Nativism in the Natural World

Invasion biology is the scientific discipline that spawned the native plant movement.   Charles Elton published a book in 1958 that is considered the origin of the modern version of invasion biology, although there are precursors centuries earlier.  These are the basic tenets of modern invasion biology:

  • Plants and animals that are “native” to a specific location are considered members of an ideal ecosystem that have co-evolved over thousands of years so that members of the community are dependent upon one another.
  • Plants and animals introduced to an ecosystem by humans are assumed to disrupt the equilibrium balance of the community and threaten its existence because introduced plants and animals do not have predators that would control their spread.  All introduced plants and animals are therefore considered potentially invasive.
  • Animals are believed to be dependent upon the plants with which they evolved—and only these plants–and these mutually exclusive relationships are disturbed by the introduction of new plants and animals. 
  • Adaptation and evolution of introduced plants and animals is believed to be too slow for introduced plants and animals to successfully enter the food web.
  • Native members of the ecosystem are presumed to be inherently superior to introduced plants and animals.  Invasion biology does not acknowledge that introduced plants and animals are often functional members of the ecological community.
  • Native ecosystems are said to be in “balance” and introduced species are presumed to cause “imbalance.”  Introduced species must be eradicated to restore balance to the ecosystem, presumed to be the ideal for a particular location.

Hundreds of empirical studies have been conducted since the 1960s to test these assumptions.  Little scientific evidence has been found to support them. Current knowledge of ecology explains why the assumptions of invasion biology are mistaken. 

What is native?

The native plant movement defines native as the plant species that lived in a specific location prior to the arrival of Europeans.    In the San Francisco Bay Area, “native” is defined by native plant advocates as the plants and animals that lived here prior to 1769 when Europeans first laid eyes on San Francisco Bay.  When Europeans arrived, the San Francisco Bay Area was already occupied by indigenous people who had arrived approximately 10,000 years earlier. 

The arbitrary selection of the pre-European settlement period to define the ideal landscape was based on the mistaken assumption that the indigenous human population had not radically altered the land. Anthropological and paleontological research informs us that the landscape was essentially gardened by the indigenous population to provide food and cultural implements. 

Pomo gathering seeds, 1924. Smithsonian photo archive

The landscape found by Europeans at the end of the 18th century was not “natural.”  It was altered by humans to serve humans who lived as hunters and gatherers.  Since modern society no longer hunts and gathers for its food and shelter, the landscape that served that lifestyle cannot be maintained without mimicking the land management practices of native people such as frequent burning of the landscape and grazing by animals.  Indigenous people in California did not have domesticated animals (except dogs), but the grassland was grazed by wild deer, elk, and antelope. 

Plants and animals have migrated around the world without the assistance of humans since life began.  The seeds of plants are carried in the stomachs of migrating birds and on the winds of storms.  Animals, including humans, move to wherever they can find what they need to survive.  Migration is natural and often necessary for survival.  Making a distinction between species moved by humans and those moved by natural forces is pointless and usually impossible to distinguish. 

Climate change renders the concept of “native plants” meaningless because when the climate changes, the vegetation changes.  The plants that live in tropical climates will not survive in arctic cold and vice versa.  Introduced plants are often better adapted to current climate conditions than their native predecessors because the climate has changed and it will continue to change. 

Mistaken assumptions about evolution

Animals rarely depend upon a single plant species for survival.  Such mutually exclusive relationships rarely exist in nature because they are evolutionary dead-ends. Animals can, and often do, adapt quickly to changes in the environment.  Transitions from native to introduced plants are routinely made by animals, including humans.  Indigenous hunter/gatherers quickly incorporated plants introduced by European settlers into their diets.  Plants in the same family and genus are often chemically similar, making the transition more likely. 

Native plant advocates assume that evolution only occurs slowly, over thousands of years, but evolution can be faster than they assume.  Rapid environmental change accelerates the speed of evolution because extreme weather events caused by climate change increase the speed of natural selection, the primary tool of evolution.  When cataclysmic events such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, extreme temperatures kill many members of a species population, these are selection events in which the fittest members survive to breed and the next generation inherits the genetic traits that helped their parents survive.  The classic example of this principle is the finches in the Galapagos Islands who died if they didn’t have big enough beaks to eat the seeds of the only plant that survived extreme drought.  The next generation of finches had bigger beaks. 

Darwin’s finches are an example of rapid evolution

Evolution occurs when genetic changes enable future generations to inherit the genetic change.  Adaptation occurs when animals respond to environmental challenges by changing behaviors that aren’t necessarily inherited by the next generation.  Adaptation to changed environmental conditions is even more rapid than evolution and equally effective to ensure survival. Genetic changes are not required for an insect to make the transition from a native host plant to a chemically similar introduced plant.   Extreme temperatures require that plants and animals move to more temperate climates.  “Native” ranges must change to survive changes in the environment.  A plant or animal that cannot survive extreme heat will migrate (if it can) into regions where temperatures are not as warm.  They should not be prevented from doing so. 

Adaptation to Climate Change. IPCC

Plant and animal species with large populations and short lives, such as insects, evolve more quickly.  This more rapid pace of evolution enables a more rapid transition from native host plants to closely related introduced plants.

soapberry bug made transition from native to non-native balloon vine in 20-50 years. Scott Carroll, UC Davis

Nativism and the native plant movement

The native plant movement is based on the belief that native plants are superior to introduced plants, that native plants are somehow “better” than immigrant plants.  That assumption of superiority is the definition of nativism.  It is as specious an assumption in the natural world as it is in human society and it is equally dangerous. 

There are pros and cons to everything living in the natural world and there is no right answer to the question of which species is “best.” When evaluating introduced plants, nativists consider only the negative aspects. They refuse to acknowledge that there are also advantages and a death verdict should take both into consideration.  For example, native plant advocates want all eucalyptus trees in California cut down because they were planted here after European settlement.  This negative judgment of eucalyptus does not take into consideration that 75% of monarch butterflies who spend the winter in California use eucalyptus trees for their safe haven. Also, eucalyptus blooms in California from November to May, providing nectar to butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees at a time of year when native plants are not blooming.  Eucalyptus trees are also nesting homes of owls and other raptors.  Cutting down eucalyptus trees simply because they are not native in California ignores the many benefits they provide to wildlife. 

Monarch butterflies over-winter in California’s eucalyptus groves

Confusing cause and effect

The native plant movement mistakenly assumes that the mere existence of introduced plants threatens the existence of native plants.  They believe that native plants will magically emerge if introduced plants are eradicated.  They have spent 25 years eradicating non-native plants and do not seem to have noticed that native plants have not returned.  They make this mistake because they do not acknowledge the changes in the environment that make non-native species better adapted to current environmental conditions. 

Many of the changes in the environment that are inhospitable to native species are caused by structural changes made to accommodate human activities, not by introduced species.  For example, all the major rivers in California have been dammed to prevent floods and store water for use during the dry season.  These dams have fundamentally altered the ecology of our rivers.  There are no longer cleansing spring floods that clear rivers of accumulated mud and vegetation.  Channeled rivers are deeper and warmer.  Salmon can no longer get to their spawning grounds past the dams.  The altered structural conditions are more hospitable to bass than to trout.  Aquatic plants from tropical regions become invasive in warmer water.  None of these conditions are reversed by spraying aquatic plants with herbicide or killing introduced bass.

Butterfly bush (buddleia) is now being eradicated by nativists..

Wherever “invasions” are observed, no thought is given to why.  Instead, a convenient plant or animal scapegoat is found and poisoned.  That death sentence doesn’t reverse the underlying reason for the invasion.  Therefore, the invasion persists.  Society is unwilling to make the sacrifices, even inconveniences, needed to address the underlying cause of the “invasion.”  We have done little to address the causes of climate change.  We are unwilling to destroy the dams and the system of supplying water to serve agriculture needs.  Invasions are the symptom, not the cause of the changes in nature.

