Where Do You Draw the Line on Letting Wilderness be Wilderness?

Students of Geoff’s Online Permaculture Design Course have question-and-answer sessions where Geoff fields a number of questions every week and answers them via videos. This question was pulled from the 2021 collection. Check out Geoff’s free Masterclass for an in-depth dive into all things permaculture http://www.discoverpermaculture.com


My question centers around the point that was made that “we need to be very careful about disturbing established wilderness”. Near my home, my town owns a large piece of land (~75 acres) that is protected from development because of a historical battle that occurred there during the revolutionary war. There are beautiful walking trails that have been installed around it which are open to the public. The land is not wooded. Rather it looks like a piece of farmland that nature is slowly recovering. There are all kinds of grasses, bushes, and shrubs and the odd small tree here and there. A forest is being rebuilt naturally. I see an opportunity to speed up the recovery using a carefully planned permaculture design and hope to propose such a plan to my town. That said, I see how arguments could be made to leave it alone to nature. Can you comment on where to draw the line between wilderness to be left untouched and natural areas which could benefit from the human intervention?

Key Takeaways

We can call this regeneration, moving into the land that is recovering and aiding in that recovery. We put in pioneer species like nitrogen-fixing trees. We can speed the natural process up by playing a role in the sequence. Non-native and non-prudential are possible, but sticking with local species is possible, too. Everywhere has a sequence of trees. Ripping the soil for decompaction or putting in swales can also be helpful, but it can also be contentious, depending on who is involved. Look for short-term, medium-term, and long-term pioneers that occur before the forest gives way to the established canopy. We are just using the natural environment as the model to make it all happen faster, speeding up the sequencing.

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About Geoff:

Geoff is a world-renowned permaculture consultant, designer, and teacher that has established demonstration sites that function as education centers in all the world’s major climates. Geoff has dedicated his life to spreading permaculture design across the globe and inspiring people to take care of the earth, each other, and to return the surplus.

About Permaculture:

Permaculture integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. Permaculture applies holistic solutions that are applicable in rural and urban contexts and at any scale. It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development.

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