The history of the restoration of native species is inextricable from the history of nativism, but in ways that are not immediately apparent. To see how nativism shaped ecological restoration in the United States, it is necessary to consider not only why people came to care about native species, but how they proposed to protect them. During the interwar years wildflower preservation societies attempted to exert control over “new immigrants,” while wildlife preservation societies established the nation’s first wildlife reservations on Indian reservations that the federal government was systematically dismantling in order to erode tribal sovereignty. Today, these societies’ successors, The Nature Conservancy and National Wildlife Refuge System, manage 119 million acres and 150 million acres respectively, and we should consider to what extent contemporary ecological intervention remains implicated by this history of disempowerment and dispossession.
Bio: Laura J. Martin is a Ziff Environmental Fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment and the Department of the History of Science. In 2015 she received her Ph.D. from Cornell University, specializing in evolutionary ecology and environmental history. She has been awarded national fellowships in history and in ecology. Her research explores how humans intentionally and unintentionally shape the distribution and diversity of other species. Her current project, “Saving Species: Ecological Restoration from the Dust Bowl to De-extinction,” examines the history of ecological restoration as an idea, practice, and scientific discipline.