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Unnatural preservation, Part II

Should we be managing nature in preparation for an environmental future that no one can fully predict?

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If those new patterns become the norm, some of the bird species that now blanket the Farallons could perish. Others, however, might thrive. Will preserving a semblance of the status quo turn conservationists into something closer to gardeners or zookeepers?

"It may be that at some point ecologists and conservationists decide the level of intervention may have to be higher than anything we've ever considered before," says Cohen. "Are we willing to go on the Farallon Islands to feed Cassin's auklet chicks until they're big enough to survive?"

And if not, what outcomes are we willing to accept?

M. Martin Smith and Fiona Gow are journalists living in San Francisco.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 4 issue of High Country News.