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February 26

Nature comes in many forms, included the degraded kind. While there is no exact locked form of ‘nature’ for any given place, there is the lonnnnnng historic norm of a fully diversified ecosystem of species. It is possible to have some combination of vegetation and critters that is a poor substitute for what had been there before, and could be there again.

There was a story I read at least a decade ago about a project to restore a portion of American Oak Savannah, a once-common but now rare environment that entailed a detailed study of lost vegetation. The plant species were painstakingly reintroduced, and once established, a semi-miracle occurred. The animal species which inhabit such an ecosystem, which were scarce-to-vanishing in the vicinity, somehow found their way back, and repopulated the area and thrived. Now you may be so hard-hearted in your modernism as to be indifferent to such an enterprise, but I confess to being emotionally captivated by it. You count riches your way, I’ll count them mine.

Sometimes such a restoration project works the other way. It’s a key animal species that is missing, and re-introducing it can have a beneficial cascade on both plant and animal communities. Here is one such.

Yes, perhaps oversimplified, yes, breathless in its presentation, but still. This instance is particularly significant in that Yellowstone was designated to be preserved as a natural preserve. And it sort of looked natural, in a degraded sort of way. But wolves made it better, and you’d think we could all take some pride as Americans in that. By the way, there’s probably a similar ecosystem restoration opportunity near you!

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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Tom Toles | February 25