There was a time when American beech commanded much of the Maritimes, growing to tremendous sizes with porcelain smooth bark, a generous abundance of seed and autumn beauty to rival any hardwood. But that’s not the American beech we’ve come to know, seeing instead a tree corrupted by black rot, its bark twisted and cankered beyond recognition, stunted and with very few seeds. In little over a century this species fell from canopy heights, now a leper among plants.
Few species are as iconically North American as the Plains bison, once numbering 30 million strong from central Alberta to northern Mexico, from the Rockies in the west to Washington City in the east.
It’s extraordinary to me that European settlement could have been so unforgiving to this magnificent ruminant, stealing away its prairie habitat and hunting them within a few dozen members of extinction. All those persevering today are descended from the 85 individuals who survived our onslaught by 1888, bred in the confines of federal protection until numerous enough for reintroduction.
In 1968 the United States federal government saw fit to establish Redwood National Park, an outstanding slice of the only Coastal redwood habitat on Earth, stretched along California’s west coast. These trees would lose over 90 per cent of their historic 2 million acre range in time – two thirds of the park itself were logged before its protection – but within these 58,000 acres at least, they would be allowed to recover and persevere.