Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
SCIENTIFIC ASPECTS OF THE PARK PROTECTION PROGRAM
IS IT POSSIBLE TO PRESERVE NATURAL BALANCE? IF SO, HOW?
By Dorr G. Yeager
So little attention has been directed toward this subject in the past by park officials that it is, at the present time, impossible to preserve the natural balance in the true sense of the phrase. This balance was broken long ago and in most of the parks it was so broken that it can never again be reestablished. It is a very serious question whether or not we should attempt to maintain this balance. If it is maintained strictly it will mean that insect epidemics will be allowed to run rampant; and that no steps will be taken in combating forest fires, other than those caused by man. In answering the title of this paper, therefore, I will say it is not possible to preserve the natural balance because that balance has already been broken.
There is, I believe, a chance in our National Parks not to preserve the original natural balance, but rather to see that the present state is interfered with as little as possible. If left alone, I believe that the pendulum of nature will partially return to its original place. There are, however, several species that are either extinct or doomed to extinction.
It is our duty as park naturalists to carefully study this situation in our respective parks and to play an important part in formulating any policies which affect the balance.
Every new road and trail plays its part in endangering the balance of nature due to potential fire hazards, etc. Everything in a national park that is in any way foreign to its original wilderness state tends to more and more throw nature out of balance.
There are those who go so far as to foresee the ultimate downfall of civilization because of a disregard for the original balance of nature. I do not go so far, but I firmly believe that this theory should be carefully studied and certain portions of it adhered to if we are to maintain our wilderness areas in anything approaching their original state.
It was brought out that the areas of the national parks are very seldom large enough to permit the maintenance of a natural balance, and that park boundaries almost always introduce an element of artificiality.
Although the natural balance of national parks may be already greatly altered, care should be exercised to maintain conditions in as nearly as possible a natural state. Exotic species should not be introduced. Where an effort is made to reestablish species native to the park they should be placed in areas where these species once existed.
It was generally agreed that intelligent human assistance is necessary in establishing or maintaining a natural balance.