Through land protection and education, Wilder Waters is reviving the ancient tradition of conservation through use.

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Throughout the world, indigenous people have developed, over a long period of residing in their place, a collection of skills and practices that have allowed them to live sustainably. These techniques that prevent over-harvest of resources are part of what is referred to as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). One of the prime themes of TEK is that humans are part of the natural community within which they reside.  Seen from this perspective, they have a responsibility to act in a manner that has long-term benefit to all life involved. As such, they have developed various practices (e.g., harvest volumes, timing of harvests, selection of parts harvested, propagation methods) that protect against resource loss and local extinctions. The value of this system of resource protection is that people continue to use the resources in question, which provides constant reminder of how important the resources are. Without such interaction, people lose sight of the value of nature and begin to consider it optional or, even worse, unnecessary. In fact, Soga and Gaston (2016) recently published a paper explaining this phenomenon of people experiencing less direct interaction with nature, which causes a feedback loop of even fewer interactions and further apathy toward nature:

 
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Conservation through use, as seen through the lens of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, is perhaps best understood through an example. Anderson (2005) described a relationship between the California Native and wavy-leaved soap-root, where the indigenous people harvested the bulbs of this species for food and other uses. Despite the fact that bulb harvest is lethal to the plant, the California Natives were able to increase populations of this species through using TEK. Practices such as replanting the root crown found on the lower portion of the bulb, harvesting bulbs when seeds were present so that they could be sown into the tilled ground, and providing a rest period where harvest would not occur until plants had reached reproductive age, allowed humans to both gather food and benefit the food plant. Such interactions demonstrate that conservation through use can support wildlife populations and maintain interest in natural resources. Many examples of this kind of interaction (i.e., this kind of conservation) are available from people to living everywhere. 

Harvesting wild rice is one example of how we practice conservation through use. When we harvest, we help to disperse the rice further.

Harvesting wild rice is one example of how we practice conservation through use. When we harvest, we help to disperse the rice further.

We harvest life from our landscape and because of this, we fight to protect the land and keep the ecosystem flourishing. If we over-harvest deer one year, the community will have no deer the next. It is in our best interest and the deer's for us to have a healthy, sustainable relationship between us.

We harvest life from our landscape and because of this, we fight to protect the land and keep the ecosystem flourishing. If we over-harvest deer one year, the community will have no deer the next. It is in our best interest and the deer's for us to have a healthy, sustainable relationship between us.

 

We need a slow re-connection process during which we relearn through ancestral knowledge, allowing humans to become a beneficial part of the landscape. 

 
Harvesting and processing acorns for food creates a reliance on northern red oak and a reason to protect the oak trees from being logged. This not only benefits the human community (acorn being a highly nutritious food), but also the deer, red squirrel, chipmunk, turkey, and other animals eating the acorn. 

Harvesting and processing acorns for food creates a reliance on northern red oak and a reason to protect the oak trees from being logged. This not only benefits the human community (acorn being a highly nutritious food), but also the deer, red squirrel, chipmunk, turkey, and other animals eating the acorn. 

 

We are specifically interested in protecting over 2,000 acres in Canton, Maine using the principles of conservation through use because: (1) it is one of the largest swaths of undeveloped land north of the urban centers of Lewiston and Auburn, a major metropolitan area in Maine; (2) this land is a wildlife corridor and home of bobcat, deer, bear, grouse, moose, great blue heron, barred owl, coyote, fisher, marten, brook trout, and numerous other species; (3) this swath of land is within two miles of a former indigenous settlement, located next to large, productive foraging sites that were tended by the indigenous of this area for generations; (4) this land is home to Childs Brook, a tributary of the Androscoggin River and source of clean drinking water; and (5) the humans residing on this land are knowledgeable of this eco-region, a critical part to practicing this method of conservation.

We often observe moose tracks on the land, a species declining in numbers in Maine.

We often observe moose tracks on the land, a species declining in numbers in Maine.

A small human community resides on a few acres within a 150 acre parcel (we are working with a private landowner to conserve these 150 acres). This human rewilding community residing near to these over 2,000 acres of undeveloped forests is a living example of how humans can healthily interact on a daily basis with their ecosystem. Visitors come from all around the country to witness this example of conservation through use. Throughout this process we are inviting folks to this land and educating them about conservation through use; during 2017, we have had more than 60 visitors to our land to learn about conservation through use in the form of primitive skills. Unfortunately, the human community is surrounded by parcels of land that will be purchased and clear-cut logged if we do not protect this land soon. 

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We will purchase as much of the land as possible and tend to these wild gardens like our ancestors did in the past, creating old growth forests for future generations of all life to continue to thrive.

 

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Parcels to purchase:

R7 Lot 2 - 165 acres, $99,000 (in green)

R7 Lot 3 - 188 acres, $150,400 (in red)

R7 Lot 4 & 5 - 153 acres, $114,750 (in orange)

Current land holdings:

R7 Lot 1.15 - 60 acres (in blue)

R7 Lot 1.11 - 35 acres (in blue)

being purchased:

R7 Lot 1.14 - 55 acres (in yellow)