A Milestone for Million Trees

As the Million Trees blog approaches the anniversary of its eighth year, we are celebrating a milestone. Yesterday, Million Trees reached a total of 250,000 individual views of posts on Million Trees.  We now have over 300 subscribers and we are averaging about 150 views per day.  About 25% of our readers are outside the United States.  Since nativism in the natural world is an international fad, we are gratified that Million Trees is being read by people in other countries.  Million Trees is also proud and grateful for the participation of several academic scientists who have written informative guest posts for Million Trees in the past year.  Thank you, Dr. Matt Chew, Professors Mark Davis and Art Shapiro, and Dr. Jacques Tassin for your help!

Our most popular posts have each been visited by over 10,000 readers.  They are, in the order of their popularity:

  • “Darwin’s Finches: An opportunity to observe evolution in action.”  This article about the speed with which adaptation and evolution occur in a rapidly changing environment is the bedrock of the Million Trees blog.  Nativists mistakenly believe that evolution is much slower than it is.  Therefore, nativists believe plant and animal species are nearly immutable and that they are locked into mutually exclusive relationships, which are, in fact, extremely rare in nature.
  • “Nearly a HALF MILLION trees will be destroyed in the East Bay if these projects are approved.” The Million Trees blog was created to inform the public that nativism is destroying our urban forest in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Our urban forest is composed of predominantly non-native trees.  If they are destroyed, we will not have an urban forest because native trees will not survive in our changed and rapidly changing environment.  Non-native trees were planted here because people wanted trees and native trees existed only in riparian corridors where they were sheltered from the wind and there was sufficient water.
  • “Falling from Grace: The history of eucalyptus in California.”  Because people wanted trees, they planted non-native trees that were capable of surviving in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Non-native trees were valued for nearly one hundred years until nativism got a death grip on our public lands. This article on Million Trees tells the history of why eucalypts were planted and why they “fell from grace.”

In the past year, one of the most popular posts on Million Trees was “Krakatoa:  A case study for species dispersal.”  This post has been viewed by over 7,000 readers.  Understanding how plants and animals were dispersed around the world by natural means–such as by birds, wind, and ocean currents—is another way to realize that the concept of “native vs. non-native” is an artificial construct with little practical meaning.  Plants and animals have always moved and they will continue to move.  In fact, as the climate changes, they MUST move if they are to find the environmental conditions in which they can survive.

Million Trees Commitment

Million Trees will continue to advocate for the preservation of our urban forest in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Our strategy is to inform the public of the many projects that are destroying our forests and to describe the damage that is being done by those projects.  We are particularly concerned about the use of pesticides to eradicate non-native plants and trees.  We are equally committed to providing our readers the latest scientific discoveries that relegate invasion biology to a scientific back-water.  We are hopeful that the gap between public policy and the scientific knowledge discrediting invasion biology will eventually be bridged and bring an end to this destructive fad.

Were the real Nazis “native-plant” Nazis?

We recently published an article about the conference of the California Native Plant Society that featured this concluding photo of Doug Tallamy’s presentation opening the conference on February 1, 2018.

Doug Tallamy’s closing photo, CNPS Conference 2018

This photo generated some discussion among the readers of Million Trees about nativism in the natural world.  Is it related to nativism in the human realm?  This is a timely question because American politics are presently consumed by anti-immigration sentiment, AKA “nativism.”  As members of our communities are unceremoniously rounded up in immigration raids and deported from America, this is an association that is getting more attention.

We are pleased to publish a guest post by Professor Art Shapiro (UC Davis) in answer to this question.  Although Professor Shapiro is a renowned expert on the butterflies of California, he is knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects, including philosophy and history. 

Professor Shapiro offers us a nuanced answer to the question at hand.  This is an example of a general principle about such debates:  the more we know, the more complicated every issue becomes.  I have had the pleasure of a few long conversations with Professor Shapiro that were similar experiences. Professor Shapiro teaches us that we must examine issues from every angle, considering the pros and the cons.  More often than not, we can’t reach a definitive conclusion that does the issue justice.

But I will demur on the issue of nativism.  I will venture my opinion that nativism in the natural world is ultimately as pernicious as nativism in the human realm.  They both do more harm than good.  They are both fundamentally unjust.  However, I do NOT generalize about the motivation of native plant advocates. I doubt that the majority are appropriately called “native-plant Nazis.” 

I remain grateful to Professor Shapiro for sharing his knowledge and wisdom with me and with the readers of Million Trees. 

Million Trees

Various observers have noted similarities in the rhetoric used by native-plant activists and that used by xenophobes. The comparison has generated a derisive term, “native-plant Nazis,” to describe the most strident of those opposed to the use of non-native plants in gardens. But were the real Nazis “native-plant Nazis?” The answers are rather complex and in some ways surprising.

The German Romantic Movement stressed the “organic unity” of the German people and their landscapes. In 1818 the artist Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell in his book Beitraege zur bildenden Gartenkunst (“Contributions to Instructive Garden Art”) prescribed the planting of “patriotic species” to create landscapes of “patriotic character.” The great explorer-naturalist-geographer Alexander von Humboldt referred in 1806 to vaterlaendische Pflanzengestalten (plant character reflecting the Fatherland) and stressed that “the natural character of different regions of the earth is most intimately connected with the history and culture of the human race,” a notion that persists today, as witness the excellent book Landscape and Memory, by the historian Simon Schama, and is not in itself reflective of xenophobia.

During the Romantic period the intense longing for the unification of the fragmented German polity bred not only intense patriotic feeling but a concomitant disdain for the alien. Thus Fichte argued that the Germans’ “natural disposition to freedom dates back to prehistoric times, when they had been a pure and untainted race…before the influence of foreigners and the introduction of class division.” After the establishment of the First Reich in 1871, all things German were ever more aggressively touted as superior to all else, and this included landscapes. The writer Willy Pastor and the art historian Josef Strzygowski enthusiastically promoted these ideas in the early 20th Century. Pastor invoked the Ice Age as the crucible in which the German national character was forged; the glaciers “not only influenced the racial breed of humans, but also selected trees and plants….the European primeval forest, which finally evolved as the strongest out of this severe school, was no less of Germanic, Nordic race than the people…”

Nature garden designed by Willy Lange

The quintessential embodiment of such ideas was the work of the landscape architect Willy Lange. Lange and Pastor were friends and shared their nationalistic vision. Pastor published a collection of essays entitled Lichtungen (clearings) and a book The Earth in the Time of Man, in which he argued that the natural habitat of the true Teuton is a clearing in the forest. Lange translated that view into a prescription for garden design: he utterly repudiated the formalism of most European gardens and argued instead that the ideal form of garden was a well-designed, visually pleasing simulacrum of a natural forest clearing, employing whenever possible (but not exclusively) native plants characteristic of the natural landscape. His ideas were taken up by Alwin Seifert, who rose after the Nazis came to power to be the ultimate arbiter of garden design.  In 1939 Hans Hasler’s book Deutsche Gartenkunst (German Garden Art) spelled out the essential unity of the German national soul and the surrounding environment. Heinrich Friedrich Wiepking, who held the landscape design chair at the College of Agriculture in Berlin during the war, taught this doctrine as the rationale for gardening and invoked ancient Teutonic artifacts, burial mounds, and such as proof of this essential “organic unity.” Wiepking’s student Werner Lendholt “proved” that Germans already had a refined sense of landscape unity in the Bronze Age.

