Sunday, October 26, 2008

National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee will Meet November 2008

The National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee will meet in Baltimore Maryland, November 18 and 18th, 2008. This is a public meeting, so, if you are in the area, come and join us. The committee, known as ISAC, as part of its agenda, encourages public comment.

If you cannot come, write to me ( so that your observations and comments might be brought to the committee’s attention. ISAC will consider bio-fuels, the federal Management Plan Overview and ISAC Involvement, Cooperative Control and Management of Exotic Fish Impacting Native Fish Populations, updates on USDA Q-37 Permit Regulations, ballast water issues and legislative updates.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Dignity of Invasive Species

Nothing is ever simple when it comes to considerations of issues involving invasive species. The seeming immensity of invasive species issues may lead to paralysis of analysis, or may result in stakeholders feeling so overwhelmed that they find no reason to continue working on the challenge. A Mid Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council (MA-EPPC) list serve thread noted that “… some of the students have felt that this kind of work is pointless or futile given the size of the problem.“ In a way, this is an outcome of not understanding a key feature of a wicked problem. Wicked problems are non linear and have no end point. The only way a wicked problem ends is by a lack of will or an end of resource.

But the futility of the problem is dwarfed by the students’ limited understanding of the features of a wicked problem. The students are but one of the many stakeholders involved in the issues of invasive species. If they think that weeding, which is what the removal of invasive plant species amounts to in natural areas, is futile, surely they have never met a farmer, who tireless combats unwanted plants in an endless in order to generate the food necessary for life.

To add to the complications of invasive species, a new stakeholder group can be added: “Plant Dignity Interests”. How wickedly inconvenient, to have to consider a botanical species’ dignity? The Federal Ethics Committee on Non Human Biotechnology (ECNH) in Switzerland added to the large group of interested parties to the invasive species discussion, most likely an unintended consequence or opportunity, There are three concepts to understand in order to enter into the possibilities of this line of thinking. First is the “instrumental” value of the species, second, the “relational” value, and third, the “inherent” value. Kudzu, for example, has an “instrumental” value in its ability to control erosion, and a potential “instrumental” value as a bio-fuel source. Kudzu’s “relational” value, while perhaps harder to imagine, is found in its reflection of Asian landscapes, and in its ability to mimic the serenity found in great mono-cultural sweeps (ground covers) of landscape that require little landscape literacy or landscape syntactic knowledge to understand. Kudzu, finally, has, as a member of the community of life on Earth, its own “inherent” worth, independent of the first two attributes.

Now to the students’ lament, we can add Arundo donax and its place in the cosmos. A New Leaf: Making Paper From Weeds An invasive ecological bad guy may be able to paper over his evil ways and absorb some carbon as well. (By: Lisa Conti | October 07, 2008 ) . A third rail of invasive species conversations is valuation. The idea is to put a market price on an invader which at first should help eradicate the problem. The rodent Nutria found in Maryland and Delaware is a destructive pest. Putting a bounty pelts should have resulted in people hunting and trapping the creature to extinction in its non native range of the eastern Chesapeake Bay. Instead, the laws of unintended consequences kicked in, a entrepreneurial folks began to breed the critter, which was already out of control, in order, naturally, to collect the bounty, without the effort

When we add the discussion of Arundo donax’s dignity to the conversation, plus its potential “instrumental” value as well as its gardening or ornamental, its “relational” value, the conversation spins out of control.. How wickedly inconvenient the entire aggregation of concepts becomes, how prone to cross-purposed proposals, we find ourselves in.