Presented at the
Tenth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights
Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.
Albany, N.Y. - October 14, 2006
Well, good afternoon. When Carol asked me to do this, there
were no restrictions. She said, pick your own title. I picked
"regulation by fraud," but after hearing this morning
and knowing what is coming up, I think my job is to scare you
worse than any of the other speakers. Let's start out with what
I did plan.
You could have had some other titles, all prefaced with invasive species. We have "invasive speciesregulation by fraud." I thought of some others: "invasive speciesthe Goebbel's legacy," "invasive speciesless than junk science," "victory of the precautionary principle," or "Orwellian biology," or "the nirvana of eco-fascism." If I've done my job properly, when I am done, you will understand at least where I am coming from, maybe even agree with me.
It's hard to put such a major agenda together in a twenty-minute talk, but I am going to give you a brief history, kind of where we are and maybe, hopefully, what everybody can do. The big question is, how can an issue that the Greens have determined is the second most important issue in environmental degradation, how can something nobody has heard of before 1999 become the second most important environmental issue? Somebody said earlier, follow the power and money.
A quick little history, because a lot of you know about it.
For most people this started with President Clinton's Executive
Order 13112, February 3, 1999, entitled Invasive Species. Okay,
why did he do it? Al Gore told him to do it or asked him to do
it. Who asked Al Gore to do it? Well, from my research of the
history of this thing, there are two major environmental organizations
that pushed this more than any othersour old friends at
The Nature Conservancy and the World Conservation Union, or the
IUCN.(1) When you look at the history of
this issue, you can see how this built up, including the bureaucracies
too. I left them out.
What's the problem with a lot of our environmental issues? Definitions, right? Go to the definition. So listen real carefully to kind of an amalgamated definition. There are a lot of definitions in the executive order, and I am going to summarize them here. This is "invasive species:" Any organism not native to an ecosystem that could cause harm to the economy, human health, or the environment.
Do you hear the precautionary principle there? "Any organism." That's any living thing. Any ecosystem. Bonner said this morning that there are no such things as ecosystems. I had it in my notes that I probably had ten on my 200-acre farm in Pennsylvania. But, either way, I think you get the point. So any living thing, any ecosystem, that's any acre of land, it's any cubic meter of air, it's any cubic meter of water.
"Could cause harm to the environment." What does
that mean? Seriously, what does it mean? The only thing you can
measure is harm to the economy. You can measure economic harm.
You can measure harm to human health, but can you measure harm
to the environment? So what do they mean? It has been seven years
since the executive order. In fact, The Nature Conservancy, the
bureaucracies, the Greens pretty much have their definition down
now. What it means is that the presence of any organism in a spot,
let's take a plant, that is of foreign origin that was not there
before 1492. In other words, if it came from any place elseyou
know, you pick a fever tree from the "great grey-green, greasy
Limpopo River"(2) and put it down
herethat is an invasive species because the native poison
ivy might have been able to grow there. Okay, there are your definitions.
It is an executive order; so, to make it effective, we have to have some action terms. Let's just go through the action terms in the executive order. Prevent, detect, monitor, restore, control, conduct research, promote public education, recommend plans and actions at the local, tribal, state, regional, and ecosystem-based levels. This is your invasive species management plan. And look at this one. It is not often quoted, but not fund, authorize, or carry out actions that promote the spread of invasive species. I think we all know how the feds can use their fiscal tools to force everybody else, including the states, to do what they want.
I am not going to get into it, but the ISAC, or Invasive Species
Advisory Committee, was also created. Andyou want to talk
about corruption of the system? I'll just say this. Initially,
remember this was Clinton that issued it, but it's still this
way today, it is just loaded with the grant-seekers and self-serving
interests including industry, basically advising the government
to fund their own causes and organizations.
Another little bit of history. You can issue all the executive orders you want, but you have to have some kind of justification for it. What do we have? Best science available. Right? Okay, where do you go for that? The best places you can go are universities, preferably Ivy League. So, bingo, summer of 1999 comes this report from David Pimentel at Cornell University that is quoted endlessly. If you go to any web site, read any article today, and they are out there daily, you will hear the figure that invasive species costs the U.S. economy $138 billion a year.
All right, fair enough. Let's break that down. Now, in this he categorizes everythingmammals, plants, bugs, all this kind of thing. Let's just take one factor of that $138 billioncats. What he didnow this is the best science availablecats, C-A-T-S. All right? Here is how this was determined. You can all read it. It is on the internet. It is everywhere. He took one study that estimated the number of domestic cats. He took another study that estimated the number of feral cats. He took another study from Virginia and Wisconsin that estimated the number of birds killed by the estimated number of cats.
