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How to Grow a Wildland:
The Gardenification of Nature

Daniel H. Janzen
Joseph Leidy Laboratory, Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104

The Bottom-Up View.

The first fund-raising flyer, produced in a kitchen and nurtured by The Nature Conservancy and two academics, was titled How to Grow a National Park. Its cover depicted a cowpat with a newly germinated guanacaste tree seedling in the middle. In 1985, fund-raising efforts for tropical conservation centered on the argument that we must buy forest urgently because once it is cut down, it is gone forever. We argued the opposite for tropical dry forest, which once had covered at least half of the forested tropics. Human settlement had eliminated it so thoroughly that the only option was restoration through buying trashed remnants somewhere and restoring a portion that would be large enough to conserve an entire ecosystem. That “somewhere” focused on the 10,000-hectare Santa Rosa National Park in northwestern Costa Rica because we were familiar with it and its biology. The idea survived and grew because the Costa Rican community believed in it and worked for it and because the international community was willing to invest cash and labor to preserve the existence of important tropical nature.

In 1989, the idea became the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG) ( The operational word was “restore.” The question was how to severely diminish four centuries of footprints of modern society and let the forest take back its land. We called the process restoration biology and biocultural restoration, but it was also secondary succession, regeneration, regrowth, reforestation, aforestation, farming, ranching, mitigation, recuperation, recovery, rehabilitation, and sustainability.

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