The idea of the “nature garden” arose repeatedly as a byproduct of romanticism, not only in Germany but throughout Europe and even in America; it can be seen as a reaction against formalism, with its rigidity and symmetry. But only in the Reich did it become so tightly fused with nationalism. There is nothing inherently political in Lange’s definition of his philosophy as “the derivation of ideas from nature and their translation in an artistic manner into garden design.”

Lange and his successors drew inspiration from the earlier work of the Irish garden writer William Robinson, who in turn was influenced by Gertrude Jekyll. And they in turn were influenced by William Thompson, who promoted the idea of the semi-natural “English flower garden” as early as 1852. The Austrian Robert Gemboeck, beginning in the 1880s, advocated “the reproduction of nature in the garden,” and was quite influential; he gave detailed prescriptions for how to create a simulacrum of wilderness—what kind of wilderness being dependent on the soil type available.

But none of this meant that the German garden had to be composed exclusively of native plants!

The era of both Robinson and Lange was the era of the “grand tour,” and both men traveled widely and assimilated their observations into their concepts of the natural garden. Lange’s disciple Hasler wrote that the master developed his art “as a result of his experiences and knowledge he gained on a north-south tour of Europe and North Africa.” After 1907 he explicitly advocated the introduction and naturalization of plants he regarded as esthetically in harmony with the true Teutonic landscape. During the 1930s the Nazi regime, primarily under the guidance of Heinrich Himmler, sponsored a series of famous expeditions to the Himalaya. There were several reasons for doing so. Himmler was entranced by the crackpot Welt-Eis Lehre (world ice theory) of Hanns Hoerbiger, which amplified the Romantic notion of the Ice Age as the crucible of German character. Himmler was interested in learning as much as possible about the Ice Age by studying what he viewed as the people living most like the ancient Teutons: the Tibetans, whom he imagined to be a pure and unadulterated race. But a subsidiary objective of the expeditions was to collect living material of Himalayan plants deemed suitable for naturalization in the Fatherland. In a sense, this represented an attempt to restore an imagined Edenic past.

Only those non-native plants judged to be inconsistent with the German landscape-character nexus, as largely defined by Alwin Seifert, were to be excluded. Seifert’s official title was Reichslandschaftsanwalt, or national landscape advocate. When he first received the title he presented two proposals to his superior, Fritz Todt: one embraced the use of non-native plants while the other did not. Seifert is a complex and problematic figure. He was anti-Semitic but never a really enthusiastic Nazi and he had a strong independent streak which often led him into trouble. He was a passionate advocate of organic gardening and sympathetic to anthroposophy, the cultish philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (today best known for the Waldorf School movement). His many contradictions led his biographer Thomas Zeller to call him “The Nazis’ environmental court jester and Cassandra, rolled into one.” His attitude on non-native plants hardened somewhat late in his tenure, when he took to calling Colorado blue spruce “public enemy #1.”

There was much in German garden philosophy and design to be admired, if one strips out the pugnacious racial and nationalistic rhetoric. There is really little difference from the natural-garden traditions developed elsewhere. Nazi Germany, early in its history, enacted what would today be characterized as the most progressive legislation in the world dealing with conservation, esthetics, and environmental health. Hence we have such books as The Green and the Brown and How Green Were the Nazis? that explore the contradiction between those facts and everything else we know about the regime. The contradiction becomes less bizarre when we remember the roots of Nazism in the Romantic movement.

At any rate, the real Nazis were never thoroughgoing “native-plant Nazis!”

Arthur M. Shapiro

Further Reading:

Bruggemeier, F.-J. and M. Cioc. 2005. How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment and Nation in the Third Reich. Ohio University Press.

Uekoetter, F. 2006. The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany. Cambridge University Press.

Wolschke-Bulmahn, J. 1992. The ‘wild garden’ and the ‘nature garden’ – aspects of the garden ideology of William Robinson and Willy Lange. Journal of Garden History 12: 183-206.

Wolschke-Bulmahn, J. 1997. Nature and Ideology: Natural Garden Design in the Twentieth Century. Dumbarton Oaks collection on the history of landscape architecture, vol. 18.

Another attack on our urban forest by a public land manager

East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) is the public utility that supplies our water in the East Bay.  To accomplish that task, EBMUD manages thousands of acres of watershed land.  Like most open space in the Bay Area, the vegetation on EBMUD’s land is a mix of native and non-native species.

Lafayette Reservoir, one of many EBMUD properties in the East Bay
Lafayette Reservoir, one of many EBMUD properties in the East Bay

EBMUD is revising its Master Plan.  The draft Master Plan renews its commitment to destroying all eucalyptus and Monterey pines in favor of native vegetation.  The draft Master Plan is available HEREEBMUD is accepting written public comments on the draft Master Plan until September 2 extended to Friday, September 16, 2106.   Comments should be sent to or by mail to Doug Wallace, EBMUD, 375 11th St, Oakland, CA 94607.

EBMUD held a public meeting about its draft Master Plan on Monday, August 15, 2016.  That meeting was attended by over 200 people.  Most of the crowd seemed to be there to defend their access to EBMUD trails by bicycles. 

There were 10 speakers who defended our trees against pointless destruction and the consequent pesticide use to prevent their resprouting.  As usual, the Sierra Club came to object to increased access for bicycles and to demand the eradication of our trees.  As usual, claims of extreme flammability of non-native trees was their stated reason for demanding the destruction of the trees.  Update:  HERE is a video of speakers at the EBMUD meeting for and against tree destruction and pesticide use. 

If you are watching the news, you know that there are now eight wildfires raging in California.  All of these wildfires are occurring in native vegetation.  The claim that non-native trees are more flammable than native trees and vegetation is nativist propaganda. 

Furthermore, our native trees are dying of drought and disease.  This article in the East Bay Times informs us that 70 million native trees have died in the past four drought years and that the millions of dead trees have substantially increased fire hazards.  In other words, it is profoundly stupid to destroy healthy, living trees at a time when our native trees are dying and pose a greater fire hazard.

We are grateful to Save the East Bay Hills for permitting us to publish their excellent letter to EBMUD about their misguided plans to destroy our urban forest.  We hope that their letter will inspire others to write their own letters to EBMUD by September 2, 2016.  Save the East Bay Hills is a reliable source of information about our issue.  Thank you, Save the East Bay Hills for all you do to defend our urban forest against pointless destruction.

Update:  Save the East Bay Hills has also created a petition to EBMUD that we hope you will sign and share with others.  The petition is available HERE.

Sign the petition!
Sign the petition!


August 15, 2016

Douglas I. Wallace
Environmental Affairs Officer
Master Plan Update Project Manager
East Bay Municipal Utility District
375 11th Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Dear Mr. Wallace,

This letter serves as our response to the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s invitation for the public to review and comment on the draft of the East Bay Watershed Master Plan (“Draft Master Plan”) update. There is much in the plan to recommend itself and much that leaves a lot to be desired.

We are grateful that the Draft Master Plan recognizes the value of trees regardless of their historical antecedents, specifically noting that,

“Eucalyptus trees provide a source of nectar and pollen that attracts insects, which in turn serve as a prey base for birds and other animals. Hummingbirds and many migratory bird species feed extensively on the nectar. In addition, eucalyptus trees produce an abundant seed crop. These tall trees are used as roosting sites for birds. Bald eagles have roosted in eucalyptus groves in the San Pablo Reservoir watershed, and a great blue heron rookery exists in the eucalyptus trees at Watershed
Headquarters in Orinda. A great blue heron and great egret rookery was active near the northern arm of Chabot Reservoir in the recent past.”

The Draft Master Plan recognizes, “the ecological value and likely permanence of certain nonnative species and habitats,” including Eucalyptus and Monterey Pine. It recognizes that these two species of trees, especially Monterey Pine “provide stability to watershed soils” and “provide erosion control with a widespreading root system.”

