My husband and I recently renewed our support for the Bay Journal, but after reading the most recent issue we question why. We’ve come to expect science-based environmental articles, so we were shocked to see Condon’s opinion column in support of invasive plants.

Invasive species are defined by Presidential Executive Order as “alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health.” Invasive plant species spread aggressively; tolerate varied habitats; like disturbed areas; and lack natural predators or parasites. Invasive species are second only to habitat destruction for decreasing our regional biodiversity.

I’ve lived in the Savage River watershed in Garrett County, MD, since 1981. Over the years, old fields and forests filled with native plant species have become dominated by exotic invasives. State-designated Wildlands with incredible natives such as Appalachian sedge, broad-leaved toothwort, Carolina springbeauty, red & painted trilliums, round-leaved yellow violet, smooth rockcress, yellow clintonia, early azalea, minniebush, and leatherwood are being overwhelmed by invasive species, such as garlic mustard and Japanese spiraea.

Why does this matter? Invasive species reduce regional biodiversity (the number and variety of organisms in an area along with their genetic variation). One such example is their negative impact on the globally rare West Virginia white. This woodland butterfly relies on various species of toothwort and rockcress to lay its eggs. In forests where garlic mustard dominates, the butterfly mistakenly selects this alien herb which is poisonous to their caterpillars.

We’re not familiar with the degraded environments around the Bay, but we do know the the natural areas of mountain Maryland. These intact ecosystems have been invaded by exotic species. To preserve the regional biodiversity of this area, we need to make every effort to remove these invasive plants.

Respectfully,

Liz McDowell & Ron Boyer

Grantsville, MD

(5) comments

Richard Dunbar

Regarding, from Hydrophilic, "I too have seen many natural environments demolished by invasive plants." Where are these "natural environments? The mere mention of this misleads the public into thinking that they (natural environments), in fact, exist and, thus, need to be protected, which, these days, is customarily done using pesticides (nothing says environmental protection like pesticide use).

Unfortunately, the only place the "natural environment" exists, today, is in peoples minds as it has, long ago, disappeared.

(Edited by staff.)

hydrophilic

Liz and Ron,

Thank you for your comments. I was also glad to see another reader post a negative response to her article.

I am from the PNW and am not sure how I stumbled across her article but after reading it my first thought was what kind of platform would publish the article? Truly disappointing.

I am heavily involved in conservation across the west and find her suggestions, based on ‘experiences’ from her acre yard, amusing and dangerous. If not carefully worded she will send the wrong message to landowners who already lack basic knowledge on living with wildlife.

I too have seen many natural environments demolished by invasive plants. Diverse communities of native plants with successive spring and summer blooms wiped out by monocultures of various invasive plants, some of which don’t even flower. I have also seen the native diversity return after manual weeding. It is a very simple concept to understand and I am glad more landowners are educating themselves on the issue.

Marlene

I was writing for what I saw as a limited audience, and not for the entire country. This said, however, the laws that govern the natural world are the same no matter where on Earth you are. The only differences between one area and another are the life forms.

Let's discuss Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum). According to a USGS publication on Cheatgrass, "Many invasive plants thrive in disturbed areas and are easily spread through various pathways and vectors. In the western U.S., disturbed landscape can take the form of areas changed by human development, improper grazing, and burned by wildfire. Roads and trails, and the vehicles that travel them, transmission corridors, and fuel breaks all serve as pathways and vectors that help spread these unwanted invaders."

https://www.usgs.gov/centers/fresc/science/cheatgrass-and-medusahead?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

Voilà! The actual reason this so-called invasive plant has spread so much is human disturbance of the landscape. And let's not forget this plant was brought to this country because people insist upon bringing in all kinds of things from other countries instead of living within their own environment; Cheatgrass didn't arrive on its own.

Therefore this grass is a symptom of the real problem: the societal demand for goods and services that don't take environmental consequences into account, as well as the common lack of respect shown to our natural world. 

The reality is that the entire "invasive-plant" issue places blame on the wrong entity entirely (plants doing what comes naturally) rather than the proper culprit--people! Unless and until you change the prevailing societal view of our natural world as something to use as humans see fit without taking into account the harmful consequences of their actions, fighting so-called invasive plants is futile and pointless. You can't fix a problem unless you fix the cause of it.

(Edited by staff.)

Marlene

Dear Liz and Ron,

If you are concerned only about spring ephemerals, then it makes sense to remove alien plants that have prepared the way for the plants to grow on your property that you personally desire to see.

But if you're concerned, as I am, about wildlife welfare and the poisoning of the Earth with pesticides to remove so-called invasives, then leaving alien plants in place is the better choice.

Many native-plant enthusiasts nowadays are using Doug Tallamy to frame their interest in spring ephemerals as concern for wildlife, which I find disingenuous. 

Sincerely,Marlene  

Marlene

I didn't finish my thought previously. When I wrote that framing the issue as concern for wildlife strikes me as disingenuous, I meant to explain that I see it this way because the wildlife information provided by folks in support of that contention  tends to be wrong or misleading. In the case of the West Virginia White, I've read scientific papers about this situation. What is obvious is that despite the researchers being aware of an ever-increasing abundance of deer, they miss the connection--as virtually everyone does--between deer and the resulting increase in the area of Garlic Mustard. As a result, everyone thinks Garlic Mustard is the problem, when in reality deer are the problem. When they denude an area of native plants, it opens the space for other kinds of plants to come in because an overabundance of deer will keep an area denuded. Thus, until government gets serious about reducing the deer population to levels appropriate for the carrying capacity of the environment instead of for the subset of hunters who want an easy kill, pesticiding alien plants simply poisons the Earth and reduces habitat while doing absolutely nothing about the so-called invasive-plant problem.

Sincerely,

Marlene  

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