PART 10 - LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
by Jim Beers
March 7, 2003
This is part ten of a series.
If you have read my recent nine articles regarding Invasive Species, you may be interested in two current developments.
First, Senator Collins of Maine has introduced The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003. The press releases tell legitimate stories about foreign shore crabs and organisms in ballast water that have arrived on seagoing ships. Shore crabs have spread down the coast from Maine to New Jersey and caused serious damage to the seafood industry. Zebra mussels arrived here in the same way and have caused damage in the Great Lakes and then spread up rivers and even hitchhiked on trailered boats.
It is legitimate for the Federal government to prevent future organisms arriving here in this way. The proposed ballast water management parts of the Act are worthwhile but could be accomplished under amended current regulations and Federal authorities already in place. The Federal agencies do not need legislative authority to tighten current requirements for arriving vessels.
The proposed Act does several other things. It purports to establish "our first national monitoring network" by "building" "plans" to respond at "the state and regional level. This establishes the Federal government as responsible for "invasive species" wherever they occur, indeed the sponsor has put in money for water milfoil an aquatic plant that has been here for years and has been a problem in Maine. Also think for a moment about that often-heard term "state and regional levels." According to the Constitution and 225 years of governance, states are the government level responsible for many specific things, including the management (control, harvest, distribution, etc.) of the plants and animals within their states. When we constantly equate this level of government with "regional" concerns so far as the Federal government is concerned, we reduce the state governments to invisibility. Why do they not complain? Because the proposed Act authorizes "more money (sic Federal) to the states."
The proposed Act also establishes a research program and "grants". These would be administered, in fact dictated, by Federal bureaucrats. There is no room for state management intentions or needs. On the assumption that the states are too naïve or too dumb to consult each other or for University professors to search computerized databases regarding what other Universities are researching, the Federal government will dictate what is to be done and how it will be done. Can anyone involved spell E-n-d-a-n-g-e-r-e-d S-p-e-c-i-e-s? For all the same good intentions, the Federal government is grown and powerful interest groups are given the same tools to do the same mischief and damage they have been utilizing the Endangered Species Act to do for years.
Second, the Invasive Weeds Awareness Coalition "honored" the National Wildlife Refuge Association for its "exceptional educational efforts and cooperative support in the battle against invasive species in the United States."
The Invasive Weeds Awareness Coalition is the umbrella outfit for all the lobbyists and organizations who are intent on getting all invasive species under the Federal umbrella so that they can be manipulated like Endangered Species to build power, obtain Federal tax money, dictate citizen activities, subvert private property landowners, and further restrict uses and access on public lands.
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is an association of retired Refuge employees bent on making National Wildlife Refuges a separate (from the US Fish and Wildlife Service) Agency and getting every dime and regulatory power available for National Wildlife Refuges. They are not unique. There is an even more powerful National Parks group and another for the National Forests. They would each quadruple the budgets of their old places of employment each year if they could do it. They would stop all uses on, most access to, and development of energy on all the National Parks, Refuges, and Forests.
This award was mainly for the Refuge Association publication called "Silent Invasion." It is full of pictures and paints invasive species as "the #1 threat to refuges." It asks Congress to provide "$150 Million over the next five years" to "implement the strategic management plan of the "National Invasive Species Council." All this, while detailing invasive species budget needs on the 95-million acre National Wildlife Refuge system.
A couple examples of what the "threats" consist of are in order. One of the "invasives" is Russian olive, a small tree that grows throughout the west and has been here for a century. A friend told me recently that while hunting on a western refuge he witnessed the Refuge employees cutting down these trees. When he pointed out their importance to wintering pheasants and other birds and wildlife, he was told they weren't native. He, a wildlife biologist like me, believes that it will also get rid of the pheasants but no one dares say that until more vilification of all "invasives" takes place. Similarly, western refuges claim that another "invasive" shrubby tree, salt cedar, must be eliminated. Salt cedar is the number one nesting tree in the southwest and Mexico for white-winged doves. Like the pheasant, these doves are hunted so the loss of this nesting habitat is not mentioned and lower white-wing dove populations will hasten the days when hunting is no longer worthwhile.
The acreages of these species are included when the Association testifies about "invasive species budget needs" before Congress to get big Refuge budget increases each year. Unlike private property owners who spend their money available each year based on priorities, Federal land managers invent new "needs" each year. These "needs" are then presented to Congress in the budget each year and Congress always agrees to increase funding and personnel for some or all of those "needs" based on the politics of the moment. All of these and similar groups hope that this year or next will be "the year of Invasive Species" for budget increases for their agencies, newly established Federal authorities over plants and animals, new grant money availability, and Federal positions for certain members of the invasive coalitions and councils putting it all together for the Federal politicians.
No one is saying that there are not problems that must be addressed. No one is saying that there are not Federal Constitutional authorities that should be exercised IN SUPPORT OF STATES once a species arrives and begins to spread. State priorities should be what sets the agenda for all plants and animals within their state. The Federal role may include research to fulfill its role. Research should be coordinated with the states being or potentially threatened by new species. States cannot and should not abdicate their roles whether they get Federal money or not. Federal money to states should not include new Federal authorities. Does anyone doubt that all this support for Federal authority expansion reflects personal and organizational gains, budget growth, new bureaucratic powers over citizens, and hidden agendas?
While salt cedar and Russian olive should be managed and controlled where appropriate, using their elimination for hidden agendas should be exposed. After a coalition of states conducted research and determined that several Asian insects could be "introduced" to control purple loosestrife, the Federal role should be to make the introductions possible and not to use pictures of large stands as cynical budget ploys or reasons for expanding Federal authorities.
The last Administration, tried to rewrite the purpose of the National Wildlife Refuges. While the majority were wetlands bought with specific Congressional authorization for waterfowl management (a genuine Federal responsibility), the political appointees organized policy, regulations, and manuals to state that the purpose of the Refuge System was to be "Pre-Columbian Ecosystems." That merely meant that they could begin acquiring any piece of property for which they had money. Oh, and is also meant that waterfowl management could be steadily diminished so that waterfowl hunting could be slowly constricted and eventually, closed. The current Administration stopped that, but has done very little to prevent it from starting up again under the next "green" bunch.
It is worth remembering that Adolph Hitler was intent on building some sort of Aryan Valhalla. Along with all the things that most of us are familiar with there was his environmental agenda. From early in his rule there was an office charged with re-establishing the plant and animal environment found in "Pre-Roman" Germany. That, like this "Pre-Columbian (before Columbus) Ecosystem" stuff, is not possible or even desirable. As with the German rulers, there are an abundance of hidden agendas at work here. We all need to be aware and informed. Then we need to do the right things and stop the wrong things.
Jim Beers is a 33 year veteran of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and a great advocate of private property rights.
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