It recognizes that they provide “protection from solar exposure, wind, and noise.”

It recognizes that they “provide biodiversity value (bald eagle and other raptor species) on District watershed lands.” For example, “Monterey Pine seeds provide food for small rodents, mammals and birds…”

It cites to the EBMUD Fire Management Plan which recognizes the value of trees in mitigating fire: “They do not represent a significant fire hazard when the understory is maintained for low fire intensities… Stands that are well spaced with light understory, proper horticultural practices, and maintenance of trees, e.g. spacing and above-ground clearance, can serve to minimize fire hazard.”

It admits that removing the trees would lead to inevitable grasses and shrubs which increase the risk of fire: “The most susceptible fuels are the light fuels (grasses, small weeds, or shrubs)…”

Finally, it recognizes that these tall trees occupy a very small portion of District lands: 1% for Eucalyptus and 2% for Monterey Pines.

Given their immense beauty, the habitat they provide, their mitigation against fire, the erosion control, all the other recognized benefits, and the fact that they occupy such a small percentage of overall District lands, why does the Draft Master Plan propose that they be eradicated over time?

The answer appears to be nothing more than perceived public will:

“As this species is considered a nonnative pyrophyte, regional pressure is present to reduce the number of Monterey Pine stands.”

“As a nonnative pyrophyte, eucalyptus plantations are a target of regional public pressure for removal.”

This is a misreading of the public will. The Draft Master Plan is elevating the nativist agenda of a loud, vocal minority over good sense, good science, ecological benefit, protection against fire, and the desires of the vast majority of residents and users of District lands. How do we know?

The City of Oakland, the University of California, and the East Bay Regional Park District have also proposed eradicating Monterey Pine and Eucalyptus trees and of the 13,000 comments received by FEMA during the public comment period following its draft plan, roughly 90% were in opposition by FEMA’s own admission. Moreover, over 65,000 people have petitioned the City of Oakland to abandon its effort to remove the trees.

That EBMUD does not hear from people who find beauty, shade, and benefit in the trees is not because they do not care; rather, it is because most members of the public do not understand the extent to which these trees are under siege by nativists, nor the level of cooperation these individuals are receiving from public lands managers to see their vision prevail.

For most members of the public, it simply strains credulity that those tasked with overseeing our public lands would cooperate with efforts to destroy not only large numbers of perfectly healthy trees, but given their height and beauty, trees that are the most responsible for the iconic character of East Bay public lands and the appeal of our most beloved hiking trails. And for what end? To treat our public lands as the personal, native plant gardens of those who subscribe to such narrow views. In short, there is no widespread desire to get rid of these trees and they should not be removed.

Indeed, the Draft Master Plan recognizes several “emerging challenges” as a result of climate change including, but not limited to, “increasing average temperatures, prolonged droughts, erosion, decreased soil moisture, and augmented risk of fires.” Tall trees like Eucalyptus and Monterey Pine help mitigate these challenges. For example, fog drip falling from Monterey Pines in the East Bay has been measured at over 10 inches per year. In San Francisco, fog drip in the Eucalyptus forest was measured at over 16 inches per year.

Moreover, Eucalyptus trees are an important nesting site for hawks, owls and other birds and are one of the few sources of nectar for Northern California bees in the winter. Over 100 species of birds use Eucalyptus trees as habitat, Monarch butterflies depend on Eucalyptus during the winter, and Eucalyptus trees increase biodiversity. A 1990 survey in Tilden Park found 38 different species beneath the main canopy of Eucalyptus forests, compared to only 18 in Oak woodlands. They also prevent soil erosion in the hills, trap particulate pollution all year around, and sequester carbon.

Many of these benefits are especially important in light of Sudden Oak Death which the Draft Master Plan admits is an ongoing challenge and is likely to increase because of climate change. If Sudden Oak Death impacts oak woodlands and EBMUD intentionally cuts down Eucalyptus and Monterey Pine which are proving themselves more suitable for the environment, it risks a treeless landscape, which would not only be a loss of beauty and loss of wildlife habitat, but exacerbate the challenges already faced by EBMUD as a result of climate change.

We also object to the Draft Master Plan accepting the labels “native” and “non-native” and making decisions based on that fact alone. “Non-native” and “invasive species” are terms that have entered the lexicon of popular culture and become pejorative, inspiring unwarranted fear, knee-jerk suspicion, and a lack of thoughtfulness and moral consideration. They are language of intolerance, based on an idea we have thoroughly rejected in our treatment of our fellow human beings — that the value of a living being can be reduced merely to its place of ancestral origin.

Each species on Earth, writes Biology Professor Ken Thompson, “has a characteristic distribution on the Earth’s land surface… But in every case, that distribution is in practice a single frame from a very long movie. Run the clock back only 10,000 years, less than a blink of an eye in geological time, and nearly all of those distributions would be different, in many cases very different. Go back only 10 million years, still a tiny fraction of the history of life on Earth, and any comparison with present-day distributions becomes impossible, since most of the species themselves would no longer be the same.”

This never-ending transformation — of landscape, of climate, of plants and animals — has occurred, and continues to occur, all over the world, resulting from a variety of factors: global weather patterns, plate tectonics, evolution, natural selection, migration, and even the devastating effects of impacting asteroids. The geographic and fossil records tell us that there is but one constant to life on Earth, and that is change.

Even if one were to accept that the terms “native” and “non-native” have value, however, not only do they not make sense as it relates to Monterey Pine and Eucalyptus, but the outcome would not change for three reasons. First, Monterey Pine and Eucalyptus provide numerous tangible benefits as previously discussed, while the claimed “problem” of their foreign antecedents is entirely intangible. That a plant or animal, including the millions of humans now residing in North America, may be “non-native” is a distinction without any practical relevance beyond the consternation such labels may inspire in those most prone to intolerance; individuals, it often seems, who demand that our collectively owned lands be forced to comply to their rigid and exiguous view of the natural world. What does it matter where these trees once originated if they provide such tremendous beauty and benefit here and now?

Second, the fossil record demonstrates that Monterey Pine are, in fact, “native” to the East Bay. (See, e.g., Monterey Pine fossils from the middle Miocene through the Pleistocene have been found in several East Bay locations. Similarly, since Eucalyptus readily hybridizes with other species, many experts now claim that California Eucalyptus hybrids could rightly be considered native, too.

Of more immediate concern, however, is that the five narrowly defined “native” stands of Monterey Pine — the Año Nuevo-Swanton area in San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel in Monterey County, Cambria in San Luis Obispo County, and Guadalupe and Cedros Islands off Baja California in Mexico — are in danger. In light of escalating temperatures due to climate change, to save Monterey Pine requires “a new foundation for conservation strategies of the species and its associated ecosystems. If Monterey pine has long existed in small, disjunct populations and if these have regularly shifted in location and size over the California coast in response to fluctuating climates… then it would be consistent to extend our conservation scope…” “Areas not currently within its [narrowly defined so-called] native range could be considered suitable habitats for Monterey pine conservation.” (Millar, C., Reconsidering the Conservation of Monterey Pine, Fremontia, July 1998.)

As tree lovers and environmentalists in Cambria are banding together to determine how, if at all, they can save their precious remaining Monterey Pines now dying from drought in record numbers, here in the East Bay – less than 224 miles away – land managers at EBMUD are considering plans to willfully destroy them in record numbers. It is ecologically irresponsible and for those of us who dearly love the stunning, even arresting, beauty of these trees, it is also truly heartbreaking.

