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A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident 

This photo shows a deer exclosure in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of sixty-eight thousand people seventeen miles from Washington, DC. Rockville both values its modern conveniences and protects its natural beauty. As a result, there are deer. 

To the left in this photo one sees a forest similar to ours. Behind the fence, the deer are kept out and the forest becomes magnificently more bountiful with a diversity of plant life. 

Humans have short memories. It is easy to assume that the way our forest looks now is the way it has always looked. Not so. In earlier times our deer population was lower compared to their grazing range, and the vegetation similar to that within the exclosure. 

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has long built similar exclosures to allow for plant regeneration. Many of us build high fences around gardens and cover flowers and bushes with webbing and noxious fluids to keep deer away. 

There are two kinds of articles on the internet about deer and their environment. One describes efforts to keep deer away, the other efforts to attract them. Apparently there are only two quantities of deer: too many or too few. If there is an exactly right number of deer, apparently it is impossible to maintain. 

I love to see deer in the back yard and hills. I hate what they do to our garden. I don’t love wearing a bright orange hat or vest during hunting season. Violet the Corgi barely tolerates her similar vest. I know, however, the hunters are doing a useful job for the forest, one once done by wolves and other predators. 

The practical job of preserving the forest is seldom aligned with what is most beautiful or convenient or fun or profitable for human beings. It is difficult for human beings to put their collective desires aside, merely to preserve the air they breathe and the water they drink. Might it transpire in some future world, when artificial intelligence has everything figured out, the environment will benefit from exclosures for humans?

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