Invasive Species 2
February 23, 2003
History and Jurisdiction - Part 3
The U.S. Constitution (1787) established a regime of plant and animal jurisdiction and ownership unique in the world at that time. While limiting the Federal government to specific authorities and responsibilities, it divided Federal power between the ubiquitous three Branches. The Bill of Rights, or first 10 Amendments (1791) concluded with Amendment X which states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
The jurisdiction over and management of all plants, insects, and animals is one of those powers. Only an Amendment to the Constitution or "Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States" can legally alter this. No longer did wildlife and plants belong to royalty or the aristocracy, in America it belonged "to the people." States held the wild species in common ownership for all, and men and women owned the domestic plants and animals outright. For at least 200 years, anyway.
For the first hundred years, the Federal government concerned itself with protecting high seas fishery interests of Americans, cooperation with neighbors like Canada in the Great Lakes, and interstate and foreign commerce protection for farmers, ranchers, and businessmen dealing in wildlife and plants.
In the late 1800s, western states resigned themselves to the Federal government retaining large portions of the West. This gave rise to acceptance by westerners of predator control and grazing allocation by Federal land administrators. Thus was born an uneasy concept of the Federal government being "more" than a private landowner and somehow immune to state jurisdiction over plants and animals.
During the First World War, President Wilson signed, and the Senate ratified, a Migratory Bird Treaty with Canada for about 200 species of birds that migrated between the two nations. Certain species like hawks, owls, pelicans, and cormorants were specifically excluded, because of the damage they caused. More recently, these and several others were included in Treaties with Mexico, Japan, and Russia. Primary management jurisdiction thereby was transferred from the state governments to the Federal government for these named species.
In 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed by Congress and signed by the President. The authority for the Federal government to constantly name species, subspecies, etc. as Endangered and thereby seize jurisdiction and management authority from the states is claimed to be a U.N. Treaty signed by many nations. Two points: First, I would assert that a U.N. Treaty is not a Treaty as mentioned in the Constitution. In our Treaty with Canada, for instance, they do certain things, and we do certain things, or the Treaty can be broken. The U.N. Treaty is broken and ignored by others regularly and we have no recourse, because of the brokerage role of the U.N.
In other words, I think the Federal government has no authority to usurp state authority over plants and animals. They could offer money or assistance, but not override the interests or authority of the states. Second, and most important, those of us alive today have seen the Federal government unilaterally usurp jurisdiction and management authority legislatively from the states over Endangered Species, Threatened Species, Marine Mammals, Wild Horses, and Animal Welfare. This has then been used to justify expanded power by the Federal government (at the expense of "the States" and "the people" over loggers, ranchers, fishermen, home-builders, hunters, trappers, medical experimenters, pet breeders, campers, etc.
The point being, that passing a law to "do something" about Invasive Species is greeted mostly with a yawn by the public and with dollar signs by many others, and dreams of increased power by others yet. No one any longer questions the legality, much less the results of these plunges into Federal power-building, which the Founding Fathers so rightly feared.
This last point was confirmed and made shockingly apparent to me, last week. The polling question on the History Channel website was, "who should be more powerful, the state government or the Federal government?" The Constitution names specific roles for each; not which is more "powerful." The Civil War settled the Union of the states, not who is more powerful (the northern states under a Federal government defeated the southern states under a Confederate government). President Lincoln didn't defeat South Carolina; he defeated President Davis. Like any enduring marriage, our national life has prospered over an equal relationship with specific roles for each spouse (state and Fed) and a shared sense of devotion to each other. The more we speak of who is more "powerful," the deeper our problems become.
In the early 1900s, Federal, state, and University researchers studied ways to minimize or eliminate damage caused by predators (wolves, cougars, coyotes, and bears) and public employees successfully exterminated wolves, while depressing the numbers and distribution of the others until control reductions 40 years ago allowed coyotes to explode back into the East, and state abrogation of management responsibility allowed cougars in California to once again kill and maim humans, pets, and livestock, while reducing once robust wild bighorn sheep populations in the Sierras to Endangered status. Similar elimination of bear management is allowing depredations of burgeoning bear populations to endanger humans and cause extensive economic damage once again.