Third, and perhaps more importantly, removing Eucalyptus and restoring “native” plants and trees is not only predicated on the ongoing use of large amounts of toxic pesticides, it does not work, a fact acknowledged by cities across the country. In the last ten years, the City of
Philadelphia has planted roughly 500,000 trees, many of which are deemed “non-native” precisely because “native” trees do not survive. “[R]ather than trying to restore the parks to 100 years ago,” noted the City’s Parks & Recreation Department, “the city will plant non-native trees suited to warmer climates.”

For all these reasons, we oppose the elimination of Monterey Pine and Eucalyptus, even if phased over time as proposed, and likewise oppose EBMUD’s participation in the destruction of similar Pine and Eucalyptus forests in the Caldecott Tunnel area, in partnership with outside agencies. We ask that these be stricken from the Master Plan.

Finally, we oppose the ongoing and, if the trees are cut down, potentially increasing use of pesticides and ask that a ban on their use be put in effect in the final Master Plan, for the following reasons:

● Extremely low levels of pesticide exposure can cause significant health harms, particularly during pregnancy and early childhood.

● Children are more susceptible to hazardous impacts from pesticides than are adults and compelling evidence links pesticide exposures with harms to the structure and functioning of the brain and nervous system and are clearly implicated as contributors to the rising rates of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, widespread declines in IQ, and other measures of cognitive function.

● Cancer rates among children are increasing at an alarming rate and pesticide exposure contributes to childhood cancer, as well as other increasingly common negative health outcomes such as birth defects and early puberty.

● Approximately 4,800,000 children in the United States under the age of 18 have asthma, the most common chronic illness in children, and the incidence of asthma is on the rise. Emergence science suggests that pesticides may be important contributors to the current epidemic of childhood asthma.

● Animals, including wildlife and pets, are at great risk from exposure to pesticides, including lethargy, excessive salivation, liver damage, blindness, seizures, cancer, and premature death.

● Pesticides contain toxic substances, many of which have a detrimental effect on animal health, including pets, raptors, deer, and other wildlife, which is compounded when the bodies of poisoned animals are ingested by subsequent animals.

● The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recommended non-chemical approaches, such as sanitation and maintenance.

These concerns are compounded by the fact that pesticides are to be administered near reservoirs, threatening the safety and integrity of our water supply and the water supply of the plants and animals who also depend on it. These reasons are why the Marin Municipal Water District removed the use of herbicides from further consideration in its Draft Plan and maintained the pesticide ban it has had in place for several years.

Pesticides are not only dangerous, they are also incredibly cruel. Rodenticides, for example, are opposed by every animal protection group in the nation because not only do they kill animals, but they do so in one of the cruelest and most prolonged ways possible, causing anywhere from four to seven days of suffering before an animal finally comes to the massive internal bleeding these poisons facilitate. This long sickness period often includes abnormal breathing, diarrhea, shivering and trembling, external bleeding and spasms, suffering and death that is perpetuated when their dead bodies are ingested by subsequent animals, such as owls and raptors. Put simply, EBMUD should not be in the business of targeting any healthy animals, trees, and plants for elimination; and doing so by pesticides harms animals well beyond the target species, including humans.

In summary, public agencies overseeing public lands have a responsibility to minimize harm and reject radical transformations of those lands and the ecosystems they contain, especially in absence of any clear public mandate. Not only have these lands been handed down in trust from prior generations for us to enjoy, preserve, and bequeath to future generations, but there is a reasonable expectation on the part of most citizens that those overseeing our collectively owned lands not undertake agendas to destroy large numbers of healthy trees, kill healthy animals, and poison our environment. Regardless of how Eucalyptus and Monterey Pine trees may be maligned by the extreme few, they are beloved by the many, being in large part responsible for the East Bay’s beauty, iconic character and treasured, shady walking trails and picnic areas.

In the case of EBMUD, this orientation is even more alarming and a violation of the public trust because it elevates the ideological driven, nativist agenda of the few above the agency’s primary mandate and interests of the many: ensuring the integrity and safety of our water supply and the plants and animals who reside there. Adopting plans to alter pre-existing landscapes through the use of toxic pesticides in order to placate unreasonable and xenophobic demands on lands that contain the public’s precious reserves of drinking water is a deep inversion of priorities.

We respectfully request that these proposed ends and means be stricken from the Master Plan.

Very truly yours,
Save the East Bay Hills

Sierra Club cannot hide behind its smokescreen

On August 25, 2015, opponents of the projects in the East Bay Hills which will destroy hundreds of thousands of trees staged a protest at the headquarters of the Bay Area chapter of the Sierra Club and delivered a petition.  The petition (available HERE) asks the Sierra Club to quit advocating for deforestation and pesticide use in the San Francisco Bay Area and to drop its lawsuit which demands eradication of 100% of all non-native trees on 2,059 acres of public land in the East Bay.  The protest was successful as measured by the size of the crowd and the even-handed media coverage of the protest.

Sierra Club protest, August 25, 2015. About 80 people attended the peaceful protest.
Sierra Club protest, August 25, 2015. About 80 people attended the peaceful protest.

Update:  HERE is a 14 minute video of the demonstration at Sierra Club headquarters on August 25, 2015.  The video includes an attempt to discuss the issue with a Sierra Club staff member.  Note the factual rebuttals to some of the claims the staff member makes in that conversation.  Also, note the final rallying cry, “Poll your membership on this issue.”  We will report soon on the follow up to that request.  Please stay tuned.  

However, although the protest has produced a flurry of defensive propaganda from the Sierra Club, it has not created new opportunities for dialogue with them.  We tried to get the issue on the agenda of the Conservation Committee following the protest and once again our request was denied. We were also denied the opportunity to publish a rebuttal to articles in their newsletter about the projects. It is still not possible to post comments on the on-line version of the Yodeler, although each article dishonestly invites readers to “leave a comment.”

And so, open letters to the Sierra Club are the only means of communication available to us.  Here are our replies to the latest round of propaganda published in the Yodeler on September 16, 2015 (available HERE).  Excerpts from the Sierra Club article are in italics and our replies follow.


“The preferred strategy for vegetation management in the East Bay hills entails removing the most  highly flammable, ember-generating trees like eucalyptus in phases — only in select areas considered most at risk for fire along the urban-wild interface.”

Preferred by whom?  Neither fire experts nor the public think this project is a good idea, let alone the Sierra Club’s more extreme version of the project demanded by its suit.  Over 13,000 public comments on the Environmental Impact Statement were sent to FEMA, of which 90% were opposed to this project according to FEMA.  More recently, a petition in opposition to this project has over 64,000 signatures on it.  This project is NOT the “preferred strategy for vegetation management in the East Bay hills.”

Eucalyptus is not more flammable than many other trees, including native trees: 

  • A study by scientists in Tasmania found that the leaves of blue gum eucalypts were more resistant to ignition than other species of Tasmanian vegetation tested. The study credits the “hard cuticle” of the leaf for its ability to resist ignition. (1)
  • The National Park Service, which has destroyed tens of thousands of eucalypts and other non-native trees, states that eucalyptus leaves did not ignite during a major fire on Mount Tam.  (2)
  • The leaves of native bay laurel trees contain twice as much oil as eucalyptus leaves (3)  and the fuel ladder to their crowns is much lower than eucalyptus, increasing the risk of crown fires. The “Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan” of the East Bay Regional Park District states explicitly that bay laurel is very flammable and recommends selective removal.
  • Eucalyptus contributed more fuel to the 1991 fire in Oakland because a deep and prolonged freeze the winter before the fire caused eucalyptus and other exotic vegetation to die back. The dead leaf litter was not cleaned up, which contributed to the fire hazard.  Such deep freezes are rare in the Bay Area.  There has not been such a freeze for 25 years and another is unlikely in the warming climate.