We haven't gotten to the dollar figure yet, right? So we have
to get the dollar per bird killed. How do we do that? We estimate
the value of the dollar per bird kill by estimating the dollar
spent by the average bird watcher, we estimate the dollar spent
by the average game bird released by a game commissioner and organization.
By the way, that was $800 per bird. You estimate the number of
dollars spent by a bird game hunter. Bingo, you get $30 a bird.
So, I counted up, you have got seven estimates of estimates of
estimates of estimates. Now you take 95 percent and keep multiplying
95 percent and, mathematicians, you know how that goes at the
end. So, at the end, we come up with the cats costing the U.S.
economy $14 billion a year. Now, of course, that is conservative,
because that is just based on the number of birds killed by cats
and has nothing to do with the other mammals and amphibians. That's
why I say this is less than junk science. That is the cornerstone
Any article you read about invasive species has several points. Some of them have all the points. Dr. Mark Sagoff up at the University of Maryland has been probably the best at refuting all of these. It is all bogus. It is all junk science, but, of course, he has been silenced. He is a Harvard Ph.D. He has got a c. vitae a mile long. You will never see him in print unless you Google him in with his name. But, anyway, he takes all five. I'll try to run through these pretty quickly.
Harm to the environmentI think we have seen through what Bonner said, the environment just changes. You can't harm the environment. The presence of one species versus another is not in itself harmful. Change is the only constant with the environment. So that just threw that out the window.
You'll hear this a lotthat invasive species is a or even the primary cause of species extinction. It's a bunch of hooey. The only time that is true is in an island environment, which is either a true island like Guam with the brown tree snake with predatorsit did destroy some species of birdsor an inland lake. On a continental environment there is not one case in the scientific literature of one species causing the extinction of another. So when you hear that, tell them they are full of little boiled owls.
They say that a native species is more adaptable. I forget what they say all the time, but a native species is superior to a non-native species. Again, there is no biological difference between a native and a non-native species. It's an accident of history.
This is a good one. You'll hear this all the time. That invasive species decrease biodiversity. No, it doesn't. It increases biodiversity. The most diverse area in Europe, if you include the islands, is London, England, with all the gardens and the affinity they have for plants. It's patently false that invasive species decrease biodiversity.
And there are some others. I will just go along on one. If
you bring a new species in, there is no natural predator, so it
just expands exponentially. You know there is no end to it. That
is a bunch of hooey.
Purple loosestrife is one some of you have seen and you have probably even seen it expand, especially up here in New York State and the Northeast. No natural predators. Well, the doggoned thing has been here since 1800, you know, 200 years. In fact, it has over 200 insects. This is the science. You know, you have to go to scientific literature to find it, not the government. There are over 200 species of insects including the Cecropia moth, the Polyphemus moth, and some endangered butterflies. There were 40 species of birds that nest in purple loosestrife. I picked that because it is the poster child of the invasive species. If the poster child is no more harmful than that, what about these commercial and useful species that they are condemning.
Rather than give you a big litany of all the stuff that is going on in government. I thought maybe, considering where we are now, maybe the best way to do this would be to give you examples. I am not the only one, I don't think, that believes that eventually invasive species regulation, if this thing doesn't get stopped, is going to have a greater impact on more Americans than any other single environmental issue. You've got to find an endangered species on your property before they can take it. For eminent domain, they have got to choose your property. But invasive species, as we have seen, are everywhere.
If you are in agriculture, especially here in the Northeast, birdsfoot trefoil. Right? Critical to northeastern agriculture. It is on their list. In various USDA programs, you are not allowed to plant the best forage crops, you have to plant a native species.
Being that there are now some years of environmental history
we've got to pay attention to it.
If you are a sportsman, you should know that the brown trout is slowly being eliminated from our nation's streams and rivers.
If you are a western rancher, you should know that in the case that the Forest Service tried to make against Wayne Hage, they used the fact that he had Kentucky bluegrass in his pasture as evidence of mismanagement of his range land. Okay? It's true. You can look it up.
I said it affects more people. If you own a home in Ann Arbor,
Michigan, you cannot legally sell your home until you have removed
periwinkle, phlox, and other flowers from your property.
If you enjoy boating in Wisconsin, you will now be greeted by uniformed, and I assume armed, guards to make sure that you have properly cleansed your boat before you launch it.
If you are a forester, you might like to know that the EPA considers black cherry an invasive species in the Great Lakes states.
Conversely, you might like to know that the bark beetle that is responsible for destroying millions of acres in the West and the Southdifferent beetles but the same class of insectyou can't use the billion dollars that the federal government is spending on invasive species. You can't use it on a bark beetle. You know why? It's native. It was here before the white man came.
