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Last fall, a 25-acre piece of land across the street from us was clear-cut. It had been a second-growth stand of mixed forest for over 50 years. Some of the trees were very old, so we know that in the past the forest had been only selectively cut. The logging was impossible to ignore and painful to watch and hear. Some of our neighbors had tried to buy the land to preserve the forest, but they lost the bid to the logging company.

The parcel had provided habitat to many furred and feathered animals, as well as countless unseen insects, amphibians, and myriad other life forms that humans tend to ignore. These lives have been lost, if they could not get away, because they were dependent on the ecosystem around them. The watershed has been altered and depleted—the rain now washes down the steep roads cut into the hillside. A pair of Great-horned Owls used the old stand of trees as nest sites for the 20 years I’ve lived here. Recently, I heard the calls of an adult and a juvenile demanding food. At least they have survived—for now. The local pair of Pileated Woodpeckers is still searching the area for a nest site.

One afternoon my husband and I drove to the top of the clear-cut hillside. The destruction was heartbreaking. The forest was gone and the land was forever changed. We looked down at our piece of land, and it appeared so small and fragile. We have worked hard to optimize our property for birds, wildlife, and native species. We have invested in its future and try to protect it, but what happens when we are gone? How forgiving can the earth be? Humans are creating a wasteland in the name of economy and progress. I try to focus on the positives and beauty around me, but at times I become despondent.

When you are a thoughtful observer of nature and humans, it is painful to watch the world change and do nothing. The only way to cope is to try to offset the destruction around us by making a positive difference. Those of us who care must be the ones to act to protect the beautiful natural world we love. Other lives are depending on us.