Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Noxious natives #phenology

For August, Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac describes The Green Pasture, painted by the local river on a Summer's sandbar. Our Anoka Sand Plain in August paints instruments of torture along the sides of township gravel roads. Sand burs have fruited and the fruits are hardening and firming their spines. The dogs only notice when they've stepped on one or more. It's time to keep a small pair of needle-nose pliers in my hip pocket when walking the dogs. That saves lots of wear and tear on my fingers and the dogs aren't obliged to hobble home. Recommended control strategies for sand burs are to use pre-emergent herbicides or pull individual plants like weeds.

sand burs pulled from road side
sand burs pulled from road side
Photo by J. Harrington

I've been known to go on an occasional rant about government's phenomenal ability to grow into dysfunctionality. Cenchrus longispinus provides one of the better examples, both literally and figuratively, I've come across in some time. According to the USDA, two states have longspined sand burs listed as "Threatened" while two other states list it as a noxious weed. That makes little, if any, sense to me. Using Maine as an example of a state that supposedly considers sand burs threatened, they're not listed in Maine's Threatened and Endangered Plants [1990] and the State List of Endangered & Threatened Species web page notes "The Maine Endangered Species Act applies only to animals - plants are not included in the legislation. The Maine Natural Areas Program maintains an "official" list of rare and endangered plants in Maine."

Government at all levels and for all functions really needs to get its act together if it wants to reestablish credibility with thinking, aware citizens. Minnesota has similar, but, in my opinion, much worse problems when it tries to get public support for improving water quality. For today, let me just note that, as far as I know, the Governor's 25 X 25 Water Quality Initiative to increase support for water quality has at best an incidental relationship with the state's Water Sustainability Framework recommendations for Citizen Engagement [p 101]. Perhaps even more telling are the limitations inherent in this structure.

Minnesota Water Governance and Recommended Changes

Government agencies can be like sand burs or invasive species. If they proliferate extensively, they become noxious and can threaten effective management strategies. If individual agencies functioned more like organisms in a healthy ecosystem, it might not be such an issue, but most bureaucracies seem to have a strong preference for monocultures, their own. They're like political parties that way, aren't they.


No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still.

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