While the Audubon’s purported goal of restoring native plants in East Sweet Springs seems a noble one, it is not ecologically sound. Environmental scientists have in recent decades rejected the concepts of retroactive “conservation” and “preservation.” While these terms are still used by the general public, as goals these concepts have become obsolete as scientists have come to understand the complexity of ecological systems. To conserve or preserve presupposes a kind of untouched wilderness, static over time. Instead, ecosystems evolve and change, going through cycles and progressions much as a human-constructed city does over the centuries. To a modern day environmental scientist, restoring a parcel of land to its “native” state would be as logically impossible as restoring a city like Paris to its original state. Such a concept doesn’t make sense; a static native state never existed.
While I applaud the Audubon for its seemingly good intentions, their proposed razing of the eucalyptus is misguided. Humans had a significant impact on the land by planting thousands of eucalyptus trees in California at the turn of the century. Yet removing the trees, especially if followed by the repeated use of herbicides as per the Audubon’s proposal, will not undo the human-caused damage that was done. There is no guarantee the removal of the eucalyptus trees and their replacement by native plant species will sustain a new ecosystem. But it is certain this drastic change would devastate the current ecosystem, causing more harm than good to the overall biodiversity of the area.