disastrous consequences of policies based upon it, most scientistsrntoday would agree with environmental historian DonaldrnWorster, who said in 1994 that “the ecosystem has receded inrnusefulness. . . . Nature should be regarded as a landscape ofrnpatches, big and little . . . changing continually through timernand space, responding to an unceasing barrage of perturbations.”rnThe New York Times summed up this new consensusrnamong ecologists in 1990:rnThe concept of natural equilibrium long ruled ecologicalrnresearch and governed the management of such naturalrnresources as forests and fisheries. It led to the doctrine,rnpopular among conservationists, that nature knows bestrnand that human intervention in it is bad by definition.rn. . . Now an accumulation of evidence has gradually ledrnmany ecologists to abandon the concept or declare it irrelevant,rnand others to alter it drastically. They say thatrnnature is actually in a continuing state of disturbance andrnfluctuation. Change and turmoil, more than constancyrnand balance, is the rule. As a consequence, say manyrnleaders in the field, textbooks will have to be rewrittenrnand strategies of conservation and resource managementrnwill have to be rethought.rnUnfortunately, little rethinking has occurred. For while criticsrnof the self-regulating ecosystem idea may have won the intellectualrnbattle, they are losing the policy war. The real popularityrnof this concept still lies in its usefulness in justifying socialrnplanning. By positing the need to “protect the stability ofrnecosystems,” the self-regulating ecosystem idea appears to supportrnenvironmentalist calls for more federal control of land, justifyrnan expanded role for government, and turn biologists intornwhat writers Mark L. Plummer and Charles C. Mann haverndubbed “ecological mandarins” empowered to tell the rest of usrnhow to live.rnAccordingly, the Environmental Protection Agency recentlyrnannounced that it would now give highest priority to protectingrn”ecosystem stability” from “man-made stressors” that upset it.rnAnd last year, the Clinton administration offered its own “reforms”rnof the Endangered Species Act that will take “a new approachrnto preserving ecosystem health,” while Republican SenatorrnMark Hatfield of Oregon last year proposed the EcosystemrnManagement Act of 1995, establishing an Ecosystem ManagementrnCommission to “identify strategies for implementingrnecosystem management.”rnTo administer the spreading empire, federal authorities haverncreated Babylonian towers of bureaucracies, employing spaceagerntechnology. This includes the National Biological Survey,rnwhich will feed information concerning “ecoregions” into a NationalrnSpatial Data Infrastructure, using a plan known as thernNational Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units and aidedrnby a computer program called the Geographic InformationrnSystem, which in turn includes both a National Wetlands Inventoryrnand a program for identifying “holes” in biodiversityrncalled “GAP analysis.”rnIn 1993, President Clinton unveiled the most ambitiousrn”ecosystem management” plan so far. Dubbed “Option 9,” itrnwould protect “old-growth forest ecosystems” by controllingrneconomic and recreational activity in 24 million acres of publicrnlands along the west slope of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest.rnYet while calling for a labyrinth of technical committees,rnplanning teams, scientists, and agencies, its goal remains ancientrnmythology: to preserve “ecosystem stability” by restoringrn”presettlement conditions.” Option 9 would “restore” oldgrowthrnforests until they cover 65 percent of the region, evenrnthough solid evidence suggests that these mature trees coveredrnonly 5 to 38 percent of the Northwest during the last thousandrnyears, and that today’s “blanket” may very well surpass prehistoricrnaverages.rnAs the citizens of Libby, Montana, discovered, planners, refusingrnto be diverted by mere contrary evidence, are spreadingrntheir net eastward. The ink was not dry on Option 9 beforernClinton extended it, launching a similar program for forests onrnthe east slope of the Cascades in 1993 and then in 1994 initiatingrnthe Upper Columbia River Basin plan that reaches intornMontana. And given the bipartisan support for such grandrnschemes, this is just the beginning. Since ecosystems are fictionalrnentities with no exact boundaries, there is little to stoprnthe juggernaut before it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. To paraphrasernKeynes, there is nothing so dangerous as an attractive,rnbut false, idea. <$:’rnSalvationrnby Harold McCurdyrnNot to the headlines look for hopernNor to the Hubble telescopernOr scientists on a daring climbrnUp some bare lunar mountain slope.rnNot from the big names and big newsrnExpect salvation; and refusernTemptation by the very chicrnTo cramp feet in imported shoes.rnSeek out wild pastures, the wild wood.rnOn naked foot pursue the goodrnThat, unrenowned, emerges wherernCamera has never come, nor could.rnIn the unheard of, the unseen.rnSalvation waits. Let darkness leanrnTenderly toward you, that, by grace.rnTears may well up and wash you clean.rnJUNE 1996/21rnrnrn