Righting the Wrong
|Timber Temptation: The redwoods stand proudand alluring (PhotoDisc)|
Redwood National Park, Northern California
The fact that 22 houses can be built from a single California redwood goes a long way to explaining the lure that the state's vast redwood tracts held for timber companies when large-scale logging began back in the 1850s. Improved machinery and access saw forest denudation accelerate after World War II, when lumber from annual harvests measured over one million feet. When the sawdust settled in the early 1960s, only 300,000 of the state's original two million acres of pristine redwood forest remained, and only a meager one-sixth of that was protected, thanks in large part to continued lobbying by the Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org) and the Save the Redwoods League (www.savetheredwoods.org).
The falling trees finally made a sound in 1968, when Congress consolidated various state, federal, and private holdings from Crescent City to Redwood Creek Watershed and formally established Redwood National Park. But this move only embraced 58,000 acres, a pittance of land that was still under immediate threat by rain-driven erosion caused by bordering clear-cut sites. The Save the Redwoods League and Sierra Club continued their demand for full triage on the region. As a result, San Francisco Congressman Phil Burton secured an additional 74,000 protected acres, and in 1978 President Carter added another 48,000 acres to the park at a cost of $300 million, much of it already clear-cut and in desperate need of rehabilitation.
In 1980, UNESCO declared Redwood National Forest a World Heritage Site, further legitimizing a long history of steady, successful NGO efforts. The battle is far from over, though. Save the Redwoods still has active land-acquisition and clear-cut rehab programs in place, while area timber companies continue to eye protected redwood stands as if money was dangling from their limbs. But for now, the 43 percent of the world's remaining old-growth redwoods, and the some 1,000 plant and animal species that reside within, remain protected from the cut of the commercial saw.
Imfolozi National Park, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Before this arid expanse of thorny bushvelt became the first game park on the African continent, it was the prized hunting grounds of Zulu chieftains, a distinction that nearly cost the area its entire population of black and white rhinos. When Hluhluwe and Umfolzi national parks (later unified into Imfolozi) were established in 1895, estimates pegged the entire world population of southern white rhinos at around 50, all of them within this 37,000-acre region. National-park status prohibited hunting, but in the late 1920s, the animals faced a more menacing threat than a Zulu's spear point.
Adjacent land was besieged by nagana, a fatal disease in domesticated animals carried by tsetse flies, which befell area cattle and sent local farmers into a fever pitch. The solution? Destroy the tsetse breeding ground by clear-cutting, a misguided effort that also devastated the park's habitat, in turn decimating its native fauna. By 1950, when DDT finally killed off what remained of the tsetse, wildebeests and zebras were eradicated from Imfolozi, and numbers of impala, buffalo, lion, cheetah, wild dog, elephant, giraffe, and nyala were dwindling.
In 1952, the Natal Parks Board undertook a massive rehabilitation and repopulation program, reintroducing lost wildebeest and zebra herds and creating grazing lands for other species. Within ten years, progressive management strategies saw animal populations soar so dramatically that many species were transferred to other sanctuaries. The breeding program of white rhinos proved so successful that, in 1962, Imfolozi began exporting the species to other game parks. Today, "Operation Rhino" is responsible for over 1,000 white rhino within the park and has exported 3,000 to parks around the world. As a result of such successful conservation efforts, Imfolozi National Park is the only game park within KwaZulu-Natal Province inhabited by all of the Big Five.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication