Friday, October 06, 2006


"INVASIVE SPECIES COUNCILS - WHO KNEW?Anybody out there know who sits on the National Invasive Species Council? You may be surprised to learn its industry representatives are Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, UAP Timberland, and our old fave, Monsanto. What the f*ck??? Monsanto even heads up its Control and Management Workgroup. Maybe that explains the wholesale promotion of "Roundup" by the EPA and other government sources. (And it doesn't stop at the federal level - state invasive species councils are similarly populated. Monsanto's everywhere.)"

Well let’s see, the National Invasive Species Council is, actually, composed of 13 Federal Departments and Agencies. The Secretaries or the Administrators of each Department or Agency are the official Council members. However, their designated technical representatives carry out the day-to-day work of the Council. These representatives meet several times a year. The official Council generally meets two times a year.

Depending on your state of mind this is either a disaster waiting to happen because nothing worthwhile comes from the US government, or reassuring because the government has the funds to actually study the problem and do something about it.

The National Invasive Species Council (Council) is an inter-Departmental council that helps to coordinate and ensure complementary, cost-efficient and effective Federal activities regarding invasive species. The Council was established February 3, 1999 by Executive Order 13112.

I think, however, the group under attack here is the Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee. Executive Order 13112 calls for the creation of a Federal Advisory Committee to provide information and advice for consideration by the Council. The ISAC is composed of approximately thirty stakeholders from state organizations, industry, conservation groups, scientists, academia and other interests.

I am unsure as to whither came the observation of membership by Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, UAP Timberland, as I know of no direct connection with these companies on the present Committee. As for Monsanto, yes, indeed, they had a seat on the first ISAC. This is in keeping with the directive to have a broad range of interest groups on the committee. Let’s be clear here: Monsanto had one vote out of thirty. Current membership included representatives of environmental groups, including the Nature Conservancy and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Academic research representation is provided by Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, Pacific Science Association, Bishop Museum, and Florida Gulf Coast University, Whitaker Center for Science, Math and Technology Education as examples.

Many industries have an interest financially in invasive species. Some like Monsanto will benefit if we need to chemically control a weed. I f we decide that we can afford the time to hand pull, or perhaps just ignore the problem, Monsanto will not benefit. But, there are industries like shipping and fishing represented on the committee, such as the Chamber of Shipping of America, which have a stake in the control of invasive species which inflict potential costs on their abilities to do business.

This is but a small indication of the broad range of interest groups at the table. For the retail consumer whose interests cross a wide range from gardens to pets and recreation we have the American Nursery and Landscape Association, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, and the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council. We even have a rancher.

All of us on the committee come together with cross-disciplinary expertise or interests. The fact that I am on the Invasive Species Committee, representing, interestingly enough, no one but my self, means that gardeners have two horticulture votes, while other equally involved industries have but one or even none. This loose aggregation of individuals and organizations comes together across political lines and deeply held preconceptions to find common ground on the issue of invasive species which affect all Americans and the world.

Gardeners tend to get excited at the thought that someone is thinking about keeping them from being the first person in the area to have the newest North Korean vine, but I do not hear much controversy over the federal government’s attempt to control the spread of the emerald ash borer or "sudden oak" death. We want our government to protect us except when individual greed overwhelms us.

By its very diverse nature, the committee effectively brings different opinions and solutions to a variety of issues, which concern us from the preservation of natural landscapes to the containment of insects and diseases which adversely harm our food supply and of course our ornamental gardens. And do not forget our need as a society for recreation. Bad bugs, bad plants and bad animals can ruin a vacation.

This committee takes seriously the impact that federal regulations can have on individual’s rights and short or long term financial gain or loss. The issues surrounding invasive species are multi-faceted and do not give easy answers without close inspection. The science is on-going, the effects are clearly visible, and the solutions are harder to spot.

I am proud to serve as Secretary of this committed group. On the issue of invasives, I usually find that if everyone is displeased or even mad at me, I can take solace that I have found the center of the controversy.
The call to arms to do nothing is strong. The will to think takes energy and time.
The complexities inherent in the challenge of invasive species touch almost every aspect of our lives.
The very nature of this complexity makes those who contend in this arena an easy target for negative asumptions and aspersions.

1 comment:

firefly said...

Gardeners tend to get excited at the thought that someone is thinking about keeping them from being the first person in the area to have the newest North Korean vine,...

Actually, I tend to get excited over the notion that this particular federal government is not bashful at all about redacting or ignoring research-based information that contradicts its political agenda.

It sounds as though the collective has a reasonable focus, but what happens to the results when produced, especially if some high-priced lobbyist has the ear of policymakers and doesn't like the recommendations?

It has happened to programs of the CDC, reports from the National Academy of Sciences, the EPA, NASA, NOAA, the CIA, and many others, so I'm not quite as sanguine about the secured nature of the committee's mission.