A Recent Discovery, New Challenges in Stewardship
It may seem hard to believe, but Pando is so large that it hid in plain sight until 1976. The tree was not named “Pando” until 1993 and we did not verify Pando was in fact, a 106-acre tree until 2008, thanks to advances in genetic testing. In these ways and many more, we are just coming to know this tree that re-defines what we think a tree is, or, what a tree can be. It would seem, almost despite the number of headlines this magnificent wonder garners each year.
Today, we face three major challenges if we are to protect Pando for generations to come. First, we need to sustain protective measures like fencing, which has been used since 1992 to keep out deer and elk who can eat away at the tree faster than it can recover. Second, we know very little of the intimate relationship between the tree and the land, for example, erosion, weather patterns and animal migrations within the tree – work that can be done with a dedicated agent and passive monitoring systems. Finally, as Pando lives on land designated for recreation and has been used as such for at least 1,500 years, we understand very little about the kinds of experiences people have or, want to have in the tree which we could use to inform or adapt policies we have seen be successful with other special trees. In all, if we are to understand and protect the tree, this work, is not work that can be done “here and there”, in one little spot, or for one year, but must be done consistently and diligently for years to come.