Fwd: Establishing taxa as "present"

Hannon othonna@gmail.com
Mon, 01 Sep 2008 11:41:41 PDT
Roger Whitlock wrote:
"Someone should have stood up at that meeting and pointed out that "zero
risk" is always unobtainable, that tolerance of a huge number of false
positives is contrary to the ideals on which the American republic is
founded (and is akin to "guilty until proven innocent"), and will simply
encourage smuggling."

I agree with the sentiment and particulars Roger gives here.

In the present case we are asked to trust that the accumulation of
inventories of seed lists and living collections, with as yet unspecified
verifying qualifiers, will serve the public interest and protect the
environment. This "white list" will automatically create a corresponding
"black list". What criteria will be used and whose proof of burden will be
allowed to facilitate the entry of the black-listed plants? What about the
difficult issues of taxonomy and nomenclature?

What this exercise in cat-herding fails to address entirely is the most
important front line defense against unwanted exotic organisms: competent,
well-trained staff at points of entry. This is a difficult job since most
inspection work does not involve "botanical" merchandise but rather large
commercial consignments. How much training and knowledge should we expect
from these staff? How much do they receive now?  Is the new white list/black
list designed to lighten their work load, or even allow scaling back of
plant inspecting staff?

In 2007 the Agriculture Deptartment invited comments on their proposed
changes to the process of importation, with a primary focus on potential
invasives. Many cogent entries were posted, all with a different point of
view, but I have been unable to relocate this site after it was
're-shuffled'. If I find it I will add it to this thread. Whether those
comments, which were overwhelmingly sympathetic to growers and collectors,
had any effect on the process or the outcome is unclear.

It is distressing to hear that following the Australian model is in the
works. The outstanding plantsmanship of the Australians is in spite of their
government's extreme policies on plant importations. Those policies may be
justifiable, but they are extreme. I have been told by growers there that
the process to import a plant that is not on The List involves extensive
paperwork for each species or variety and months of quarantine, all in
addition to the usual travails of horticulture. It is quite costly as well.

While invasive plants are a reality, no cost-benefit analysis on a national
or regional basis has not been entertained by these agencies as far as I am
aware. In addition, the case can be made and should be made that a majority
of plants we term "invasive" are in fact opportunists that could not or
would not progress were it not for the facilitative activities of man.

Dylan Hannon

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