James Pinsky: Minimum wage for nature

James Pinsky

It’s a good thing our forest friends haven’t figured out how to bill us for their services.

Can you imagine going for a hike and having a bowtie-wearing squirrel, fox variety of course, hand you a bill as you leave the forest? It might look something like this:

Nature Hike Services, Mother Nature, Inc.

One-Hour Scenic Hike: $5,000

Virginia Native Tree Display, Spring Color Option: $999

Hold Non-Native Invasive Plants: N/C

Native Stream, Non-TMDL Grade “A”: $2,000

Riparian Buffer Option: N/C

Shenandoah Mountains Native Wildlife, Cute Package: $999

Native Song Birds Upgrade: $100

Bald Eagle Sighting Special (Spring Only): $50

White-tailed Deer Upgrade: $250

**Fawn/Doe Upgrade: $500

Gray Squirrel Acrobatics, 2×2 Team: N/C

Weather Option “C”: $999

(65 Degree High/Partly Cloudy/Low Humidity)

Spring Breeze Upgrade: $100

TOTAL: $10,997

I assure you, there are many more items which could be added, and the prices are ridiculously low for what you’d receive on a hike these days. The black bear sighting upgrade alone is another $2,000 and if you wanted a couple of cubs with a sow, you’d need another credit card, maybe.

It’s fun to think about, but the actual ability to place a value on, pay for and fund a successful ecosystem we can safely interact with here in Virginia easily costs billions upon billions of dollars. And, the reason it costs so much isn’t because our natural resources have a higher maintenance cost than, say, a 2005 BMW 3 Series with “only” 200,000 highway miles. No. It’s because we have screwed it up. Humans have altered, ruined, damaged and even abused Earth’s natural resources for a long time.

So, now we must fix things, and the good news is we are.

Many great Americans from all walks of life from grade school students, to commuters, to farmers, white-collar workers, soccer moms and stay-at-home dads have committed themselves to the conservation movement. The simple existence of the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District, alone, is just one of many aggressive, interactive and impactful things we humans have purposely done to correct and restore our nature resources in our ecosystems. If you want to learn how we can help you, or even how you can volunteer to help us, let us know. Even if we’re not your cup of save-the-world tea, the even better news is that there are thousands of other groups from mom-and-pop conservation start-ups in your hometown to U.N. mandated global efforts to help fix the things we ought to have never done.

So, if you’d like to take that scenic hike in the Shenandoah someday soon and rather spend your money on dinner for your sweetheart instead of the salary of a few squirrels, the birds and native plants, then consider becoming a conservation volunteer. Even if all you did this week was pick up a cigarette butt someone threw out of their car on Route 11, it would make a difference.

I urge you to act soon though because that hike is costing all of us real money every day, and one day soon we won’t be able to pay the bill.

James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.