Nativism is Hurting our Public Lands

Nativism is Hurting our Public Lands
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Guest Rant by Mary McAllister

When I retired, a daily walk in the park became the high point of every day.  Soon I began to notice that trees in my local park in the San Francisco Bay Area were “disappearing.”  For the first time in my adult life I also had the time to inform myself of what was happening around me.  And so began the long, bumpy ride to learn about the native plant movement.

As in much of coastal California, there were few trees in the San Francisco Bay Area before the arrival of Europeans in the late 18th century.  The landscape was barren, shifting sand dunes, grassland and dune scrub, with a few trees found only in sheltered ravines where they were protected from the wind off the ocean and water was funneled to them by the steep canyons.  (Source)

Virtually all the trees in the San Francisco Bay Area are therefore not native to California.That immigrant status has put a target on their backs.  For the past 25 years, the native plant movement has gained ground.  Thousands of trees have been destroyed and the written plans of public land managers at the city, regional, state and federal levels have all stated their commitment to destroy nonnative trees and vegetation.  (Source)

UC Berkeley “Vegetation Management,” 2007

The loss of our trees is not the only thing at stake.  Pesticides are used to destroy nonnative vegetation and prevent nonnative trees from resprouting after they are cut down.  Because birds and other animals have long ago adapted to our nonnative landscape, they are deprived of their homes and food sources by the eradication of nonnative trees and vegetation.  (Source)

Native plants are usually planted where nonnatives have been destroyed, but because they aren’t well adapted to our changed climate, air quality, and soil conditions, they are fragile.  Fences and other restrictions on public access are required to protect the new plantings.  Even with such protections these projects are often unsuccessful unless they are intensively gardened and irrigated.  (Source)

Public employees engaged in these destructive activities are supplemented by a contingent of volunteers.  Here in the Bay Area, some of these volunteers have admitted cutting down trees on public property without authorization.  When they were caught, they started surreptitiously girdling trees, which kills them slowly.  In 2010 a California entomologist published a study which speculates that insects that are killing nonnative eucalyptus have been intentionally imported from Australia by native plant advocates.  The introduction of these pests was not legally authorized.  (Source)

Chicago has had a similar experience to ours in the Bay Area because it was also a treeless prairie prior to the arrival of Europeans.  Countless trees have been destroyed in the past 20 years, including many natives. Chicagoans are also subjected to prescribed burns which pollute the air and endanger people and property in order to maintain a treeless prairie.  The prairie was maintained by Native Americans by conducting annual burns which encouraged new growth, attracting the animals they hunted.  Without these annual burns, grassland and prairie succeed naturally to shrubs and slowly, over time to forest.  Ironically, native plant advocates depend upon the unnatural methods of pesticides and intentional fires to sustain the pre-European landscape of grassland.  (Source)

Nativism is particularly strong in Hawaii.  Their only frog, the nonnative coqui, is being eradicated though it has no native competitor.   A fruit-bearing tree, the Strawberry guava, is being eradicated.  Hawaii’s mangrove swamps have been poisoned and left in the water to rot.  According to a recently published study, the eradication of nonnative plants and trees has not resulted in the return of the native forest.  (Source)

In the State of Washington, nonnative marsh grass was poisoned with a pesticide about which little is known.  Two pesticides are being combined and no testing has been done on the toxicity of that combination in the environment.  The effort to eradicate nonnative marsh grass extends down the entire West Coast of the country.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, we recently learned that this project has had a negative impact on an endangered bird, the Clapper Rail, which had found cover from predators in the marsh grasses that have been removed.  (Source)

It has been discouraging to watch our public lands being damaged by extremist nativism.  However, we are encouraged by the recent work of scientists who are slowly dismantling the underpinnings of the nativist ideology, and the public is finally starting to react to the consequences of nativism.  (Source)

Posted by

Garden Rant
on July 12, 2012 at 7:06 am, in the category Guest Rants, Ministry of Controversy.


    • admin
    • 25th September 2016

    It’s amazing the unreasonable measures people will go to for what is essentially a reasonable cause.

    • Mary McAllister
    • 11th October 2016

    Yes, I have head the coqui, but only in a recording which is available on the website of the folks who do not believe it is necessary to eradicate it.

    • Timeless Environments
    • 21st October 2016

    There are actually a number of interesting articles and papers against what they are using on these frogs and effects on other life including humans. Caffeine was yet another option used. Anyway, some interesting reads.

    • Christopher C NC
    • 11th November 2016

    I lived in Kihei, Maui for 20 years where there were several coqui frog infestations. I have heard them, often. They are no louder than the birds in the forests in NC where I now live – my sisters complain about the loud birds waking them when they are here – and can’t compete in the loud factor with the cicadas here in late summer. The noise argument is bogus and is people just being annoyed by something they are not used to.

    • Christopher C NC
    • 13th November 2016

    I can also mention when I went back to visit Maui in 2010 I saw that the Peach-faced Lovebird, Agapornis roseicollis had established itself in the wild in the neighborhood where I used to live.

    • Astra
    • 14th November 2016

    The noise argument is bogus…

    • Sheena McGrath
    • 14th November 2016

    It amazes me that people would kill trees because the landscape was once treeless. Especially when those landscapes were treeless because of human intervention in the first place.
    I think we have to accept that we have changed the landscape, and not strive for some primordial time when we hadn’t – what, damaged? – the environment, and instead live with what is here.
    Anyway, fanaticism should always be avoided.

    • Thad
    • 14th November 2016

    Just further evidence that fundamentalism is bad in all its forms.

    • vicki
    • 15th November 2016

    (pun intended)

    • Benjamin Vogt
    • 15th November 2016

    Damned if we do damned if we don’t. I see both sides of this with equal agreement–which is pretty much how the human race can be defined, constantly at war with itself, and that war spreads on to the planet like wildfire (the kind that does not rejuvenate prairie, mind you). It’s too late to have purely native landscapes, but it doesn’t mean we should keep plowing and paving what’s left, either. It also does not mean we shouldn’t try to have native landscapes remade, as long as it’s done in a studied, smart, careful way–the opposite to how we’ve careened across this country with manifest destiny riding our backs. Oklahoma was prairie with millions of bison, and a decade later it was almost all barbed wire farms with railroads and no bison at all. I think we owe the land SOMETHING.

    • Timeless Environments
    • 16th November 2016

    On my blog I’ve written a number of posts on this very thing. What blows me away is some of the lousy science being used to make these decisions and justify some of the most asinine absurd techniques. Everyone should get a clue and realise that Science is NOT necessarily the ever evolving ever self-correcting wonderful mechanism that promoters pimp it to be. Yes it can be a useful tool but more often than not has been abused and misused just like anything else in our world.

    • Chris in Toronto
    • 16th November 2016 the Bay area…because “Virtually all the trees in the San Francisco Bay Area are therefore not native” does this mean they are being replaced with…? Shrubs and grasses? No trees at all?? I can’t imagine a park without shade from trees to sit under…

    • Mary McAllister
    • 16th November 2016

    You got it! The “restoration” goal in the San Francisco Bay Area is grassland and dune scrub. The few species of native trees will not grow where the nonnative trees grow because they will not tolerate the wind and soil conditions that the nonnatives are tolerating.

    • admin
    • 16th November 2016

    “The “restoration” goal in the San Francisco Bay Area is grassland and dune scrub.”

    • admin
    • 16th November 2016

    “Also, the few species of native trees are more appropriately called shrubs. None of them will be as tall as the nonnatives trees that are providing windbreaks and other important ecological functions.”

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