Ethnic Cleansing of our Plants and Wildlife?

For longer than twenty years the environmental community has scratched, clawed and fought for a powerful, umbrella, federal “Invasive Species Act” (ISA).

As I peck out this column, there are about fifty variations of legislation floating around Washington all intended to make us think the federal government is going to finally do something right about nutria and zebra mussels. The devil is always in the details and this environmental “feel good” legislation is no different.

Passage of an “Invasive Species Act” will open the largest can of legal worms since the passage of the “Endangered Species Act.” The potential abuses by the federal government against our citizens, private landowners and sporting class all in the name of “invasive species” can easily boggle the mind.

In 1999, former President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13112 putting together the framework to deal with harmful invasive species. We currently have a federal “Invasive Species Council.” Clinton’s executive order does not carry the clout that formal legislation would establish. The environmentalists want to get rolling on this thing and they want an ISA passed and signed by the President.

On April 29, 2003, a joint subcommittee oversight hearing was held in Washington to discuss the merits of HR119, an ISA. This is the same piece of legislation the environmentalists tried unsuccessfully to attach to the President’s “Healthy Forest Initiative.”

Three courageous warriors testified at that hearing. Fred Grau of State College, Pennsylvania, Jim Beers, USFWS retired, and Ray Arnett, former President of the NRA and former Under Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Reagan, were there to remind our politicians of the devil within. Of the nearly two dozen testifiers these three were the only ones to emphasize the potential abuses an umbrella ISA would cause for our citizens, industry and our sporting class.

The dichotomy of an ISA is rooted in its very foundation. The environmentalists believe and profess that any species, plant or animal, which did not exist on this continent prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus, is an “invasive species.”

If one thinks deeply about this philosophy of “environmental hysteria,” one can see the similarities to “ethnic cleansing” in a third world nation. In essence, the environmentalists want to restore any plant or animal whose numbers have declined due to civilization and kill off species that weren’t here prior to Columbus. I am sorry, but their philosophy is clearly “ethnic cleansing” of our plant and animal world.

The hero of the subcommittee hearing was our own Congressman John Peterson from northwest Pennsylvania. John grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and recognized the inherent danger in trying to categorize all living matter as either “native” or “invasive.”

In John’s words, “While there are a few non-native species which are having a harmful impact in some areas of the country, the majority of plants and animals which have been introduced to America have been brought as crops, livestock and pets. As with our human population, America’s great plant and wildlife diversity is the product of centuries of migration, cultural exchanges and importation. While it is important to prevent and deal with harmful invasive species, federal regulators should not lump all non-native plants and animals into the same category with highly publicized cases like those of the snakehead fish, nutria and brown tree snake.”

Thank you, Congressman John Peterson!

Let us not forget the brown trout, ring-necked pheasant, Hungarian partridge and chukar are not native to North America. Largemouth bass north of the Mason-Dixon, smallmouth bass and walleyes south of the Mason-Dixon, rainbow trout in the East, whitetails in the West and lake trout south of Canada are all candidates for “invasive species” classification.

The list can go on and on. Honeybees and cats have already been declared “invasive species.” (Our pet dogs are next.)

We have seen, loud and clear, the environmental and judicial aberration of the Endangered Species Act, and with good cause we should be deeply concerned about the potential abuses of an “Invasive” Species Act. It is not a stretch to foresee federal agents trespassing on private property in search of those terrible, wanton “invasive species.” Any federal “Invasive Species Council” will surely be stacked with environmental zealots.

Invasive species legislation is a potential, massive, government debacle and a threat to private property rights, industry and our sporting traditions.

Truly harmful invasive species can be handled on a case by case basis. We don’t need a new, incredibly expensive, federal bureaucracy to reclassify every living plant and animal in this nation as “native” or “invasive.”

This environmental pipe dream rivals the “Wildlands Project” and the depopulation of 50% of our landmass and returning it to grizzly bears, mountain lions, timber wolves and wolverines.

Ethnic cleansing of our plant and wildlife communities is just simply ludicrous.