The Federal government also specialized in bird research (as primary managers of migratory birds). Damage from ducks, geese, blackbirds, and others was reduced and direct control (i.e. killing) was the final, and often, best method.
In the 1950s, increased international travel by tourists and Servicemen caused the Federal government to 1.) begin banning from importation (based on the legitimate responsibility of regulating foreign commerce) what were called Injurious Wildlife like mongoose and 2.) begin searching the world for new and desirable species to release in the U.S., such as chukars from India and snow grouse from Afghanistan. The Federal government was also busy buying large marshes specifically for the breeding, migrating, and wintering needs of waterfowl. Many of these had, and still have, prized non-native species on them, such as the Sika deer from Japan on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Assateague National Seashore Park, and the sambur deer from India, on the Saint Vincent's Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Nearly all the "calendar picture Invasive Species" I mentioned in Part 2 were present in the 1950s and '60s. None were on the old Injurious Wildlife List, that I enforced as a U.S. Game Management Agent at the New York port-of-entry in the early 1970s. Their visibility as a potential Federal concern arose as "the usual suspects" (who I will describe in Part 5 "The Pushers") saw how the Endangered Species Act has generated funds and influence for academicians, budgets and career enhancements for bureaucrats, votes for politicians, and power for non-governmental groups bent on a string of harmful things, I will discuss further in Part 5. Let it suffice to say that claims of "billions" in damage and "millions of acres" are everywhere in Washington today. Slick publications, handouts, proposals, and publicity appear in every nook and cranny. Invasive Species are like the cherry blossoms swelling in anticipation of the right conditions to burst forth.
Before I can explain more about the people and groups pushing the
Invasive Species agenda today, we will need to examine The Biology
of Invasive Species. The next article, Part 4, will attempt to do
just that. New age concepts such as Pre-Columbian Ecosystems and Native
Ecosystems, while nowhere to be seen now, will burst forth when legislation
is passed giving the Federal government "jurisdiction" over
non-native species (i.e. Invasive Species) that cause "harm."
The elastic and nebulous terminology ("ecosystem, harm,"
et al) propping up this concept will serve as superhighway venues
for an incredible range of mischief, for which, like Endangered Species
effects today, there will appear to be no remedy short of what the
Founding Fathers began signing on the 4th of July, 1776.
The Biology - Part 4
I am a wildlife biologist, and what I am about to write ignores the hysteria, myths, and self-serving propaganda of the past thirty years. It is also meant to ignore the public opinions that have been formed from those myths and stories. The approaching Invasive Species program, like the Endangered Species program before it, capitalizes on these myths and misinformation. Understanding these emotional underpinnings is necessary to making an informed decision.
1.) Native v. Non-Native. Why is it good to eradicate a highly used and appreciated non-native fishery like the introduced salmon in the Great Lakes while reintroducing native wolves that will spread across the country and wreak havoc with stock, pets, game animals, and human safety? Both the salmon and the wolf maintain themselves, and interact with the habitat they find themselves inhabiting. Are the Great Lakes somehow poorer? Is the rapidly expanding wolf range somehow richer? The answer is no, to each. Just as Asians "invaded" North America 10,000 +/- years ago, and were then displaced by Europeans 500 +/- years ago, the environment changed.
The environment or ecosystem was neither better nor worse, only different. Indian living habits, from Colorado cliff dwellers to high plains nomads, before and after the "invasion" of the horse, affected the environment in just as dramatic ways as grazing, logging, mining, and recreation do today. Cattle and farms, while different from buffalo and wild rice beds, create an environment that the human inhabitants capitalize on for their benefit, as they raise families and go about their daily affairs.
