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Lay of the Land

Everglades Restoration | Green Campaigns | W Watch | Biological Diversity | Bold Strokes | Contaminated Waterways | Safe SUV Myth | Exxon Valdez | Renewable Energy Mitigation Program | Updates

Fuzzy Biology

By Kim Todd

The man who is now President Bush’s wildfire czar, Allan Fitzsimmons, appeared to have heartening news. "On balance, this part of the world has seen an increase in biological diversity," he declared in the fall 2000 issue of Markets and Morality, a journal of the conservative Acton Institute. What led him to this conclusion? "The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that since 1600, 109 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, invertebrates, and vascular plants have become extinct in what is now the continental United States," he wrote. But "at least 4,500 nonindigenous species have established free-living populations in the United States over the past few hundred years."

Is losing a hundred natives and gaining thousands of alien species really a plus for nature? Far from it. Brown rats, city pigeons, zebra mussels, kudzu, and other nonnative plants and animals are considered by the Department of the Interior to be the biggest threat to endangered species after habitat destruction and cost the U.S. economy $123 billion per year. Some exotics, like buffelgrass, may fuel the very conflagrations that Fitzsimmons (whose official title is "wildland fuels coordinator") is charged with preventing.

The Bush administration claims it wants decisions based on sound science. Then why does it keep hiring people who ignore lessons from Biology 101?

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