We had an interesting "Talking Plants" today; Joan Maloof spoke about Old Growth Forests (which generally means either virgin forest, or ~300 year old regrowth) and her newest book, Among the Ancients: Adventure in the Eastern Old-Growth Forest. A Pollination Biologist who evolved into a Forest Ecologist, she teaches a range of Biology classes at Salisbury University. We got a quick lesson on the history of forests in the US. If I remember correctly we are 42% forested now, down from 90+% at the time of European settlement, but up from 17% at our lowest point. As for the "Old Growh Forests", like the rest of us who've experienced them, she seems to have fallen in love, and wants everybody to be able to experience the magic. This book, her newest, actually describes specific tracts in the eastern US, one per state. They're all on public land, all open to visitors, and there are detailed directions to each one.
Currently, she's working on a big project, The Old Growth Forest Network. Her goal is to create a network of "old growth" tracts, ideally one per county for the 2,000 odd counties in the US that can support forests. The tracts are to be uncut in perpetuity and open to visitors. Everyone would, or at least could interact with these amazing ecosystems. Interestingly enough she doesn't want any mangement which includes managing invasives or excessive deer population. Sounds good, but the devil's always in the details. I do think that by advocating for open access and not making a lot of noise about "non-native invasives" she's made the concept embraceable across the political spectrum. It would be a grand experiment and I'd love to see where it was after 300 years or so but I probably won't be around then. Still...I am supportive and hopeful.