Friday change of pace: Restoring Utah’s natural places, our nation & ourselves

1. To bring back to a previous right, custom or situation; to reinstate.
2. To return something or someone to a former condition, place or position.

I am not a restoration ecologist, but recent events have gotten me thinking about the parallels between the world we are living in and our Utah Chapter’s restoration efforts on the ground. I admit that having knee surgery recently has made me pretty focused on how to restore and heal my aging body! But apart from my own recovery, I have also been thinking about the restoration and healing of the lands and waters The Nature Conservancy manages—and the considerable effort that goes into this work.

At the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, preserve stewards Chris Brown and Mike Kolendrianos spend countless hours combating invasive phragmites.  At the Scott and Norma Matheson Wetlands Preserve, preserve manager Linda Whitham is monitoring the impacts of past fires. At the Dugout Ranch and Canyonlands Research Center, Matt Redd and Kristen Redd are working with scientists to learn how rangelands can adapt to climate change. In Washington County, teams of volunteers have replanted burned vegetation. And, from San Juan County to northern Utah, TNC scientists are re-seeding sagebrush to restore compromised greater sage-grouse habitat. Yes, TNC “conserves and protects,” but we also steward, restore and heal.

Whether healing and restoring the human body, or improving wildlife habitat on the ground, eventually a new equilibrium will be reached. Noted University of Utah forest ecologist Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, who is also a TNC Utah trustee, calls this the “Third State.” Things will not be exactly as they have been before, nor will they be entirely new. The Third State will be a blend of both.

During these trying times, achieving this new equilibrium can’t come soon enough. Wildfires in California, floods in the South, 100-mph windstorms in Salt Lake City, 115 degrees in Los Angeles, a nation deeply divided, cultural norms adrift, the pandemic turning our world upside down…when is this going to end? When can the healing begin?  “With malice toward none; with charity for all…Let us strive to bind up the nation’s wounds,” said President Lincoln in his moving second Inaugural Address. This, perhaps, is one of the greatest restoration messages of all time. Across the globe, while “preserving,” TNC is also helping to “bind up the Earth’s wounds.” In this same spirit, let us embrace an even higher calling. While we work to restore and heal the Earth, let’s also work to heal our nation and ourselves.

Dave Livermore is Utah State Director, The Nature Conservancy