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The Future of Conservation by David Hicks

The future of conservation lies in wait for the hearts of the unwary hold the key to unlock the glittering thread that binds us all, connecting communities to movements and the leaders of today to those of tomorrow.

When passionate managers of the land imbibe adult-onset outdoorswomen with intoxicating stories of wild places, green spaces, and gardens, markets brimming with meat taken from the water and land that inhabit their hearts like a sunrise, Suffusing, all with light and warmth, when tales of thoughtless slaughter are engrained in our memory and  barren woods breed remorse, the future of conservation lies in adaptation of the past to ennoble the future.

The sun rises over Hammond Bay Michigan with Lake Huron in the background
The sun rising over an ice- and snow-covered Hammond Bay on an early spring morning. Photo credit: Henry Thompson, USGS.

When those born with the legs of their crib in the soft mud of the riverbank cast a line to those who shower in concrete fountains on hot asphalt, the future of conservation lies in exposing the unwary human to the wilderness inside, for the gleam in a child’s eye cannot be snuffed out if a spark finds tinder, kindling a spirit that longs to feed the growing blaze.

The future of conservation lies in learning how to weave the web of peaks and valleys, forests, bogs, and clear running streams into the hearts and minds of suburban sprawl, fettered humanity striving to survive on the backs of our forests, fields, and streams.

A wetland area by Boulder Mountain, Utah, on a cloudy day in autumn
A wetland area by Boulder Mountain, Utah, on a cloudy day in the fall, with autumn colors in the trees. Photo taken in September 2021 by Shannon Lencioni, SBSC, USGS.

When native sons and immigrant daughters trade Land back and forth across time, when they recognize that legacy lies in the manner of the leaving, there the future of conservation can take root.

When people embrace movements that lift communities from despair, when wetlands connect waterways to communities, when agriculture embraces its necessary place in the cycle of life, when cities understand the realities of packed humanity and strive to relieve their downstream brethren without abandoning the current inhabitants, when confined feeding operations don’t endanger the wild deer and falcon’s nest atop plate glass taking pigeons in plain sight of businessmen without fear of recompense, when life embraces death of ideas and ideas  embrace the realities of life, the future of conservation lies in connecting  the heart of safe spaces to wild places, the far ranges to the troubling problems of the day.

Image shows a mountain landscape with trees and snow-covered peaks
A view of the Boulder Mountains from US-12 west of Helena. These mountains lie at the north end of the Boulder Batholith.