A Sense of Place - Thoughts from Greg Anderson

July 26, 2012 Posted by: Greg Anderson, Matthew Jorgenson

A Sense of Place

When I was nine years old, I lost my grandmother to cancer.  The healthy, energetic woman I had known slowly succumbed to a disease that consumed her; at her life's end, she appeared a fragile shell of her former self.    Following her death, I was haunted by the idea of an illness so severe that it could literally take over a body-after all, I had had colds, earaches, and the flu on occasion, and I had been able to recover.  Why had I been able to survive these illnesses while my Grandma Rachel could not overcome her affliction?

Hello, my name is Greg Anderson, and I am in my second year as a Teacher-Ranger-Teacher for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.   As I collaborate with the bio-tech team this summer, one of my tasks is to combat an adversary as potentially damaging to our national park as cancer was to my grandmother. 

INVASIVE SPECIES, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are plants, animals, or microbes that are non-native to the ecosystem in question, and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health ( http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/whatis.shtml). 

Why should we concern ourselves with the type of flora that grow in our park?  To the casual observer, plants we deem invasive can appear lush and vibrant in the green spaces along our river corridor.   The answer lies in our increasing understanding of the complex variables of environmental science.  In the millennia following the retreat of the glaciers, plants and animals adapted together in the MNRRA Corridor; complex interrelationships developed that supported an interdependent web of life unique to the environmental factors present in this region. 

When invasive species are introduced either purposefully or accidentally by human actions, they not only establish a foothold in the local environment, they out-complete the local species for the resources needed for survival; soon a mono-culture of the new invasive species has replaced the natives that had been there previously.   Why is this a problem?  The key threat of invasives is that they disrupt and undermine the delicate balance achieved over eons by the native food web in place, similar to a deadly disease like cancer taking over and destroying the living cells of a healthy human body-if left unchecked, the whole system can eventually crash. 

As the bio-tech team and the Youth Conservation Corps work at Coldwater Spring this summer, it is our vision to restore and protect the original ecosystem of this region, the Oak Savannah, a rich natural resource teeming with life, featuring a specific mix of plants, animals, and physical features that help to give our national park a unique sense of place, and thereby fulfilling the mission of the NPS to "preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations."

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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