Bring back the wolf


In last month’s col­umn, we dis­cov­ered per­ma­cul­ture’s zone zero cen­tered in the hu­man gut. This month, we’ll ex­plore the outer reaches of the typ­i­cal per­ma­cul­ture land­scape. Per­ma­cul­ture’s five zones are num­bered based on fre­quency of use. Sys­tem com­po­nents that re­quire daily at­ten­tion should be lo­cated in zone one as close as pos­si­ble to the kitchen door. Com­po­nents on the op­po­site side of the spec­trum, those re­quir­ing only sea­sonal at­ten­tion or an­nual up­keep, are lo­cated fur­ther from the kitchen door in zone four.

We leave the fifth zone mostly alone. Here, na­ture runs wild. The chief re­source we take is in­for­ma­tion. We study na­ture’s pat­terns in zone five, so that we can mimic them in our land­scape de­signs to in­crease ef­fi­cien­cies, pro­duc­tiv­ity, and el­e­gance upon com­ple­tion of a pro­ject.

Sci­ence now tells us that preda­tor-rein­tro­duc­tion pro­grams are crit­i­cal for bring­ing health back to our rivers. They not only help preyed-upon species by culling sick mem­bers from their over­grown herds, but they also change the be­hav­ior of the herds in pos­i­tive ways. With wolf packs back in Yel­low­stone af­ter a 70-year hia­tus, their din­ner can no longer lounge around over­graz­ing river­banks. As herds are forced to keep mov­ing, more veg­e­ta­tion is es­tab­lished in their wake.

In turn, this brings in beaver and other en­gi­neer­ing species that slow the flow of wa­ter through ri­par­ian ar­eas, and this re­vives en­tire wa­ter­sheds. Ac­cord­ing to a short video called “HowWolves Change Rivers,” at least 12 other an­i­mal species ben­e­fit from ev­ery un­gu­late killed by a wolf in the wild, and resid­ual ben­e­fits to the soil (bone­meal, blood­meal, and ni­tro­gen-packed car­rion crap) are im­por­tant, too.

In his es­say Ari­zona and New Mex­ico, Aldo Leopold re­counts a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence near the bank of a river (in zone five). There, he wit­nesses the death of a wolf that he and his bud­dies have just shot,

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dy­ing in her eyes. I re­al­ized then, and have known ever since, that there was some­thing new to me in those eyes — some­thing known only to her and to the moun­tain. I was young then and full of trig­ger-itch; I thought that be­cause fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hun­ters’ par­adise. But af­ter see­ing the green fire die, I sensed that nei­ther the wolf nor the moun­tain agreed with such a view.

As it turns out, the wolf and moun­tain were right, and the fu­ture father of the mod­ern eco­log­i­cal move­ment learned the be­gin­nings of an im­por­tant les­son.

We need to care about zone five be­cause the legacy of our state’s es­sen­tial wa­ter re­sources de­pends on it. Please send a howl out toGover­norMartinez. Tell her to help re­turn New Mex­ico’s beloved lo­bos and their fierce green fire to the Land of En­chant­ment.

You can also head over to theWal­dorf School on Sun­day, Feb. 21, to see Richard Louv, au­thor of Last Child in theWoods. His $10 lecture, “The New Na­ture Move­ment,” starts at 7 p.m. Find more info at www.santafe­walf­

Nate Downey, the au­thor of Har­vest the Rain, has been a lo­cal land­scape con­sul­tant, de­signer, and con­trac­tor since 1992. He can be reached at 505-690-7939 or via www.per­made­

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