Two trends within the community-based restoration movement should interest all environmentalists; they are a.) the ecological restoration of food-producing landscapes; and b.) the recovery of wild species threatened by both historic overharvesting and habitat degradation.
There are roughly 4000 species of edible plants and 250 species of edible fish and game in North America. From my surveys over the last decade, it appears that about 17% of the species are being recovered by collaborations involving tribes, other hunters, fishers and foragers, as well as ethnobotanists and wildlife zoologists.
This work involves both the genetic recovery of depleted populations and the ecological restoration of habitats to benefit species in addition to the “edible ones.”
Perhaps the best known success story is that of the Intertribal Bison Council, begun in 1990, which today involves 58 tribes that cumulatively manage over 15,000 bison in ways that nourish their culture and spirits, as well as the ecology and economy of the region.
Within the last decade, roughly 450,000 bison have returned to the lands of the United States, Canada, and northern Mexico, and in some landscapes, they are once again generating “ecosystem services” of benefit to other wildlife. About 95% of them on some 4,500 private and tribal farms and ranches in the three countries. Since 2010, more than 7.5 million pounds of bison meat have been sold into groceries and restaurants in the average year. From less than 500 bison 125 years ago to close to a half million.
Now, that’s conservation you can taste.
–Gary Paul Nabhan