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for people who care about the West

Resistance is not futile


It was to our dismay that the USGS Director of the Southwest Climate Science Center put forward an argument to abandon large swaths of the Sonoran Desert to invasive species (“A conversation with Stephen Jackson,” HCN, 9/5/16). Climate change is certainly going to reorganize Sonoran Desert ecosystems, but the paleo-environmental record has shown that this desert has been highly resilient to past changes. Unsuccessful attempts to remove invasive species are not an exercise in futility. While land managers, ecologists and volunteers have not yet identified an effective method to eradicate buffelgrass, it doesn’t preclude the possibility that we will succeed. In the early 2000s, ecologists considered tamarisk “naturalized.” However, today we see significant reductions in tamarisk related to the 2007 tamarisk beetle release. Similarly, 30 years of research has identified a seed pathogen that gives us hope for controlling cheatgrass. Conservation successes encourage a redoubling of efforts to look for effective methods to reduce anthropogenic threats to native ecosystems. When leaders of the scientific community give up, it encourages others to the do the same. We need to continue to fight for desert ecosystems, resisting the temptation to succumb to the pessimism that we cannot limit or eradicate invasive taxa. Our energy should be focused on providing an environment that allows native species to adjust to changing climatic conditions naturally through continued efforts to disadvantage invasive species. 

Thomas Minckley
Laramie, Wyoming
Andrea Brunelle

Salt Lake City, Utah