“Conservation means development as much as it does protection…”
Development can be a tricky word to use in the context of conservation and wildlife habitat. To many, the two concepts may seem contradictory. The term development often carries a negative connotation, associated with urban sprawl and the destruction of wild places. However, there’s an important distinction to be made between urban development and habitat development.
Developing land for recreational use is one of the surest ways to secure it’s continued use for conservatory purposes. When we manage a property, our goal is to enhance the natural features and habitat in such a way that creates the highest recreational value. By doing so, we protect the value of the natural resources it holds, and further it’s use as a recreational space. While it is easy for us to recognize the inherent value of wild places and the need for conservation, it is not a universally acknowledged concept. John Muir, in his effort to make the case for preserving magnificent wildernesses as national parks, encountered resistance from those who did not understand the inherent value of the land, and the need to preserve it for its own sake. Through this challenge, he discovered the paradox that these places must be developed to some degree to hold enough collective value in order to be protected. They had to be accessible and promoted as destinations to visit. He reluctantly accepted this necessary paradigm, and in doing so helped ensure the protection of these iconic landscapes that endures to this day.
This concept of necessary development is a guiding principle for our work. When we improve road access, we’re making it easier for a family to enjoy their property. When we build a new lake, we’re providing a setting where a child may catch their first fish and develop a love for the outdoors. When we plant trees, we’re providing the opportunity for an investment return, while also providing more wildlife habitat. All of these developments create direct and indirect benefits that further the cause of conservation.
As much as the line about conservation and development is an affirmation for us, it’s important to also acknowledge the remainder of Roosevelt’s quote: “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.” Both of these sentiments are guideposts for us as we strive for balance, thoughtfulness, and intentionality in managing and conserving lands and wildlife.