Our rural environment must be preserved
By GRACE WILDERMUTH
Change is upon the Delaware Highlands region, as it has been for years. These changes not only affect the wildlife and their habitat, but people are affected as well. Thankfully, the Delaware Highlands region still contains beautiful forests, secluded lakes and ponds and grassy meadows that combine to form a well-balanced ecosystem. The effect on children raised in such a natural area is tremendous. Growing up in a secluded neighborhood, my favorite childhood memories are those of time spent in the woods surrounding my house, catching salamanders in the nearby pond, and searching for monarch caterpillars on the milkweed in the field behind my house. I spent my summers fly-fishing in the nearby streams, and mountain biking on the dirt roads around my house. As I look back on these memories, I realize how lucky I am to live in an area where opportunities like these are available.
Not only are childhood memories made while spending time outdoors as many Delaware Highlands children do, but values are established and important life lessons are learned. Most of the time I spent outdoors when I was a young child was spent with my brother, who taught me how to reach towards the salamanders stealthily so as not to spook them, and to use the moss growing on the side of a tree and the direction that the streams were flowing to find my way home. I grew up duplicating his every move, watching carefully how he walked through the woods and climbed trees. When I look back on those times now, I realize that if it werent for those years spent outdoors with my siblings when I was young, we might never have created the close relationships that we share today.
Learning about nature first hand gave me a respect for all living things, from the bears that were occasionally spotted near my house, to the butterflies that fed on the milkweed in the field, not the kind of respect that makes one mourn for the death of an animal, but the kind of respect that makes one understand the life process, and that everything will someday pass. As I grew up hunting and fishing, respect for the animals was reinforced every time I saw an animal killed. Others often questioned why I would choose to kill game animals, and I always responded the same way: All of the meat that you consume was killed at one point, and those animals lived a much less natural life than the ones that hunters kill.
As long as there are natural areas for people to live, there are life lessons to be learned and values to be established. I can only pray that my children will have the same opportunities growing up as I did when I was a child. I can only hope, and do what I can to help insure that the Delaware Highlands region will sustain its beautiful forests, secluded lakes and ponds, and grassy meadows so that I can raise my children to enjoy nature and all that it has to offer. The environment will always be a part of who I am, and the values, relationships, and life lessons acquired along the way will never be forgotten.
[Grace Wildermuth is a freshman at Wallenpaupack Area High School. She lives in Tafton, PA and has lived in the Delaware Highlands region for eleven years.]
This bi-weekly column is a part of a valley-wide initiative to encourage an engaged citizenry. For a complete archive of visioning statements and for more about the visioning initiative visit www.upperdelaware.com.