They're moving forward... - Invasive Species Update

By Jim Beers
for eco-logic

April 7, 2003

A friend obtained an invitation for me to attend an Invasive Species briefing last Thursday. The briefing featured three high appointees, one each from the U.S. Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce. They addressed about 30 representatives of Senators, private corporations, interest groups, and even two United Nations representatives. This took place in a conference room at the headquarters of a very large U.S. corporation located in the heart of downtown Washington. Each of the three speakers spoke for 5 minutes on the topic of Invasive Species. This is a report of what they said, two questions that I asked, some observations about their statements, and my attempt to follow up with two assistants to U.S. Senators who were in attendance. You should find this both interesting and informative. Please do not let it discourage you.

The Interior appointee (meaning he is not a career employee but one appointed by the Administration and therefore subject to removal, if they are not reelected) began with the unproven hyperbole about billions of dollars of Invasive Species damage per year and untold billions lost annually for as far back as we can estimate. Occasionally Invasive Species were called exotics, non-natives, aliens, non-indigenous, or introduced species. All were bad and dangerous. Like the other two speakers that followed, nearly all Invasives mentioned were terrestrial plants or animals. He opined about the need for more money and people. He mentioned how the National Park Service "had" to form "swat teams" to find exotics and "raise flags."

[NOTE: The National Parks have, for decades, ignored and refused to manage the overabundant deer that have eaten every native and non-native plant beneath a height of 5 feet. Suddenly they "need" swat teams to find invasives that may "harm" plants? Puhlease!]

He mentioned how Indian Tribes were being invited to work with other Federal agencies to get new legislation and "needed" funds. Then he said they were working on a "novel" solution to a problem. Salt Cedar (tamarisk) is an Invasive Species, but it is also a preferred nesting tree for the ENDANGERED WILLOW FLYCATCHER. So government "scientists" went to work and "discovered" that cowbirds parasitize (wreck) the willow flycatchers nests "less" in native bushes, so therefore, IT SHOULD BE OK TO ERADICATE THIS NESTING TREE FOR AN ENDANGERED SPECIES!

[When I asked him if there was any precedent for this, he mumbled about how glad he was to see me, and then talked without saying anything. EVERYONE EVER HARMED BY AN ENDANGERED SPECIES OR ITS CRITICAL HABITAT SHOULD NOTE THIS! The arrogance of this ploy rivals 10 years of midnight dumping of toxic sludge by the DC Water Authority through a National Park onto endangered sturgeon spawning areas in the Potomac River alongside Washington, DC. under permit from the EPA, FWS, NMFS.]

The Commerce Department appointee talked about cross-cut budget needs (meaning a bunch of agencies at once), matrix management (meaning no real goal but lots of work for new employees), AND HOW THE BEST THING ABOUT INVASIVE SPECIES WAS HOW IT MADE THEM "MORE COMPETITIVE FOR DOLLARS!" What can you say to something like that?

Finally the Agriculture appointee mentioned their "leadership" role and how they are "discovering" that oaks on the West coast are being killed by Sudden Oak Death that may require USDA control of rhododendrons, and more employees to monitor nurseries. He also mentioned that algae on Hawaiian beaches is smelly, and may depress tourism to Hawaii, also requiring USDA intervention. Either he or the Commerce fellow mentioned already getting Homeland Security money and hoping to get more.

When the two U.N. representatives complimented all 3 speakers and said how well it fits into U.N. plans, they were told there would be new jobs in the State Department to handle the "worldwide" and "holistic" issues. My impression was that the U.N. folks might even be encouraged to apply for the new jobs when new funding was obtained.

When I asked the three appointees where federal authority ended and the state jurisdiction and private property rights spelled out in the Constitution began, there was no answer as they looked at each other. Finally the Agriculture fellow said that it was "necessary" to do this job in spite of what individual states might want, or property owners might want. This is so important, that in order to keep things from "spreading," public or private land cannot be allowed to get in the way. All three of these guys were reminiscent of three aristocrats explaining why restoration of a monarchy would be good for the United States, since it would be "beneficial" to them and the "ecosystem" as they define it.

On Friday afternoon, I met with two representatives of two powerful Senators who had attended the briefing and who I would have expected to be supportive of keeping federal growth, both jurisdictionally and budget-wise, in check. I was wrong. I explained to them how these Invasive Species proposals are meant to generate new laws granting wide-ranging and expanding authorities to federal bureaucrats who will then interfere with citizens, business, and public lands beyond their wildest imaginings.

I explained how the interest groups and bureaucrats will draft key sections of the new law and how the courts will then be incorporated to interpret the wording to expand the law just like the Endangered Species Act. I explained how one powerful western Senator was being "snookered" into believing that new and more powerful laws were needed to assure that the major Federal land managers (BLM, USFS, NPS, FWS, etc.) were forced to control noxious weeds that cover currently unmanaged federal lands. This last, when current Federal authorities and jurisdictions were more than adequate to force them to clean up the lands they own (before they buy more?).

Their reaction? They only wanted to talk about the Aquatic Invasive Species Act. This ignored the fact that the briefing was 90% about terrestrial plants and animals. When I mentioned that zebra mussels do a lot of good, and helped restore the Lake Erie fishery, they ignored me. I was told the Invasive Species "cat" was "out of the bag." I was asked if I "really thought the states were doing a good job of managing their resources?"

My reply that the Constitution gave them that responsibility and it was up to their residents what they did and how they did it, brought only a smile to their faces. I was asked if I would tell Senator ---, to "his face" that he had been "snookered?" My response of "sure" was ignored. My feeling as they left, was that they thought I had a lot of nerve wasting their time over a done deal.

If someone had known what I know today, back in 1970, and had approached such powerful political aides about what the Endangered Species Act was going to lead to, they probably would have received the same brush-off. They know, as do those appointees, what they are doing, because they see how the ESA was twisted and perverted. They understand how it is practically untouchable today, yet how much early supporters appreciated it, and how much power it has given federal politicians and bureaucrats. They know - and it is up to us to stop this Invasive Species juggernaut before it takes away more rights for no good reason. I will write more about this and what to do in the weekly updates I am planning to write. As I finish this update, I will write a piece I will title "How Laws Are Conceived." By writing about the formation of these laws I hope to explain what is going on with Invasive Species at this point in the game, based on my two decades of playing this game, here in Washington.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and please share it with others.


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