PART 9 - WHAT MUST BE DONE
by Jim Beers
March 3, 2003
This is part nine of a series.
There are three things that come to mind as I consider how to conclude this series with some positive recommendations. The first suggestion is to let your Federal politicians know what you feel strongly about. When they think that they may lose reelection because enough people are watching and informed they will do the right things. Federal politicians are the key right now because Federal legislation is the absolutely necessary thing if Invasive Species are to be Federalized like Endangered Species was 30 years ago. The following is an open letter to my two Senators, my Congressman, and the Chairmen of the House and the Senates Committees on Agriculture and on Resources (the four Committees who will handle Invasive Species proposals.)
The Invasive Species proposal(s) being floated today are the result of four years of intensive organization and concerted effort by bureaucrats, environmentalists, rich lobby groups, academics, states, businesses, and others to pass legislation under this rubric. I strongly believe that it will further diminish the Constitutional authorities of the states over all plants and animals (except those specifically covered in Treaties like migratory birds) while expanding the authority of Federal bureaucrats and allied powerful environmental groups and animal rights groups over private property and the full range of citizen activities involving both wild and domestic plants and animals. It will be quickly expanded to cover every "non-native" or "exotic" plant and animal because of the Endangered Species Act experiences of the past 30 years no matter how it is worded. Preventing passage of such legislation (along with reform of the Endangered Species Act) is the most pressing legislative need of the present day, in my opinion.
I ask that you oppose these proposals because they are wrong and harmful in many ways. I suggest respectfully that you affirm the Constitutional jurisdiction of state governments over all wild and domestic plants and animals within their state while affirming the sound concept that damage by plants or animals is of no different concern or of no Federal moment merely because it is a recently arrived species as contrasted with one that has been here since the ice age. In other words non-native or exotic species are every bit as much under the primary jurisdiction of state governments as the turkeys and white oaks descended from the ones which were here in 1778 or 1492 for that matter. I suggest that legislation is needed to do this.
You could simultaneously affirm the strong and powerful commitment of the Federal government to manage their own Constitutional responsibilities to regulate import, export, and interstate commerce of all plants and animals so as to reinforce state management and damage control priorities. You could order a report by USDA of all state damage management priorities reduced to recommendations for research and damage management operations that the states want and recommendations for Federal land management agencies to do on Federal lands WITHIN EACH STATE TO COMPLY WITH STATE PRIORITIES IN THAT STATE. Some grant money could eventually be made available to states, at their discretion, where large Federal landholdings exist or where many states want to work together on common problems. University money should go through states to meet the needs of a particular state. This protects property owners and keeps academics in a support role where research belongs. Not distinguishing exotics reduces future mischief (going after brown trout, pheasants, day lilies, etc.) to a minimum and not growing Federal power in this area reduces the desire to Federalize. So I would propose a hearing or proposed legislation to do something like the following.
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT ACT
Purpose: To assure Federal cooperation with state government activities to minimize environmental and other damage from wild and domestic plants and animals in order to assure a healthy and productive national environment.
Background: Recognizing the complimentary legal and management roles of the state and Federal governments regarding both wild and domestic plants and animals such that the state governments have jurisdiction over all plants and animals within their borders with the exception of those specifically named in Treaties such as the various Migratory Bird Treaties with foreign powers and further recognizing the specific role of the Federal governments to regulate the import, export, and interstate commerce involving all plants and animals and further recognizing the need to both minimize current damage caused by plants and animals while further reducing the threat of increasing such damage through interstate commerce, import, or export of plants or animals: it is therefore seen to be salutary to coordinate all such governmental activities as much as possible.
Therefore be it resolved that:
1. All Federal land unit managers (right term??) will consult with the governments of the state wherein they are located and that they will manage and plan operations on those land units to compliment the plant and animal damage priorities of that state.
2. The USDA will inventory the plant and animal damage management priorities of each state and report (by XXX) to Congress on how Federal land management, import, export, and interstate activities can be coordinated to compliment those priorities within current budgets.
3. The USDA and USDoI will cooperate and submit a report to Congress (by XXX) detailing the research needs that reflect state priorities to minimize plant and animal damage to the environment accompanied by a budget recommendation for a national research grant program to make research money available to states for the states, at their discretion, to contract with universities or private researchers to develop the information necessary to make state plant and animal damage efforts as effective as possible.
I could go on but this probably says it all. Pre-empting the Invasive Species' proposals with a positive reinforcement of state and Federal authorities plus a positive response to damage complaints that recognizes that management of all plants and animals (including elimination where appropriate) would go a long way toward minimizing environmental damages and justifying needed reforms of the Endangered Species Act. The sponsors would be on the side of the angels. Opponents would have to explain why non-natives are bad (they can't), why any Federal authority should supplant existing state Constitutional authority (amend the Constitution if that is necessary), why giving any Federal money (if any "has" to be used to save us) directly to states to manage these "Billions of dollars of damage" does anything other than eliminate Federal controls, eliminate Federal "overhead" and maximize the money spent "on the ground". It also affirms that states don't exist around Federal properties but rather that Federal properties exist within states. Opponents would have to come out in the open to plead for the "poor landowners" like The Nature Conservancy & the Federal land managing agencies. Let them do just what you and I would have to do, that is pay for damage control out of our own pockets on our own land or forego frivolous (and there will be lots of this) mandates that the Invasive Species proponents are ready to employ. Finally, this doesn't jeopardize property owners and it doesn't give bureaucrats and interest groups any more power.
This is not meant to be anything more than my best shot at focusing my experience and training into a recommendation I think might help at this time. Proposing Federal legislation is merely the best I can come up with considering that there is no organized opposition at this time. The best opposition is what happened to the $40 Billion Conservation and Reinvestment Act when public awareness reached a critical mass and groups and organizations got together and stopped it. Unless and until that happens this is the best I can do.
It is worthwhile to keep in mind what happened recently with Campaign Finance Reform. The very Senators and Congressmen who voted for it recently attended seminars on what it means to them. Many were stunned that there were so many criminal liabilities for themselves. As one so eloquently put it, they usually pass this stuff and leave the details to the agencies to sort out. Well we don't need to continue letting the agencies "sort things out" and if politicians can't figure out things that affect them as personally as Campaign Finance Reform, well what chance is there that they will get Invasive Species right or that they got Endangered Species right?
Second, and perhaps most important of all, each of us needs to mention these things to friends, relatives, and coworkers. Each of us needs to let our favorite organizations know how we feel and ask them why they do not support these things. Only when the Ducks Unlimited's, National Rifle Associations, Homeowner Associations, Kennel Clubs, Trapper Associations, Loggers e-Groups, Ranchers, and all our other societies and fraternal groups mention these things in magazines, newsletters, and their stated positions will we get the attention of politicians who will otherwise pass this stuff. There is no substitute for public awareness and concerted action in a nation like ours.
Finally, each of us should be aware of what goes on at the state level. While no state, just like no form of government, is perfect' they are the best protectors of our freedoms. States are much more amenable to change than a remote Federal government. When your state abdicates its' role for Federal funds or any other reason it is up to you to call those politicians on the matter. When other states set bad precedents (since I am a wildlife biologist some examples that come to my mind are Massachusetts and New Jersey effectively banning the annual harvest of furbearers, or California abdicating management and harvest of cougars, or other states banning the use of dogs or bait to take bears, or Maryland passing a law to force hunters to hide game animals which they take) we should publicize it in newspapers, newsletters, e-mails, and to everyone we know. Our effect on state legislators in other states while minimal is eventually large when public ridicule emerges and state residents become more aware of what their own politicians are doing.
Invasive Species is the issue before us right now and this series has been an attempt to help us all arrive at the best solution to the problems facing us. It has always been a constant battle in this country to maintain freedoms while moving forward in an ever-changing world of problems and factions. This is, I believe, what Ben Franklin was referring to when he answered a question as he emerged from a meeting of the Constitutional Convention. He was asked what form of government Americans were going to get. He answered, a Republic, if you can keep it.
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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