Human settlement is often extremely damaging to local ecosystems—but it doesn't have to be that way.
The Restore our Ecosystem Initiative is a low-cost drive to heal some of the environmental damage we've caused, in two phases: first by halting the continued spread of invasive species, and then by beginning to replace invasive species with native ones.
Natural ecosystems are well-oiled machines, honed by evolution over hundreds of millions of years, with each native species playing a vital role in the overall system. The visible base of these delicate systems is their plants: native plants support native bugs and insects, which support native birds and larger animals. When native plants are replaced with nonnative or invasive species, the whole system is thrown off balance, and can begin to unravel.
Unfortunately, when we humans settle, we have a penchant for uprooting native flora and planting our gardens with beautiful exotic species—species that aren't adapted for the ecosystem we live in (often requiring more water than exists naturally in the area), and species to which the local fauna is totally unaccustomed.
As a result, we've set in motion the deterioration of our natural ecosystem, threatening not just native plants but also many native animals. It's time to reverse this damage by halting the introduction of invasive species immediately, and beginning the slow and gradual work of replacing nonnative plants with native ones.
The long-term goal of the Restore our Ecosystem Initiative—reaching a point where the local ecosystem can once again thrive as it evolved to thanks to the removal of invasive species—is very ambitious. Given that this initiative must remain low-cost and respect the rights of property owners, progress will be slow and strategic.
The first step is to halt the planting of nonnative species as much as possible, before trying to re-introduce native species. The Town should maintain a guidebook of native species, providing residents with the information and support they need if they want to plant their gardens responsibly. The Town should also lead by example, by phasing out nonnative planting on all public land and replacing it with native planting.
The second, more active phase of the Restore our Ecosystem Initiative would be marshaling volunteers to inform residents about the benefits of replanting their gardens with native species, as well as to remove invasive species from our open space preserves and propagating endangered native species.
This presents a fantastic opportunity to begin re-introducing redwoods to Corte Madera. Corte Madera used to have many large redwood stands, and while the majestic trees became central to the local identity, many were logged after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. By making a concerted effort to plant new redwoods and other native plants throughout town, we can restore our town's natural beauty and heal the local ecosystem.