« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

In the weeds

 

Amy Whitcomb's essay really puts the job of eliminating invasive weeds from federal lands into perspective (HCN, 10/17/11, "Among the processes of place"). I have been doing the same for the National Park Service since 2006, traveling all over the Southwest, mostly trying to eliminate tamarisk (saltcedar) and Russian olive. Currently, I am in the Midwest trying to fight back invasive trees along some of our national rivers and the myriad forbs, grasses and woody species that are invading our prairie parks.

It truly is a thankless job, and often the results are overlooked or misunderstood by the public. It is time-consuming, sometimes mindless, and sometimes frustrating to stand in the same spot for hours upon hours pulling individual plants by the roots -- especially when you consider the larger picture. It becomes cerebral work. I often find myself thinking: "Does this really make sense? Aren't all plants invasive? How did these native plants get here in the first place? Doesn't climate change have something to do with all of this? Who is to say what is bad and good? Are these plants really causing that much harm?" Several scientists are beginning to argue that invasive species should not all be judged as bad or detrimental to ecosystems.

And, finally, there's the question that plagues us all: "Does this really make a difference, and if it doesn't, am I still going to have a job in the future?"

Adam Throckmorton
Springfield, Missouri