    Eucalyptus logs line the roads where UC Berkeley has destroyed trees. Do they look less flammable than living trees?
    Eucalyptus logs line the roads where UC Berkeley has destroyed trees. Do they look less flammable than living trees?
  • Ordinarily, eucalyptus does not contribute more fuel to the forest floor than native oak-bay woodland. This is confirmed by the National Park Service, which includes logs in the calculation of fuel loads. (2) Logs are extremely difficult to ignite.  The so-called “fire hazard mitigation projects” are leaving all the eucalyptus logs on the ground when the trees are destroyed, suggesting that they aren’t considered a fire hazard.  The National Park Service also separates the fuel loads of oaks and bays, which when combined are equal to the fuel load of eucalyptus.  Since our native woodland in the East Bay is a mixture of oaks and bays, it is appropriate to combine them when comparing their fuel loads to eucalyptus.
  • Eucalypts are sometimes blamed for casting more embers than native trees because they are taller than the oak-bay woodland. However, redwoods are as tall, if not taller, and they were also observed burning in the 1991 fire:  On Vicente Road, “Two redwoods up the street caught fire like matchsticks.” (4)  Yet, the Sierra Club is not suggesting that redwoods be destroyed to eliminate the risk of casting embers.

The Sierra Club now says the trees will be removed “in phases,” yet in its suit against the FEMA grants it objects to the phasing of tree removals.  The main focus of their suit is opposition to the “unified methodology” which proposes to remove trees over the 10 year period of the grant on only 29 acres of the total project acreage of 2,059.  To those who objected to this project, that small concession is little consolation, but for the Sierra Club it was a deal-breaker.  Their suit demands that all non-native trees be removed immediately on all project acres. 

If the Sierra Club withdraws its suit against the FEMA projects, it is free to tell another story, as it attempts to do in its Yodeler article.  As long as that suit remains in play, the Sierra Club is stuck with that version of reality.

“Once the flammable non-native trees are removed, less flammable native species can reclaim those areas and provide for a rebound of biodiversity. This model of fire prevention can summarized as the the [sic] “Three R’s”:

REMOVE the most flammable non-native trees in select areas most at risk for fire;

RESTORE those areas with more naturally fire-resistant native trees and plants; and

RE-ESTABLISH greater biodiversity of flora and fauna, including endangered species like the Alameda whipsnake.”

This is a stunning display of ignorance of the project as well as the natural history of the San Francisco Bay Area:

  • The FEMA projects do not provide for any planting or funding for planting after the trees are removed. FEMA’s mission is fire hazard mitigation, not landscape transformation.  The scientists who evaluated the FEMA projects said that a native landscape is not the likely result of the project:  “However, we question the assumption that the types of vegetation recolonizing the area would be native.  Based on conditions observed during site visits in April 2009, current understory species such as English ivy, acacia, vinca sp., French broom, and Himalayan blackberry would likely be the first to recover and recolonize newly disturbed areas once the eucalyptus removal is complete.  These understory species are aggressive exotics, and in the absence of proactive removal there is no evidence to suggest that they would cease to thrive in the area, especially the French broom which would be the only understory plant capable of surviving inundation by a 2-foot-deep layer of eucalyptus chips.” (5)
  • The US Forest Service evaluation of the FEMA projects stated that the resulting landscape would be more flammable than the existing landscape: “Removal of the eucalyptus overstory would reduce the amount of shading on surface fuels, increase the wind speeds to the forest floor, reduce the relative humidity at the forest floor, increase the fuel temperature, and reduce fuel moisture.  These factors may increase the probability of ignition over current conditions.” (6)
  • The US Forest Service evaluation predicts that the resulting landscape will be “a combination of native and non-native herbaceous and chaparral communities.” Despite the overwhelming evidence that wildfires in California start and spread rapidly in herbaceous vegetation such as dry grass, the myth persists that all non-native trees must be destroyed to reduce fire hazards.  An analyst at CAL FIRE has explained to the Center for Investigative Reporting that the reason why wildfires were so extreme this summer is because of the heavy rains in December 2014, which grew a huge crop of grass:  “The moisture did little to hydrate trees and shrubs. But it did prompt widespread growth of wild grasses, which quickly dry out without rain.  ‘They set seed, they turn yellow and they are done,’ said Tim Chavez, a battalion chief and fire behavior analyst with CAL FIRE. ‘All that does is provide kindling for the bigger fuels.’” (7) We know that more dry grass starts more wildfires, yet the Sierra Club demands that we destroy the tree canopy that shades the forest floor and produces leaf litter, which together suppress the growth of the grasses in which fires ignite. 
  • The claim that native plants are “naturally fire resistant” is ridiculous. Native vegetation in California—like all Mediterranean climates—is fire adapted and fire dependent. The wildfires all over the west this summer occurred in native vegetation.  There are over 200 species of native plants in California that will not germinate in the absence of fire and persist for only 3-5 years after a fire. (8) Although all native vegetation is not equally flammable, many species are considered very flammable, such as coyote brush, bay laurel, and chamise.  To say otherwise is to display an appalling ignorance of our natural history.

    When did "environmentalism" devolve into demonizing trees?
    When did “environmentalism” devolve into demonizing trees?
  • There is no evidence that the destruction of our urban forest will result in greater “biodiversity.” There are many empirical, scientific studies that find equal biodiversity in eucalyptus forest compared to native forests.  There are no studies that say otherwise, yet the Sierra Club and their nativist friends continue to make this claim without citing any authority other than their own opinions.  (9, 10, 11)  Bees, hummingbirds, and monarch butterflies require eucalyptus trees during the winter months when there are few other sources of nectar. Raptors nest in our tall “non-native” trees and an empirical study finds that their nesting success is greater in those trees than in native trees.

The Sierra Club’s 3Rs can best be summarized as “repeat, repeat, repeat.”  Their 3Rs are based on 3 Myths:  (1) eucalyptus trees are the most serious fire hazard; (2) “native” vegetation is categorically less flammable than “non-native” vegetation, and (3) native vegetation will magically return to the hills when trees are clearcut and the hills are poisoned with herbicide.  All available evidence informs us that these are fictions that exist only in the minds of the Sierra Club leadership and their nativist friends.

 “The Sierra Club’s approach does NOT call for clearcutting. Under “Remove, Restore, Re-establish” thousands of acres of eucalyptus and other non-natives will remain in the East Bay hills. Our proposal only covers areas near homes and businesses where a fire would be most costly to lives and property. In fact, removing monoculture eucalyptus groves and providing for the return of native ecosystems will create a much richer landscape than the alternative — thinning — which requires regularly scraping away the forest floor to remove flammable debris.”

The Sierra Club’s suit against FEMA demands that all eucalyptus and Monterey pine be removed from 2,059 acres of public property.  While it is true that the project acres are not 100% of all land in the East Bay, with respect to the project acres, it is accurate to describe the Sierra Club’s suit as a demand for an immediate clearcut of all non-native trees.

FEMA Project Areas
FEMA Project Areas

Most of the project acres are nowhere near homes and buildings.  They are in parks and open spaces with few structures of any kind.  CAL FIRE defines “defensible space” required around buildings to reduce property loss in wildfires.  CAL FIRE requires property owners to clear flammable vegetation and fuel within 100 feet of structures.  Using that legal standard, the FEMA project should not require the removal of all trees from project acres.

As we said earlier, Sierra Club’s description of the landscape that will result from the removal of the tree canopy is contradicted by scientists who evaluated the FEMA project.  And their prediction that “thinning” would “require regularly scraping away the forest floor to remove flammable debris” is not consistent with the predictions of those scientists who have advised that the loss of shade and moisture resulting from the complete loss of the tree canopy will encourage the growth of flammable vegetation and require more maintenance than the existing landscape.

