Real and Inevitable AIS


Real and Inevitable: Aquatic Invasive Species Part 2

Fringe response to responses to the Fringe response to the regional AIS issue.


Doesn’t the Fringe Editor care anything about the environment, or our finny and furry and feathery friends?  Does the Fringe care about the children of the future and their right to use our lakes?  How can the Fringe discourage the County from taking part in a regional plan to restore our watershed and prevent invasive species which, if they once take root, could destroy our lakes and creeks forever?


The answer to those rhetorical questions is yes, yes, and not very easily.


Of course I care about the environment, about the various fishes and toads and mammals and other vermin.  But the decision to take part in a regional effort is not an environmental decision, but a political and social one.


I’ve taken a little bit of heat about the Slime Monster opinion piece.  The criticism, what there was of it, came from people who have, in my view, a pretty one sided approach.  I never suggested we do nothing. I suggested it’s time that the burden for these efforts stop falling on rural people and historical users. 


I also have a couple of questions, which so far no one has offered to answer.  They are: What do you believe you’re saving, who do you believe you’re saving it for, and are you certain it’s going to have the same value and meaning when you’re all done.


Those seem to be fair questions to have answered before we 1. Turn local power over to people more numerous and wealthy than we; 2. Negatively impact those in the county who rely on tourism; and 3. Curtail historical and traditional users. 


What do you believe you are saving?  Real ecosystems are dynamic, sometimes swinging one way resulting in breakneck streams and dry banks and others resulting in dozens or hundreds or thousands of acres of swamp and wetlands; lakes form and fill in or drain; streams leave their beds sometimes forever.  That’s the real world.  Can humans with dozers or people with watercraft negatively impact meadows and lakes?  Absolutely, and it’s reasonable to prevent or mitigate that as is indicated.  But before you pass laws that impact someone else’s livelihood or lifestyle, you’d better be certain you’re saving what you think you are.  People with idealized visions for our real environment don’t make clear decisions about our watershed.  They “get on a roll” or maybe “get religion” and want to spread their particular vision of the garden to everyone, like it or not.  The environment, the real environment, not an idealized environment, is unfeeling towards any species; countless species and even whole orders of animals and plants have disappeared.  It will ever be so.  Real, true nature is not constrained to our view of Eden. 


Who are you saving it for?  The children of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow?  The future is long and uncertain, and it is unlikely they’ll share your values.  What about the children of yesterday, who today are tax paying adults who are trying to make a living or enjoy outdoor recreation, and the children of yesterday’s children, the children of today.  The idea that hypothetical fish matter more than real living humans is cruel and uninformed.  


Don Russell, editor of the Mountain Messenger Newspaper and a respected and irritating friend of the Fringe, has said the area needs to be quarantined.  That statement is without thought to consequences or likelihood of success. 

Indeed, even some of the supervisors who supported joining a “regional” effort attempted to deny the costs involved, and the likelihood of Supervisor Schlefstein’s “inflatable raft in the back of the lake” scenario.  But reason, and our familiarity with government, tell us there will be fees, there will be fines.

From the Truckee Regional Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention group we get these focused discussion items:

“Regulatory Authority (Local Ordinance)

Discussions regarding the implementation of local ordinances have focused specifically on the creation of a mandatory inspection program. However, for a mandatory inspection program to be effective there are several other important program elements that need to be included. At a minimum, local ordinances need to include four elements 1) the creation of a mandatory inspection program, 2) requirement for decontamination if a boat fails inspection, 3) establishment of a fee program, and 4) program enforcement and fines for non-compliance. Additionally, ordinance language could provide an immediate mechanism for managing access to water bodies such as prohibiting shoreline launching, requiring gated access points, and imposing hours of operation.”