Now, just a little kind of side trip on the forestry thing. You talk about the corruption of the system. The U.S. Forest Service's chief science advisor to Dale Bosworth is Ann Bartuska. Do you know where she came from? She was in charge of the invasive species initiative with The Nature Conservancy before she got that job. So it's engrained even in our Republican conservative administration. She was also the president of the Ecological Society of America. You wonder who is running the show here.
If you go to Mesa Verde National Park, you will be pleased
to know that the National Park Service has put a sign there right
next to this beautiful stand of shiny poison ivy that is cascading
out on this narrow little path to one of the sites that tells
you that poison ivy is a native species. They didn't cut it back,
but they did leave a plaque there. Oh, by the way, it is in English
only. I am going to quit there on the examples just in the interest
What to do. Now, we have all these meetings, you know, we can talk all we want, but I think we need to discuss what can we do. Okay, Jane, Peyton, a few of us, that's kind of our central issue. Those of you, you have got other equally legitimate issues, more imminent than some of these. So about all I can say is, keep an eye at your state level, what is going on at the federal level, and what is going on in all fifty states. The governors have issued their own executive orders. They formed their own invasive species council. It is loaded. Pennsylvania's has, I think, seven federal agencies, six state agencies, three green NGOs and three representatives from industry. That is who is advising Governor Rendell on invasive species. So pay attention to the state and local level.
At the federal level, we have been pretty fortunate. There
have been at least four bills where we've dodged the bullet with
terrestrial plants. The Healthy Forest Bill. Senator Craig had
a bill that was originally an invasive species bill. That got
converted to the Noxious Weed bill. This transportation bill,
that pork-filled monster that just passed last year, had invasive
species language. That's out of there. The ESA. The ESA reform
bill hasn't passed yet, but some pretty good people have gotten
that taken out of at least the bill that's sitting in Senator
But what's coming up here is going to be a lot more difficult. Next year is going to be the year of aquatic invasive species and these bills are monstrous. Before you think this is just about zebra mussels, you might just want to look at these. I know it is not something you do on a Sunday afternoon to go to Thomas site and look at a 130-page bill, but there is everything in there. Aquatics is in there, yes, but it includes almost all the issues we are talking aboutconservation easements, riparian areas, wetlands, all the other stuff is there. If it's wet, it's in these bills. And the other side is serious about this, because the pork in there is monstrous. So we've got the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act. Right now it is S.7070. That will change. There is also the Great Lakes bill, which is a pork-laden thing.
I do want to take one thing that is different in those bills that is extremely important. That is one of their chapters, or songs or whatever they call them is the soft-sounding term of cataloging or screening. It sounds reasonable. Right? You want to screen something because it causes harm. What it is in reality is white listing.
Now what is white listing? What we have had throughout history in agricultural law is black listing, the Noxious Weed Act, for example. Canada thistle is a bad weed, causes economic harm, so we list it, we black list it and say we can't have it on our property, it can't be in commercial seed. White listing flips that over, and inserts the precautionary principle in regulatory law by saying that you have to prove that a species doesn't cause harm before you can trade in it internationally and across state lines. You think about that for a minute. You think of the consequences of what that really means. You would not be eating kiwi fruit today. The Chinese gooseberry would never have been allowed to be imported into New Zealand, which has a white listing law, if that had been in effect.
The other thing about these aquatic laws, it's kind of subtle, it takes a nerd or a wonk that has studied this stuff for several years to read this into it, but I have run it by some other people. One synonym for invasive species is biological pollution. When you think of water and pollution, what federal agency do you think of? The EPA, yeah. Eventually if these bills go through, there is no way in the world, in fact, there have been two court determinations that I know of turning biological pollution, that's aquatic invasive species, over to the EPA. So if you want the EPA in charge of, basically, your farm, your ranch, your land, let these things go through.
And, real quickly, TNC. When you read these bills and when you study what has happened during the last seven years and you look at the history, who in this room would not want to see the power, the financial power and the regulatory power, of TNC diminished? Well, these bills have it in there. It's a funnel. It's an eight-inch tube of money just going straight to TNC, when you look at the grant section of it. If these aquatic invasive species bills are anything, it is a direct funding mechanism from the federal treasury to TNC.
I will just finish with a little quote from Bertrand Russell. He said, "Fifty million people can say a foolish thing and it is still a foolish thing." Thank you.
(1) World Conservation Union, or IUCN (International
Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources), founded
in 1948, headquartered in the Lake Geneva area, in Gland, Switzerland.
(2) Rudyard Kipling, "The Elephant's Child." "Good-bye. I am going to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, to find out what the Crocodile has for dinner."