“Our preferred approach does NOT focus on eucalyptus merely because they are non-natives. Rather, it is because they pose a far higher fire risk than native landscapes. Eucalyptus shed ten to fifty times more debris per acre than grasslands, native live oak groves, or bay forests — and that debris, in the form of branches, leaves, and long strips of bark, ends up draped in piles that are a near-optimal mixture of oxygen and fuel for fire. Eucalyptus trees ignite easily and have a tendency to dramatically explode when on fire. Also, eucalyptus embers stay lit longer than embers from other vegetation; coming off trees that can grow above 120 feet tall, those embers can stay lit as the wind carries them for miles.”

The Sierra Club’s suit demands the eradication of Monterey pine as well as eucalyptus.  The scientists who evaluated the FEMA projects stated that there is no evidence that Monterey pine is particularly flammable and they questioned why they were targeted for eradication:  “The UC inaccurately characterizes the fire hazard risk posed by the two species however…Monterey pine and acacia trees in the treatment area only pose a substantial fire danger when growing within an eucalyptus forest [where they provide fire ladders to the eucalyptus canopy].  In the absence of the eucalyptus overstory, they do not pose a substantial fire hazard.”  (5)  It is not credible that the Sierra Club’s demand that these tree species be entirely eradicated has nothing to do with the fact that they are not native to the Bay Area.  If flammability were truly their only criterion, they would demand the eradication of native bay laurel trees.  If fear of lofting embers from tall trees were their only concern, they would demand the eradication of redwoods.

As we said earlier, redwoods looked as though they were exploding when they ignited in the 1991 fire.  And we are seeing wildfires all over the west this fire season in which native trees look as though they are exploding when they ignite.  That’s what a crown fire looks like, regardless of the species.

It defies reason to think that an ember is capable of traveling miles and still be in flames on arrival.  In fact, Sierra Club’s suit says “non-native trees can cast off burning embers capable of being carried up to 2,000 feet in distance.”  That’s a fraction of the distance the Sierra Club now claims in its hyperbolic description of the issues in the Yodeler.  Surely we can all use a little common sense to consider how unlikely it is that a fragment of a tree small enough to be carried in the wind could travel miles while remaining on fire.  Likewise, we must ask why fragments of eucalyptus trees are likely to burn longer than any other ember of equal size.  We are not provided with any reference in support of these fanciful claims other than the opinions of the authors.

“Any herbicide use to prevent the regrowth of eucalyptus once they’ve been cut down (they quickly sprout suckers otherwise) would be hand applied in minimal amounts under strict controls. Any herbicide application must undergo a full environmental review to prevent impacts on humans, wildlife, and habitat. There are also methods other than herbicide that can be used to prevent regrowth, and the Sierra Club encourages the agencies that manage the land where fire mitigation occurs to explore these alternatives to find the most sustainable, responsible option.”

Once again, the Sierra Club is stuck with the public record which describes the FEMA projects:

  • East Bay Regional Park District has stated in the Environmental Impact Statement for the FEMA project that it intends to use 2,250 gallons of herbicide to prevent the regrowth of eucalyptus.  (12)  This estimate does not include the herbicides that will be used by UC Berkeley or the City of Oakland.  Nor does it include the herbicides that will be needed to kill flammable non-native vegetation such as fennel, hemlock, broom, radish, mustard, etc.  Surely, we can all agree that thousands of gallons of herbicide cannot be accurately described as “minimal.”
  • The Sierra Club now seems to be suggesting that further environmental review will be required for herbicide use by this project. They are mistaken in that belief.  The Environmental Impact Statement for this project is completed and it admits that the project will have “unavoidable adverse impacts” on “human health and safety” and that there will be “potential adverse health effects of herbicides on vegetation management workers, nearby residents, and users of parks and open space.”  The Sierra Club’s smoke screen cannot hide that conclusion.
  • The FEMA grants have been awarded to the three public land owners and they explicitly provide for the use of herbicides to prevent eucalyptus and acacia from re-sprouting. There is nothing in the Environmental Impact Statement that indicates that “methods other than herbicide can be used to prevent regrowth,” as the Sierra Club now belatedly opines in its latest propaganda.  If the Sierra Club wants other methods to be considered, we could reasonably expect they would make such a demand in their suit against FEMA, along with all their other demands.  They do not make such a demand in their suit.  Therefore, claims that other methods are being explored are not credible.
  • Sierra Club’s claim that herbicides will be applied “with strict controls” is not credible because there is no oversight of pesticide application or enforcement of the minimal regulations that exist in the United States. After 25 years of working for the EPA, E.G. Vallianatos wrote in 2014 of his experience with pesticide regulation in Poison Spring:  “…the EPA offered me the documentary evidence to show the dangerous disregard for human health and the environment in the United States’ government and in the industries it is sworn to oversee…powerful economic interests have worked tirelessly to handcuff government oversight.”

The Sierra Club has also explicitly endorsed the use of herbicides in the public comments they have submitted on these projects and in other articles in the Yodeler:

  • Sierra Club’s written public comment on Scoping for the FEMA EIS: “We are not currently opposed to the careful use of Garlon as a stump treatment on eucalyptus or even broom when applied by a licensed applicator that will prevent spread into adjacent soils or waters.”  Norman La Force (on Sierra Club letterhead), September 12, 2010
  • “There is no practical way to eliminate eucalyptus re-sprouting without careful use of herbicides.” Yodeler, May 25, 2013

Obfuscation and insincere backpedaling

The latest Yodeler article about the FEMA projects is a lot of hot air.  It makes claims about the issues for which it provides no evidence and for which considerable contradictory evidence exists.  It contradicts previous statements the Sierra Club has made.  Most importantly, as long as Sierra Club’s suit remains in play, the demands the Sierra Club makes in that public document cannot be denied.  If the Sierra Club wishes to back away from its previous positions, it must start by withdrawing its suit, which demands that 100% of all non-native trees in the FEMA project areas be destroyed immediately.  Withdrawal of the suit would be a most welcome start on the long healing process that is required to mend the damage the Sierra Club has done to its reputation as an environmental organization in the San Francisco Bay Area.  However, the Sierra Club will not be able to reclaim its status as an environmental organization without renouncing all pesticide use on our public lands. 

The Sierra Club has isolated itself from reality.  Its leadership refuses to speak with anyone with whom they disagree.  They have become the victims of incestuous amplification.  They apparently do not read the documents they use to support their opinions.  For example, the Sierra Club suit claims the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) has classified blue gum eucalyptus as “moderately” invasive.  In fact, Cal-IPC’s rating of blue gum eucalyptus is “limited.”  This reflects the fact that a study of aerial photographs of Bay Area parks and open spaces, taken over a 60 year period find that eucalyptus and Monterey Pine forests were smaller in the 1990s than they were in the 1930s.  (13)

We will send our petition soon to the national leadership of the Sierra Club.  If you have not yet signed our petition, we hope you will consider doing so now. 


  1. Dickinson, K.J.M. and Kirkpatrick, J.B., “The flammability and energy content of some important plant species and fuel components in the forests of southeastern Tasmania,” Journal of Biogeography, 1985, 12: 121-134.
  2. “The live foliage proved fire resistant, so a potentially catastrophic crown fire was avoided.”
  3. Ron Buttery et. al., “California Bay Oil. I. Constituents, Odor Properties,” Journal Agriculture Food Chemistry, Vol. 22, No 5, 1974.
  4. Margaret Sullivan, Firestorm: the study of the 1991 East Bay fire in Berkeley, 1993
  5. URS evaluation of UCB and Oakland FEMA projects
  6. FEMA DEIS – evaluation of US Forest Service
  8. Jon Keeley, Fire in Mediterranean Ecosystems, Cambridge University Press, 2012
  12. See Table 2.1 in Appendix F:
  13. William Russell and Joe McBride, “Vegetation Change and Fire Hazard in the San Francisco Bay Area Open Spaces,” Landscape and Urban Planning, 2003

Xenophobia is Killing Our Planet

We are publishing a guest post from South Africa with mixed feelings.  We are glad to welcome another like-minded person into our effort to prevent the pointless destruction of the plants that have been members of our communities for generations, solely because they are not considered “native.”  On the other hand, we are saddened to learn that other communities are experiencing the same destruction that we are witnessing here in the San Francisco Bay Area. This guest post is an article that was published by The Witness, which the author describes as “South Africa’s oldest daily newspaper.”

