12 October 2007

Go west, young squirrel

Finally, some good news. Sciurus griseus, the rare and threatened western gray squirrel, is on the comeback trail in the woods of Washington State.
Thanks to a program of reintroduction that released less than a dozen youngsters back into their natural habitat, where their numbers have been thinning, there's a chance these guys will proliferate in the oak woodlands they've called home for so long. The map here shows, in the highlighted areas, parts of Washington State where their numbers were once so much stronger. But their shrinking numbers lately have earned them the label of "threatened" in their home state, and on the federal list they are a "species of concern."
No, not everyone shares this concern. When the local Pacific Coast newspapers ran photos of the long-awaited release of these animals, and shared the news that nature might be heading back to its natural balance, some readers posted angry, resentful remarks about the thousands of dollars used for this reintroduction program as being better spent on the local schools, and other public works programs that directly benefit human beings.
C'mon, folks. Let's not be short-sighted about this, particularly when we claim our species has supremacy over others. Unless we don't consider ourselves part of the world at large (and the world IS pretty large) we all directly benefit from a natural world system balanced as it had been before humans' machinery, greed and ambition cut down trees and displaced animal families to begin with.
When we help save the smallest of the small, we're helping ourselves too.

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