PART 5 - THE PUSHERS
by Jim Beers
February 27, 2003
This is part five of a series.
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 US Department of Agriculture and the US 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, US 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 $34.8M 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 US 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 US 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 UN 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 US 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". They are 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, Earth Justice, 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 US 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.
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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