Today, new species arrive, and some disappear immediately; some cause significant problems (usually only during an initial period); some crowd out native species; and some (in fact many) become useful additions to roadside plant communities (minimizing erosion, etc.), bird life (think cattle egrets and house finches), and gardens (think day lilies). There is no such thing as "native," there are only some species that have been somewhere longer than others. The biological challenge is not how to turn the clock back to an imaginary period of "balance." The challenge is how to maintain plant and animal diversity and human uses while maintaining an environment that assures prosperity, and a wholesome existence for people.
2.) Harmful Species v. Beneficial Species. Beneficial Species (from barley and hops, to brown trout and elk) should be nurtured and maintained regardless of the length of time they have been here. Likewise, harmful species, and these are often new arrivals, should be controlled and even eradicated where they have significant adverse impacts. Controls or even eradication should be understood, and take into account the costs, benefits, and other impacts. The resulting environments or ecosystems may be simpler or may get more diverse. Honest scientists can tell us the results of controls.
3.) Using (i.e. Managing) v. Saving (i.e. Locking Up) the Environment. The foregoing paragraphs describe what is called the "Pre-Columbian Ecosystem" in today's Federal no-use lingo. This myth has been used extensively to justify all sorts of Endangered Species Act abuses. These include, but are not limited to, taking property without compensation; eliminating logging, ranching, etc., closing access to public lands; and Federal bureaucrats dictating a wide range of business, recreational, and citizen activities unimaginable just 40 years ago.
The public has come to believe that each and every flock or herd of animals or each stand of plants is so important, that any cost to maintain or restore them is justified. Notice that the more recent arrivals never make the "List." Many accept the false premise that no-use of plants or animals is superior to using, and therefore managing, the plants and animals. The biological truth is that sensible use of plants and animals maintains a maximum diversity of species and, because it creates "WORTH" for the plants and animals and their habitats, there are reasons for everyone who benefits, to maintain a healthy and productive environment.
Sensible management of plants and animals generates funding for governments to maintain public natural resources, and likewise, for private owners to maintain private natural resources. In a free republic such as ours, this should have never been challenged as it has recently been, by growing Federal power and massive land acquisition and control by Federal bureaucracies, and rich non-government organizations.
If we continue to accept the notions of the recent past that Invasive Species are inherently "bad," that there is an "ideal" or "natural" mix of plants and animals that we must restore, or else, that use and management of natural resources by either government or citizens is bad, and that the answer to any environmental or animal use matter is Federally-imposed restrictions and power -- then Federal Invasive Species proposals will be a slam dunk.
If, on the other hand, we understand that use and management (including active control) of natural resources is an attainable good; that the national ecosystem will always change, and our challenge is to manage those changes for our benefit, and perhaps, most important of all that the system of government that has served us so well for over 200 years must not be abolished for specious reasons, then we can support programs which make use of existing state authorities and private landowners.
Just as it is reasonable in an affluent society to have an area or two called Wilderness to see what non-use means in the midst of a robust and active society. Just as it is reasonable to not build a road where erosion or other significant damage will result. So too, is it reasonable and biologically sound to strive for the best environmental balances and biological productivity in our surroundings, while accessing and using all of the renewable plants and animals that surround us. The proliferation of Wilderness Areas, Roadless Areas, Critical Habitats, and Pre-Columbian and no-use philosophies in public agencies are the indicators of what "biological" justifications have justified in recent years and what will also result from a Federal Invasive Species program.
Just as Endangered Species habitat claims proliferate as "experts" testify before courts, similar Invasive Species experts will, soon enough, materialize to claim "environmental" harm from "non-native" species X complete with a rationale to why more land must be controlled, more land bought, more human activities proscribed, and more resource users put out of business. As with Endangered Species impacts, landowners will no longer be able to profit from their land, and no one except the government will offer to buy it. As with Endangered Species, a cadre of University researchers will arise to make claims of what "needs" to be done regarding cheatgrass or day lilies to not only eradicate them, but to keep them eradicated.
