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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Our friend Chris Bolgiano who describes herself as a "mildly amusing nature writer" (she is much more than that-see her list of books published below), penned a column in her local BAY JOURNAL NEWS SERVICE discussing her relationship with the GEORGE WASHINGTON NATIONAL FOREST, 1.1. million acres of Federally managed open space just outside of Washington D.C. in Virginia...............Her philosophy on what is known as the "shared COMMONS"is worth your read this Sunday morning. ......Thank you Ms Chris for opining on the need for the COMMONS to keep on growing for the good of every American

Our Million+ Acre Backyard Commons:  Triumphs and Tragedies By Chris Bolgiano
As printed in the Bay Journal News Service 
There's no grill in my big back yard, no swing set, and no swimming pool, unless you count the rock-bottomed bowls along Reedy Run as it cascades to the Shenandoah River. There are mainly trees here in the George Washington National Forest (GWNF) along the Virginia-West Virginia line.  Just trees, creeks and 100,000 species of wildlife.

My home borders the forest, so my back yard grows to 1.1 million acres of forested mountainsides. It is mine, but also yours. It belongs to the people in a way that no other property does.
Elinor Ostrom, who in 2009 became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, analyzed the global heritage of commonly owned resources to identify the forms of governance that have sustained those resources over centuries. Her work refuted the prevailing market ideology that only privatization could prevent the tragedy of resource overuse, as every individual sought maximum personal gain.
Land for the GWNF, like all Eastern national forests, was purchased by the federal government in the early 1900s, largely from hundreds of private timber companies that had destructively logged and burned the land. In this way, national forests reversed the usual historical succession for commons that Ostrom described in which well-regulated pasture, forest or water sources used by many individuals over long periods of time became enclosed, privatized and unsustainably exploited resources.

The Age of Enlightenment, which coincided with the enclosure of many of Europe's commons, should be renamed the Age of Enclosure to reflect the real tragedy of the commons — privatization by aristocrats of ancient common holdings that drove suddenly landless peasants into factories in newly industrialized cities.

National forests have several characteristics that Ostrom identified for a sustainably managed commons. The Forest Service is required to solicit public opinion before making management decisions, creating the opportunity for community engagement. Local adaptations can be crafted, and procedures exist for enforcement and conflict resolution.
The success of the GWNF governed as a commons was demonstrated in 2014, as more than 50,000 comments persuaded the Forest Service to stop gas leasing and avoid fracking.

Reedy Run is loudly splashing now, thanks to recent rains. It joins hundreds of other streams from the forest that form the Potomac and James rivers and supply water to millions of people. Fracking would also have jeopardized that common resource while privatizing the profits.
These rivers flow into the watery commons of the Chesapeake Bay. Six states plus the District of Columbia make a cumbersome community in terms of management, as witnessed by the repeated failures to meet nitrogen, phosphorous and nutrient reduction goals.
Part of the problem is a lack of accurate baseline data. Using the knowledge commons of the Internet, compiles data collected in various jurisdictions into a centralized pool of information.
"We believe that by providing access to open source software to all Bay restoration stakeholders, like nonprofit organizations, foundations and local governments, we can unite hundreds of volunteer monitoring programs and catalyze citizen-driven restoration," said John Dawes, Project Strategy and Co-Founder
"For example, we recently worked with Blue Water Baltimore to make thousands of water quality readings on Baltimore's Inner Harbor and the Non Tidal Patapsco available to the public," he said. "And we plan to centralize decades of baseline monitoring efforts by multiple Virginia-based programs." 
As complex as the Bay is to manage as a commons, it at least has distinct boundaries and governance structures. The global commons of oceans and atmosphere are bounded only by the deepest and highest limits of the planet, and lack comprehensive management mechanisms. The biodiversity commons — the 100,000 species in my back yard and the hundred million others around the world that produce oxygen, filter water, pollinate crops, sequester carbon and otherwise make the planet habitable — is perhaps the most difficult of all to manage sustainably. Yet human society cannot exist without their services. Commons surround us. We all drink from the waters of Reedy Run, because we are all commoners. 
BIO:  Chris Bolgiano recently won several awards for her columns distributed by the Bay Journal News Service. She takes pride in being a commoner. Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.

Chris Bolgiano, Mildly Amusing Nature Writer:


The George Washington National Forest in west central Virginia and the Jefferson National Forest in southwest Virginia were administratively combined in 1995 to form the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.  The two national forests contain nearly 1.8 million acres; one of the largest blocks of public land in the eastern United States.  The forests include 1,664,110 acres in Virginia, 123,629 acres in West Virginia, and 961 acres in Kentucky.  The forest headquarters is the Forest Supervisor’s Office in Roanoke, Virginia.  The forests include the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and seven Ranger Districts.

The forests are primarily Appalachian hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood forest types located within the Blue Ridge, Central Ridge and Valley, Allegheny, and Cumberland Plateau provinces.  The forests are home to:
  • 40 species of trees
  • 2,000 species of shrubs and herbaceous plants
  • 78 species of amphibians and reptiles
  • 200 species of birds
  •  60 species of mammals
  • 2,340 miles of perennial streams
  • 100 species of freshwater fishes and mussels
  • 53 federally-listed Threatened or Endangered animal and plant species.

The forests are managed for multiple uses and provide many products and benefits.  Developed recreation opportunities are offered at over 200 sites on the forests (including campgrounds, picnic areas and boat launches), along with nearly 2,200 miles of trails, and 1,700 miles of open roads.  Elevations range from 5,729 feet at Mount Rogers to 515 feet along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.   Highlights include:
  • 325 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail,
  • 12 National Recreation Trails totaling 143 miles,
  • the 140,000 acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area,
  • 3 National Scenic Areas,
  • 3 National Forest Scenic Byways,
  • nearly 3 million annual recreation visits,
  • 23 Wildernesses,
  • 700,000 acres of lands actively managed for the production of timber and wood products,
  • Over 1 million acres classified as generally remote areas where a variety of activities may occur.
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