Did you ever give any thought to what our backyard may have looked like 500 years ago? I have, and I’ve done some research on what theNew Yorkmetropolitan area was like when it was wilderness.
Manhattan Island was a rocky, woodland wilderness heavily vegetated with large trees, ponds and water ways, similar to what can be seen in Central Par ktoday. Brooklyn was a maze of brooks and early trappers write about catching beaver the size of small bear. The rest of Long Island, because it was where the last glacier terminated, is a rocky hardwood forest to the north and a sandy, scrub- pine forest to the south and east. This outwash plain, pine barren scruboak forestecosystem depends on fire to regenerate. Long Island had a unique grassy meadow area at its center called the Hempstead Plains. The New Jersey meadowland was one of the largest pristine, grassy wetlands on the east coat and was home to many diverse bird species. Early American hunters tell the story of wild turkey forty pounds and larger. The lower Hudson Valley region was a mountain wilderness of upland game birds, deer, elk, moose, wolf, bear and eastern cougar.
Some, but not all, of these animals mentioned are long gone and their absence has altered many of the local ecosystems. For instance, the white-tailed deer herd has grown out of control in many areas because of an imbalance that has occurred between predator and prey. I saw old photos, not long ago, of what the Pawling area looked like 100 years ago. It was mostly under agriculture, the forest was gone and you could count the trees on the hills in the landscape.
In the last 70 years, the forests have re-generated and when the trees came back so did the wildlife. Turkeystarted reappearing in the 1970’s. Coyote are once again common place. Bear sightings are more numerous and moose are working their way back into the area.
As responsible land stewards, we need to keep these natural areas in place and expand upon them where we can. It’s important for human and wildlife well- being that we continue in an environmentally-friendly direction and bring this natural balance back into our landscape. Go wild!