A couple of years ago, my daughter, her children, and I visited a large aspen grove in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest. According to Erin Alberty writing for sltrib.com:
For 106 acres on the southwest bank of Fish Lake in Sevier County, a single root system unites this forest. Pando is the biggest aspen “clone” ever identified, the single most massive living organism known on Earth. Though little known in Utah, Pando has gained fame as a tourist destination and as a symbol of sustainability and interconnectedness. It is being researched, photographed, talked about.
So my family and I are not the only ones interested in the aspen grove; it has become somewhat of an international celebrity, with visitors from around the world making pilgrimages to central Utah.
Some feel that the aspen grove is an important religious symbol. Episcopal priest Ed Bacon likes the aspen-human metaphor:
What we see appears to be a massive grove of thousands of individual trees, but what it is, in fact, is one single tree, genetically the same, sharing a single root system … and when any part of that organism needs nourishment, the other parts come to its aid.
My friends, in a Pando understanding of life … we are members of one another. We are all Pando. We are interdependent, interrelated members of the whole, with a capital W, who can never say, I have no need of you.”
Celebrated Process Theologian John B. Cobb Jr., as part of group visit organized by Pando Populus, traveled to Utah to walk the grove, meet locals and learn how to best save their beloved icon.
A unifying theme of Cobb’s work is his emphasis on ecological interdependence—the idea that every part of the ecosystem is reliant on all the other parts. Cobb has argued that humanity’s most urgent task is to preserve the world on which it lives and depends, an idea which his primary influence Alfred North Whitehead describes as “”world-loyalty.”
For Cobb, Utah’s aspen grove exemplifies “ecological interdependence.”
Unfortunately, Pando is in trouble largely because of mule deer, elk, and cows nibbling on the young shoots:
The main culprit is mule deer. About 50 live in and near Pando and are ravenous by the time new shoots appear in June, says Jim Lamb, a biologist with the state Division of Wildlife Resources.
The clone’s mature and growing trees put energy into their massive, shared root system to form new sprouts. As old trees die and are not replaced, the canopy becomes more sparse, and the entire clone becomes less able to reproduce and thrive.