Core Reserves

Other creatures need protected habitat to survive and evolve and many can only do so in the absence of human development.

Known as light-red coral, this fungus was photographed in the Ursus Valley in the Clayquot Biosphere Reserve on Vancouver Island.

A few animals such as raccoons and coyotes thrive around human settlement. But many creatures need spaces undisturbed by roads, dams, and other encroachments of civilization.

It isn't the actual presence of people that is detrimental, but rather the resources they take away and the footprints they leave behind. If they cut trees, they keep the woods from developing into a deep dark forest that is needed by species such as spotted owls. If they hunt or trap, they are apt to skew the balance between predator and prey, and to appropriate for human use the meat that would otherwise feed bear, cougar, and other carnivores.

Core reserves may be established in either pristine or recovering areas. In either case, their purpose is to maintain fully functional ecosystems with a complete suite of native species. Reserves provide essential habitat for a wide range of plants, mammals, insects, birds, fish, and other organisms. Within a reserve system, there should be full representation of populations, species, habitats, landscapes, and ecosystem types, particularly those that are scarce or endangered.

The reserve system should capture a complete transect of a bioregion, from low-to-high elevation; terrestrial, freshwater, and marine; wetlands, rivers, forests, prairies, and other ecosystem types; and the full range of climate, soil types, geology, and so forth. At this point in history, human numbers are so great, and the reach of our technology so pervasive, that these Core Reserves are essential for the preservation of Biodiversity.

Core reserves must be large enough, and sufficiently green Connected Wildlands to other protected areas, so that they can support viable populations of all native species. They should also be large enough to support the fires, floods, and storms that play a critical role in natural systems. These processes must either be present, or carefully mimicked through management techniques, to provide evolutionary continuity.

Core reserves should be managed in a way that honors long-stranding, benign uses by local people. They are essential places of Beauty and Play. With appropriate safeguards, they may be managed as an Ecotourism destination. However, they must remain off-limits to all extractive activity and high-impact recreation.

Set aside large tracts of land and aquatic habitat where the needs of the more-than-human world come first, the commercial extraction of commodities is banned, and people may visit only if they keep their impact to an absolute minimum. Ensure broad representation of species and ecosystem types in a bioregional core reserve system.