Thursday, August 3, 2017

Invasive buckthorn #phenology, managing our commons

We have buckthorn on our property that we're trying to control. At least, until the past few days I was sure it's buckthorn. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources notes on their buckthorn identification page that "Leaves stay green late into fall." What I've been identifying as buckthorn has leaves that are turning yellow, and some that are already dropping. All of which occurred before Autumn's arrival this morning with temperatures in the low to mid-fifties. Even in our North Country, that's brisk for August.

early August buckthorn(?) with yellow leaves?
early August buckthorn(?) with yellow leaves?
Photo by J. Harrington

A buckthorn-related issue, other than identification, has come up as we've started pulling and burning the "buckthorn" on our property. The Wildlife Management Area (Carlos Avery) that surrounds our property has some large reservoirs of replacement buckthorn. I have concerns about when, if ever, MNDNR will get around to managing it. Those concerns were heightened when I started looking for indications of what DNR has already tried to accomplish in terms of actual management. There is no mention of invasive species in the 2016 Forest Health Report. If I've read their 2015 Forest Health Report correctly, the Department is busier trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to identify the "leading edge" of the invasion than in actually controlling the plants. The reason the Department cites for their approach is that
"Prior to 2015, the terrestrial invasive species (TIS) program consisted of a single position with limited funding for field projects. In 2015, annual work plan targets were established for all areas for invasive species survey work and management practices. Also in 2015, program leads were identified for each of the areas and regions. The resulting structure resembles other forestry program such as the roads, timber and silviculture programs. Being new to everyone, 2015 was a year of exploration and learning."
So, despite the fact that buckthorn has been a known invasive problem in Minnesota since the late mid-1880s (well over a hundred years ago), the Minnesota legislature, the Department and various governors have seen fit to leave staffing unfunded until recently. That's not setting a very good example for private citizens to follow, is it? But then, both species of buckthorn are only classified as "Restricted Noxious Weeds."
"Restricted noxious weeds are plants that are widely distributed in Minnesota and are detrimental to human or animal health, the environment, public roads, crops, livestock or other property, but whose only feasible means of control is to prevent their spread by prohibiting the importation, sale, and transportation of their propagating parts in the state except as allowed by Minnesota Statutes, Section 18.82. Plants designated as Restricted Noxious Weeds may be reclassified if effective means of control are developed."
 If this is the best Minnesotans can expect for control of "restricted noxious weeds," I'll have the temerity to ask why we are spending our tax dollars on anything other than the identification of "effective means of control." Internal contradictions such as "annual work plan targets" related to invasive species "whose only feasible means of control is to prevent their spread by prohibiting the importation, sale, and transportation of their propagating parts" just doesn't make sense. When was the last time Minnesota's legislative auditor ran a logic check on MNDNR's budget and work plan for invasive species? Perhaps the Department should consider contracting the the 1854 Treaty Authority, which seems to have a pretty effective listing of invasive species by county within their territory. Maybe it would make sense to consider using permaculture approaches to managing invasive species and to place more emphasis on political efforts to prevent the establishment of new invasive species. Maybe those efforts could be pair for through an international tax on global shipping or international investments. A global economy needs to support global services such as invasive species management.

                     Once the World Was Perfect



Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world.
Then we took it for granted.
Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind.
Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head.
And once Doubt ruptured the web,
All manner of demon thoughts
Jumped through—
We destroyed the world we had been given
For inspiration, for life—
Each stone of jealousy, each stone
Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light.
No one was without a stone in his or her hand.
There we were,
Right back where we had started.
We were bumping into each other
In the dark.
And now we had no place to live, since we didn't know
How to live with each other.
Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another
And shared a blanket.
A spark of kindness made a light.
The light made an opening in the darkness.
Everyone worked together to make a ladder.
A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world,
And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children,
And their children, all the way through time—
To now, into this morning light to you.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.