Science will bend to assure that these professors are the ones getting the subsequent grant money. The biology will be presented in such a way that everyone else can but accept it and any questions will be either ignored, or treated as the ravings of the ignorant. Pesticides will be no more available than now, and the only result, 30 years hence will be similar to the decline of spotted owls and loggers in a declining rural Oregon overseen by "successful" Federal bureaucrats and highly paid environmental organization employees.
The next article will be on The Pushers. That is, those who, both
behind and in front of the scenes, are bringing about the Federalization
of Invasive Species. As the old saying goes, you can't follow the
game without a program. Hopefully, the next article will identify
the players for you, so that you too, can follow the action.
The Pushers - Part 5
Who in the world is pushing a major Federalization of Invasive Species? In order to answer this in a way that the reader can grasp, I will divide them into groups with a bit of background on most of them and a little more on some of the main ones out in the open. I will also avoid acronyms, for the non-bureaucrats in the crowd.
A.) The two big Federal Departments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior stand to benefit money-wise, personnel-wise, and most importantly, power-wise from further Federalization of Invasive Species. Each has high-paid staffs working for their Secretary in Washington, to energize groups, lobby Congress, and direct the agencies beneath them. While many are relieved that the appointees of the last Administration are no longer in charge, that impression may well be a mirage.
My old agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service still has nearly all of the past appointees in the same or similar positions. The Secretary of the Interior (the responsible official) has not even proposed reforms of the long-unauthorized (by Congress) Endangered Species Act. She merely proposes "improvements" such as "better science". Actually the science (classification, habitat requirements, etc.) has been perverted over the past 30 years, and is also in need of being freed from being currency for Federal grants. Additionally, she has just announced $34.8 million in grants for something called "Imperiled Species". That is in addition to "Endangered" and "Threatened" Species. To these two Departments, Invasive Species is but the latest catchword by which to obtain money and power.
B.) The Agencies and their bureaucrats are poised and primed to jump on the Invasive Species bandwagon. The U.S. Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (in Agriculture) currently oversees importing, exporting, and interstate shipment of domestic plants and animals. They will "lead" as Federal power is increased in this area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (in Interior) administers import, export, and interstate shipment of wild plants and animals, as well as administering the Endangered Species Act and all of the National Wildlife Refuges plus acting as the Federal "experts" on everything to do with plants and animals under U.N. auspices or in Federal projects, as well as other such responsibilities.
These two agencies will be the major power brokers of increased Federal authority. They will write regulations, enforcement policies, and be the primary "partners" for the groups mentioned below. Other agencies like the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management own millions of acres that will get increased funding, increased personnel, and increased authority over state governments and private landowners near Federal holdings. One need only look at the disproportionate effect of Endangered Species proclamations on loggers, ranchers, and other rural residents near Federal lands to understand what Invasive Species authority will mean for them. Indeed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service have just published a slick, 75 page, color photo collection of 60 invasive exotic (exotic means non-native when you go to court) species.
C.) State agencies such as Florida with their high incidence of new species and others like Maryland with their proximity to Washington (where Congress authorizes money) and recent outbreaks of hysteria over snakehead fish, are strong and consistent advocates of more money and people to be passed through the Federal agencies TO THEM. The debilitating effect on the Constitutional authorities of these states to manage their plant and animal resources is amply documented in the Endangered Species program over the past 30 years. There is no reason to believe that Invasive Species funding, and subsequent Federal control will be any different.
D.) Quasi-governmental groups abound. The National Institute of Invasive Species Science is "a growing consortium of partnerships between government and non-government organizations". They are an "Information Node" housed in government space with the U.S. Geological Survey (an Interior agency) in Ft. Collins, Colorado. As I write this, the Invasive Weeds Awareness Coalition is sponsoring a National Invasive Weeds Awareness Week Conference in nearby Washington, DC. Some of the displays are on Capitol Hill across the street from the U.S. House of Representatives at the National Botanical Gardens. The Federal Invasive Species Advisory Committee "advises" Congress and others. They encourage formation of state counterparts to similarly lobby and influence state legislators and Federal legislators via home district return addresses.
