Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Unintended invasive consequences

In the wicked inconvenience of invasive species challenges grows the rule of unintended consequences and the pressures of colliding mandated outcomes. A property owner was ordered “…to clean his property of tires and other unauthorized debris, while the state Department of Environmental Protection is investigating whether illegally dumped material encroached on the 100-foot river buffer zone.” (Donna Boynton TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF; July 7th 2009) Most natural are enthusiast would claim a small victory at this point; most property-rights advocates would already be grinding their teeth.

But this story is part of a wicked problem, and the one-time solution comes complete with the requisite unintended consequences of doing the right thing. The accused had been “… called before the board earlier that month to answer to a complaint that unauthorized — and possibly contaminated — fill was dumped on his property and that trees were removed in the area over which the Conservation Commission has jurisdiction.” There cvould be no doubt that a force for good was lumbering into action. What could be better than the mandatory clean-up of a polluter and destroyer of the environment?

Claiming to have brought in only sand that turned out to be mixed with debris, the original problem, the owner was further informed that “… that past clearing of the land has allowed invasive species such as Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard to grow in the disturbed areas. The commission asked that he deal with that as well.” One interpretation could be that the gentleman should never have touched his property in the first place, a second that he should have spend the time and effort in the beginning to certify the sustainability of his landscape plan, and a third, more probable outcome, that he now feels doubly condemned by finding that once he “cleans” his property as required, he is face with a new problem arising out of his compliance. The complexities of invasive species disturbs those who feel that too much knowledge corrupts and good deeds cost too much.

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