.
In the Dustin Preserve, it’s not just animals changing. Horse pastures have become young forests; wildflower and wild leek populations have migrated. Under unsuspecting oaks and hickories, young beech and sugar maples have begun their slow ascent to dominance. During the last 12 years we watched all the property’s large ash trees die due to the emerald ash borer. There’s a chance we have witnessed the last large-diameter ash trees on this property forever.
Don’t let this hard-to-grasp concept of forever prevent you from paying attention during your own time in it. The preserves are dynamic, their changes noticeable in increments of millenniums, centuries, decades, and to the keenly observant, days and even minutes.
Participate in forever today: Visit a preserve. While you’re there, try to recall the past couple hundred years of change in this place, and try to predict what the next couple hundred years will bring. Then enjoy today’s experience of forever.
Jason Kissel, executive director
Photo of Bald Eagle by ACRES member Dave Fox.