A Truly Green Business: Christina Kobland’s Native Return
Christina Kobland is president of Native Return , LLC (www.NativeReturn.com), a Pennsylvania-based for-profit company that works with landholders to create self-sustaining native plant communities. These offer habitat for indigenous wildlife, including animals in severe decline.
Christina is working to preserve a wildlife habitat and corridor connecting Whitemarsh Township with the city of Philadelphia. I’m delighted to introduce Christina to ActionLine readers through this interview.
Describe why you founded Native Return and what goals you have for your business?
Concerned by the loss of wildlife habitat, I founded Native Return, LLC with the goal of convincing others to share their land with wildlife.
Ninety-five percent of natural lands in the United States have been converted to agriculture, cities or suburbs. The resultant loss of biodiversity has disastrous consequences for us all.
We are disconnected from the natural world. There is a certain amount of wisdom gained from experiencing first-hand the web of life, from dipping one’s hands in a stream for a drink.
We don’t live in nature any more, and it has taken its toll on us, I believe, adding to the levels of depression we see in today’s society. Worse still, we are losing the ecosystem services that biodiversity provides. Biodiversity purifies our air and water, recycles our wastes, builds our top soils, pollinates our crops. Without biodiversity, we as humans cannot survive. So even those who have no interest in wildlife need to understand biodiversity’s importance.
My goals include educating the public about these matters, and restoring large ecosystems to provide habitat where it didn’t exist before, including creating important wildlife corridors.
What types of projects isNative Returnworking on?
We are currently working on a school project replacing non-native plants with hundreds of native species that support wildlife. It is wonderful to draw the attention of young people to the importance of native plants in reversing the growing loss of biodiversity.
We are also specifying the plant material and maintenance protocols for the Philadelphia Water Department’s first Stormwater Model Basin Retrofit project, replacing typical mowed lawn with native plants. Again, this benefits wildlife and will also prevent large amounts of stormwater runoff because native plants have deep and extensive root systems adapted to area soils.
Our airport work is very interesting. With it I am doing the antithesis of what I do elsewhere. Airports typically manage wildlife by killing what enters their property because of the dangers to aircraft. I am doing a long-term project here in Philadelphia creating habitat the wildlife doesn’t like, so they stay away, thereby protecting both people and the wildlife.
What do you think of the plan to eliminate most of the geese within seven miles of the major airports around New York City?
I view what they are doing as an unnecessary, knee-jerk reaction that will not solve the problem.
Native Return’s approach to manage wildlife for airports is to include plant species that geese or deer do not like, so they choose to locate elsewhere. Our proactive, sensitive-to-the-wildlife methods happen to be much less costly, as well as environmentally beneficial, and educational to the public.
In addition to operating your own business, you are also advocating to protect wild habitat. Describe what you and East33.org are working on in Whitemarsh Township, Pennsylvania.
East33.org is working to protect the wild lands and wildlife around Miquon, Pennsylvania from “human encroachment.” That term may sound harsh, but it is not meant to. Human beings diminish biodiversity with most current methods of land management.
Oddly and wonderfully, our urban environment in Miquon, right on the edge of Philadelphia, is home to many local rarer species, like bobolink which migrate from Argentina, breeding populations of Eastern box turtles, and the American woodcocks, with their unusual mating dance in March.
I address the overuse of fragmenting, intrusive trails, and other practices more obviously disruptive like the agriculture that’s now all the rage in urban areas.
I think most people who vote for open-space monies to protect habitat would be willing to set aside areas without human access, just like the state and federal parks do. There are so few wild places left like the steep slopes of Miquon. We have taken so much. It is time to give back.
One focus ofNative Returnis to create and manage habitat for animals. Why did you choose to foster living spaces for animals when some other organizations are seeking to remove certain species (such as deer) from the wilderness?
The simple answer? I love wildlife. It is part of my persona, and I believe it to be a great gift. There are ways to coexist with large populations of animals that don’t involve cruelty and killing. It takes ingenuity and empathy.
We have killed the top-line predators, and continue to, so our ecosystems are out of balance. This is not the fault of the animals whose populations consequently increase. Humans are peculiar creatures at times. They pride themselves in their compassion toward one another yet at the same time do some pretty despicable things towards wildlife and domestic animals.
My biggest pet peeve right now is with environmental organizations that claim to protect wild lands and wildlife but destroy habitat (with farming, for example) and also sanction the killing of wildlife. I think donors would be appalled to know how their charitable donations are sometimes used.
It is one of the main reasons I started East33.org: supporters should know that when they contribute to wildlife and their habitat, it will go to that and only that -- not agriculture, not hunting, and not large administrative expenses.
Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge with us, Christina.