Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Monday, May 19, 2008

In Defense of the Powers that Be

About ten years ago in mid July, I was heading out the Fen. Near the parking lot, the trail crosses a small stream. A father and his grade-school aged son were standing on the bridge. Sploosh! They threw something from a cooler into the stream.
"Hi. What are you throwing into the stream?"

"My son took these crayfish home from his classroom at the end of the school year. We're setting them free."
The cooler contained several more rusty crayfish, an invasive species that's been causing lots of environmental problems in waterways around the country. I was concerned. Clearly the father and son felt that they were doing the right thing. They could no longer take care of their pets, and they were releasing them into a sanctuary where they would be, presumably, be happy. Fortunately, the father was readily talked into not releasing any more of the crayfish onto the nature preserve.

I appreciate the supportive comments that I got regarding yesterday's posting about my trip to the woodshed, but I need to make a confession here. My sympathies actually lie with the people who were expressing concern over what I had done. The Chicago area nature preserves exist in a very densely populated part of the world. The large number of folks that live here embrace an enormous range of views about nature and wildlife. Some of them are well thought out. Some have their basis in common misconceptions and are correspondingly flawed. Others have the potential to be downright harmful.

When I scattered seeds of an endangered plant on a nature preserve, I was doing so with a larger knowledge base than many people who might do something of this nature. It was an appropriate species for the habitat where I placed it. The fact that the consequences were mild suggest that this was taken into account. Still, we can't have rampant release of organisms onto these tiny remnants of Illinois' original ecosystems. I have no doubt that the consequences would be much more significant if I were to continue to flout regulations of this sort. That's appropriate.

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At 15:37, Blogger Dr. Know said...

Well, you know the bromide:
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Kudos for intervening in the "crayfish release" project.

Now if you could retroactively stop those folks who brought Kudzu over from China as an erosion control measure. Oy Vey.

At 18:28, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

Interaction with nature is hard. It takes some thought in considering what is the right thing to do in some situations.

As I am now older, I understand what it means when someone says "The flutter of a butterfly's wing in China can cause a great storm in the heartland of the U.S."

Good catch on the crayfish.

Have a good week,

At 18:31, Blogger Lemuel said...

I appreciate your comments. Our area is being overrun by "stink bugs" that someone wittingly or unwittingly introduced into our area, I think, from Asia. There is no local predator so they are multiplying and expanding. There are other varieties of both plant and animal that have been relocated to areas other than their native area with negative impact on their new homes.

At 01:01, Blogger Ur-spo said...

perhaps it is now impossible to avoid non-native species?

At 17:15, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Intersting posts Doug. I read them both. I am so careful now that I am older and wiser, but I have been guilty of the same sort of thing in the past. "Invasive species" became new words in my vocab around the late 80's.

At 20:13, Blogger cedrorum said...

There is something strange looking about that crawdad. I can't quite pin what it is. It looks like steel or something.

At 07:08, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Your points are all valid, but I still applaud your action.

Not to turn this into a legal hotline, but could a person expect the same sort of penalty for removing a threatened species?


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