The lakes are already a source of revenue when the local lake cop goes up and writes tickets and fines for all manner of infractions.  When you write tickets on a big boat in Tahoe, they can probably afford it; when you ding some guy and his kids up at Gold Lake, that’s probably more of a hardship.  Further, the only workable plan continues the trend toward a feature no wise society will endorse: turning local cops and courts into mercenaries by paying them from the receipts.  If the county and the courts make money from writing AIS tickets, or if the position is supported by the revenue it generates, and we make it worse by creating a cop that is answerable to a “regional” agency, and you might as well hire Hell’s Angels to patrol our lakes.  (Big shout to H.A. M.C.)


We wanted to run a Hell’s Angels’ logo here, but it turns out they have a line of clothing out and jealously protect their copyright.  Motorcycle bad boys we might reason with, but not their attorneys.   Instead, we give you Satan’s Slaves, this one from New Zealand. From HERE


Finally, will you be saving what you think you’re saving?  Remembering that evolution marches on without the permission of humans, and social values move on without the permission of doers of good, is what will be saved actually what you wish to preserve?  When we think of vital, sustainable populations of specific species, it sounds like a great idea.  What if what we are saving is now actually an anomaly, a caricature of that vision?  In the real environment, the handful of species we’re trying to protect and encourage were once part of a huge, vital, evolving gene pool.  Is it still a useful trout if you can’t fish for it?  Is the purpose of a species so those who stand on the shore can rest assured the critter is in the lake?  Some advocates of RAIS ordinances believe the fish has a right to exist, it’s something beautiful and appropriate and needs to be preserved at all costs.  This approach is idealized away from the real and inevitable.  Placing the ideal of a pristine environment ahead of the reality of living people is a moral-religious value, something personal, best kept to one’s self.  Forcing others to disrupt their lives on the basis of your philosophical yearnings is unfair.  Is it still a lake if you only look at it through glass?  Not for most of us.


Indeed, the practical truth is that some aquatic invasive species are among our most prized game fish.  There would have been no fish at all in our high, isolated mountain lakes if they weren’t planted.  Is a lake barren of fish, but sporting a handful of obscure frogs practical use of our environment?


This is not to say we should do nothing.

There are several approaches we could take to protect the lakes, but the total burden can’t fall to just the “users” because they don’t reap the total benefit.  Sometimes the burden is placed not because there is strong scientific evidence, but because there is a bias against the users.  Hunters, for example, experience strong social bias compared to other recreational users.   In the world of the urban econaut anyone who exploits the wild lands for food is a barbarian; the pristine world is just for looking at.  There is no reason recreational users and rural people should sign on to that. 


But, we do need to do something.  What we do should be individually tailored to each lake or watershed system.  Not all lakes have an equal likelihood of infection.  Some lakes are privately owned, others are public lakes with private access.  Agreements need to be worked out individually, not “one size fits all”. 


The approaches we could take include in basin boats.  The Prospect was an early supporter of only in-basin boats in Independence Lake.  The caveat was, the burden shouldn’t fall just on one type of user.  The Nature Conservancy continues to attempt to market an ersatz pristine environment for paddle boat users by restraining traditional users.  A fully fair in-basin boat system could benefit our local hospitality vendors.  It might be possible that the lodges could do two things:  Provide reasonably priced in-basin rentals, and 2. provide AIS inspections and mooring space for people who want to bring their boats to the lake, get them inspected, and not remove them until the end of the season.  These measures could and should restrict motors to 4 cycle or electric power to further protect the lakes.


If everybody benefits from clean Sierra County Lakes, then everyone should pony up.  As with all of our county’s beleaguered resources, we need to be paid for preserving these watersheds from AIS.  Ideally, those in Huston, Texas, where the Center for Biological Diversity is headquartered, would also send us money.  These funds would allow us to provide free boat inspections and sanitation, or better yet, free motorboats, sail boats and kayaks.  Do you urban do gooders really want to help?  Take a share of the cost.


So, no, your Fringe Editor isn’t an ignorant anachron, I’m up on the TRAISPP, and I’m as worried as anyone about our watersheds.  I’m just worried about our people, too. 





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