To the Editor:
As someone who has walked nearly daily in Jackson Park for the last 15 years, I am grateful to the Hyde Park Herald for demanding a more careful consideration of the proposed poisoning of fish in the Jackson Park lagoon. The mania for native species has gone too far, and the commitment to destroying ‘non-natives’ seems to take no other value than “native-ness” into consideration. One wonders indeed what the term “native species” means in an historical sense (native at what moment in time?) or in a prospective sense (what species will really be able to flourish here in a future shaped by climate change?). Over the years I have been disturbed, not to say appalled, by the number of mature healthy trees in the park — the golf course, the Wooded Isle, the Bobolink Meadow, the boulevard west of the marina at Hayes Drive — that have been cut down in the name of removing ‘non-native’ species. While those areas did need tending and cleaning up after a long period of neglect, the measures taken went well beyond that. As the Herald editorial rightly points out, there is a difference between “non-native” and aggressively invasive. If we had been talking about destructive species like the kudzu vine, I could have understood. But most of the destroyed trees posed no such threat. What I saw was a massive loss of beauty, shade and screening from traffic noise, not to mention a huge loss of carbon absorption capacity. In short, all the cutting seems to constitute major damage to the green lungs of the city and to the pleasures of the park. The saplings planted in their place were many fewer than the trees cut, and a good proportion of them are unlikely to survive (trees suffer great stress in an urban environment), indeed quite a number have already died. The ones that do survive will need a human generation to reach the stature of those cut. So, let us take a few extra months to consider whether it is really a good idea to poison the Jackson Park Lagoon and kill all the fish in it.