Massachusetts Proposes Ban/Phase-Out of 140+ Plants

Boyce Tankersley
Wed, 07 Sep 2005 07:26:14 PDT
At best this is a complicated and emotional issue for many of us, myself included.

In the early years of the US, if a landowner did not utilize his property in the most productive way (farming, timber, ranching, oil drilling) they were subject to losing their land through emminent domain seisures by the local/state/federal governments. The result is most of the land in the eastern 2/3rds of the nation was significantly altered from it's natural state. As time has decreased the importance of agricultural produce and natural products (and as an appreciation has grown for the natural world) many tracts of land have been allowed to go fallow (non-cultivated). In their non-cultivated state anything and everything that can survive does so, including species that were introduced (intentionally or as weeds in cultivated crops) as part of the human ecosystem (includes, among other things, collections of plants and animals that permit large human populations to exist in a wide variety of habitats). Many of these areas have been set aside as 'natural areas'. To return these fallow tracts of land to a semblance of the ecosystems our forefathers found when they settled the land, we have to weed them (non-natives and non-desirable natives); apparently more of less indefinitely (work at Gray Summit Arboretum (Mobot), Chicago Botanic Garden, etc.). In effect, our natural areas, to maintain their species purity, have to be weeded; and in suitable habitats artificial fires have to be set and controlled. Basically that translates into cultivation - the only difference between managing natural areas today and growing an agricultural crop is the end product. This disjunct between what I 'feel' to be natural and what I recognise as cultivated has not been something I have been philosophically able to adjust to.

There are those within the conservation movement that feel if we just ... (fill in the blanks) then natural areas will not have to be managed and all of our problems will be solved. One of the blanks that has been proposed is the control (to varying degrees) of some/all plant taxa associated with the human ecosystem. Simplistic solutions to complicated problems always fail, and always create additional problems. I don't have an answer, but I am wary of simplistic solutions (historical parallel to be found in Prohibition as a solution to perils of alcohol).

Boyce Tankersley

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