E.) University professors and researchers know that Federalizing Invasive Species, just like the invention of Endangered Species, will be a boon for their business. Testifying, justifying, and recommending things to do with their "specialty" will result in future grants, more graduate students, increased scientific stature, more University tenure, and generally better pay.
F.) There is an abundance of Weed Science Societies (NE, W, S, N Central,) under the national. There is an innocuous-named Aquatic Plant Management Society.
G.) There is the Smithsonian who sees the opportunity for them to provide "systematics" that will be so "necessary".
H.) The American Seed Trade Association sees an enormous "need" for their products, as money becomes available. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association sees money becoming available to improve public and private grazing lands. Monsanto and other chemical and pesticide companies see a gold mine developing as more customers have money to get ever-more restricted control agents. These groups, like all of the above, all pop up in every hearing before Congress and on every "advisory" group. There is one other.
I.) The Nature Conservancy is the tenth largest non-profit charity in the United States. They own 12 million acres in the United States (think Switzerland) and 80 to 90 million acres throughout the world. The most recent accounting shows them with $2.6 BILLION plus $97 MILLION in pledges and grants. One employee was quoted as saying they "work closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service" and they "buy these properties when they need to be bought, so that at some point we can become willing sellers" (sic, meaning to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) to "get around the problem of local opposition." Just recently, Congress granted a 25% tax break to those who sell land to the Nature Conservancy.
At a recent Congressional Hearing, the Committee Chairman mentioned that he was a member of the Nature Conservancy and then asked the Nature Conservancy lady about the biggest problem hindering Invasive Species efforts, and she named private property (there were no private property advocates in the packed hearing room). Five minutes later he asked her "as a PRIVATE LANDOWNER what can Federal controls do to help?" Her answer, "ignore private lands". The TNC is everywhere in this Federalizing of Invasive Species and they stand to benefit directly (on their lands) big time. Then, there are the ones you don't see.
J.) The environmental outfits like Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wildlands Project, Earth Liberation Front, The National Parks Association, Earthjustice, et al cooperate with the push, and stand ready to testify at the drop of a hat, regarding how wording in particular sections of a new or revised Act should read. They see this as being a companion tool to intimidate landowners, reduce access and use on public lands, stop more human recreation or business or lifestyle activities.
Likewise the animal rights crowd like the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Protection Institute, Animal Welfare Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals, the Animal Liberation Front, et al see this new Federal authority to go after non-natives as a Godsend. Just a few non-natives that will soon enough be targeted for control, licensing, and even elimination are non-native dogs, cats, birds, game birds, fish and even non-native plants used for wildlife management. The potential for quickening the restrictions on hunting, fishing, animal husbandry, and natural resource management is unlimited.
K.) Also unseen and unheard from are the lawyers. Each of these groups employs one or more lawyers. Even first year law students realize what a bonanza the Endangered Species Act has proven to be for lawyers. Invasive Species can be made to be just as profitable, and the lobbyists and Congressmen (most of whom are lawyers) know this too.
L.) Last, but certainly not least, are the U.S. Congress and the White House. They are the ones who will be responsible if this Federalization of Invasive Species succeeds. It is the political atmosphere around these two institutions at this time that is driving all these groups to start a push now. An explanation of The Politics will be the subject of the next article
Oh, one last word. No article about The Pushers would be fair without
mentioning the opponents. There aren't any. A few property rights
groups would say it's nuts. Some of those who have been ruined or
otherwise harmed by the Endangered Species Act understand the threat
here, but they are few and scattered. Once it gets up and running,
it will pick off landowners, recreationists, businessmen, and others
one at a time. The guy in Nebraska will never understand how what
the Federal government did six months before, in Idaho, was repeated
with him. Like hunters, trappers, dog owners, and fishermen harmed
by Endangered Species; none will see how they had to come together
to save their freedoms until it is too late. Your understanding of
this important issue is the best that I, or any of us, can hope for.
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