The Most Invasive Species

It’s us. Relentless, acquisitive, cunning us. We are Mother Nature’s most accomplished and aggressive adversaries. Where she plants, nurtures, and encourages forests, we scout, value, and harvest timber. Where she loosens lightning to burn off prairies, we build houses and defy her.

Where clear rivers run, we deflect into them human refuse and animal waste and self-accusingly call it “pollu- tion.” As our numbers relentlessly increase, our demands outpace them. Two-lane roads become six-land super highways. There are no true “limits” to cities, as suburbs bely the term.

“The natural world” gives way to “the civilized world” with acres of asphalt, seas of smog, endless armies of automobiles. Us, the most invasive of earth’s animals, have the saving grace denied prolific autumn olive trees, impenetrable masses of multiflora rose, deceptively decorative purple loosestrife, pungent garlic mustard. We can observe in return for uncontrolled exploitation of all natural resources.

Fortunately for the United States, there have been political leaders who recognized the need for conservation measures. We have national and state parks and forests where natural condi- tions and native species are protected and preserved. Prominent individuals like Robert Redford encourage steward- ship by word and deed. Groups of knowledgeable landowners coalesce into organizations concerned with a proper balance between utilization and protec- tion of that irreplaceable resource . . . LAND.

Here in a rich, diverse, and unique region, concerned conservationists have found structure for concerted action through the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC). My wife, Alice, and I heard about this newly formed organization in 1994. Some 20 years earlier, we had deserted metropolitan apartments for a one-of-a-kind rural hay fields, and by a carefully conceived forestry plan and timber harvest.

In the meantime, civilization crept closer, farms were subdivided, homes were built, and rural landscapes disappeared.

One evening, I stood at the entrance to our place and looked out across the vista and thought that soon it could all disappear if we succumbed to the blandishments of developers in search of rural home sites. Providentially and practically simultaneously, we heard about SWMLC, attended a meet- ing and met Renee Kivikko and Bob Pleznac, two passionate proponents for preservation. With their guidance and help, we put together a promise to this land we occupied.

That pledge is stated clearly on the attractive sign designed by SWMLC and presented to us by Peter Ter Louw: “Aurohn Lake Conservation Easement created by Kensinger and Alice Jones, preserved in perpetuity through the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.”

Look beyond the hay field to rolling hills of native grass and towering forest. The shining promise is that, although invasive, we can also be intelligently protective. Thank Heaven for like-minded folk, professional and amateur, who can still glimpse and help preserve the Paradise that once was, and still can be.

— Kensinger and Alice M. Jones
This piece was first published in Landscapes, Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer 2008

The Jones family have placed conservation easements on more than 153 acres in Barry County.