Xenophobia is Killing Our Planet

Xenophobia (both human and ecological) is raging worldwide. Yet we are all Earthlings and life on Earth has always migrated. The Khoisan are the first known inhabitants of Africa, and African elephants and lions once roamed North America; America’s bison, bear and deer immigrated from Eurasia, while horses, which evolved in the States, radiated outwards, returning home to be shot as aliens.

Historically, the mass hysteria of rhetoric-spurred xenophobia has sucked reason and compassion from sections of whole countries. Propaganda supporting Hitler’s racial-purity infected Germans to hate Jews who were vilified as pigs. In Rwanda, the genocide of the Tutsi tribe began with the Hutus defaming them as cockroaches. In South Africa, foreign nationals have been slandered as lice and ticks. While in ecological warfare, exotic plants are demonized as cancers and monsters. Those brainwashed by this illogical prejudice, tend to overlook their own ancestral origins and their personal culpability about the very things they fear and denounce in more recent arrivals in our war-torn world now over-flowing with desperate refugees.

Essentially we are all settlers at any given time. Definitions of nativeness are changed at whim by invasion biologists who measure other creatures via a creed they themselves do not exemplify. ‘Alien’ plant species are destroyed country-wide, drastically disrupting ecosystems for the slightest inconvenience to native species or commercial interests. South Africa’s multi-billion rand [1 US $ = 12.64 S. African rand] Working for Water, the world’s largest ever tree-cutting campaign, is a terrifying example. Levelling countless rain-drawing trees on a planet already suffering from tree-loss-induced global warming, is tantamount to blood-letting an already haemorrhaging patient. Far from saving water, the dire rainfall deficit has devastated South Africa with widespread drought causing a conservatively-estimated R400 million  loss to livestock and crops in KwaZulu-Natal alone.

Unprecedented ferocious winds, fires, floods, heat waves, violent storms and catastrophic disasters are battering our over-populated planet, our ice caps melting faster, its creatures dying. And it is no wonder: armed with poisons, the world’s chemical corporations have dressed themselves in Xenophobia, using it as a front to motivate and mask their hugely-profitable, unceasing nature destruction. In a study published in the journal Science this year, 18 international researchers found that human abuse has so disrupted complex interactions between oceans, land and atmosphere that the earth is becoming inhospitable to life. Johan Rockstrom, professor of environmental science at Stockholm University, gravely concluded that, for the first time in human history, we risk destabilizing the entire planet.

Only enough ecosystems, essential for regulating Earth’s climate, keep our civilization from extinction, and scientists estimate we’d have to return as much as 40% of all land to nature to regain long-term stability. Britain’s James Lovelock says we can all help by letting portions of our gardens go wild. Forest ecologist at Stellenbosch University, Dr Coert Geldenhuys, explained in an article how alien infestations repair forests when indigenous trees can’t fill the pioneering role, rehabilitating the soil before dying out, allowing natives to return. This Earth-healing is harmless, sustainable and free, yet fanatics continue mutilating and polluting, with depraved indifference leaving countless creatures, (both native and alien, seen and unseen) homeless, poisoned and dying – as recently verified by scores of dead baby weaver birds strewn amid an axed casaurina forest. Yet ever more prominent ecologists the likes of David Theodoropoulos, Mark Davis, Matthew Chew, Ken Thompson and Dov Sax, see a bigger picture with the role of invasive aliens far more complex and beneficial than generally believed. Fred Pearce (author of THE NEW WILD) puts it all in a nutshell: invasives re-boot Earth’s man-damaged ecosystems to help nature withstand global warming.

AT WAR WITH NATURE, a powerful exposé by New Zealand conservationist W F Benfield (available on AMAZON) reveals that the chemical industry in league with blindly-believing invasion followers who manufacture the crises needed to justify saturating our planet with poisons, are now offering their lethal services to the uninhabited islands of other lands. They were recently enlisted to rid our own Marion Island of mice. But this ‘extinction industry’ as Benfield succinctly describes it, uses deceit, staged photographs and chemicals to do far more harm to resident wildlife than any pest explosion ever could. (Watch POISONING PARADISE on YouTube.) The shockingly inhumane poison 1080 (banned in most countries) is regularly released over New Zealand where corporate conservation plans to render the entire country predator-free. Naturally, once predators are eradicated, their prey will multiply to plague proportions – creating unending opportunities for ever-hungry chemical corporations.

Man’s agriculture is presently eating away so much of the planet’s diminishing wilderness that the European Union and United Nations called for a global shift to a vegan diet to alleviate global warming caused by livestock farming and chemical poisoning. Recently the World Health Organization finally verified a study linking Roundup to cancer after hundreds of studies with similar findings were skewed or suppressed for 30 years. This tumour-causing herbicide was also connected to a mystery kidney disease which killed up to 20,000 farmworkers labouring in extreme heat in Central America, India and Sri Lanka. Scores of Argentinean farmers are suing Monsanto over their infant children’s birth defects, including cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, psychomotor retardation, missing fingers and blindness.

Roundup leaches nutrients from the soil, damages micro-organisms, kills earth worms and stimulates unstoppable super weeds. In Australasia it has killed 3 frog species, and, according to World Health statistics, the mere careless use of glyphosate-containing herbicides sickens and kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide annually. Besides damaging the digestive tracts of animals and humans, incidences of once-rare diseases have soared since its use, linking it to Alzheimer’s, attention deficit disorder, autism, asthma and infertility. Workers spraying from backpacks are at risk simply by breathing in spray drift. Destroying harmless naturalized vegetation with chainsaws and deadly carcinogens, xenophobia, in bed with the chemical industry, is a danger to all life.

Jacaranda street trees in bloom in Pakistan.  Creative Commons - Share Alike
Jacaranda street trees in bloom in Pakistan. Creative Commons – Share Alike

Pietermaritzburg’s beloved Art in the Park has to move next year because the original river-side site has been so degraded by felled trees, and everywhere gracious Jacaranda trees lining our streets stand tragically ring-barked and dying. In the decades since this merciless ethnic cleansing started, our bees have been poisoned to the edge of extinction, our butterflies, birds, rare frogs and chameleons as well as common-place insects and microscopic organisms essential to planet life, vanishing from our shrinking vegetation, while our polluted waterways and seas have vast chemical dead-zones, and scores of fish suffocate when poison-sprayed water-plants suck oxygen from the water whilst dying en masse.

Ring-barked (AKA girdled) jacaranda tree in South Africa.
Ring-barked (AKA girdled) jacaranda tree in South Africa.

Bamboo before it was killed with herbicide.
Bamboo before it was killed with herbicide.

In Pietermaritzburg, magnificent five-storey tall bamboo in the once-beautiful stream-side park behind the Beacon Hill apartment block, were recently hacked and poisoned, risking the stream and its life-forms and resident geese and ducks, as well as the city’s ground water. Helicopters dropped clouds of poisonous herbicide on dagga growing amid hill-side food crops belonging to impoverished KwaZulu-Natal villagers. In the US, tons of chemicals dumped into Lake Michigan to kill one ‘alien’ fish, killed hundreds of thousands while brain-washed con-servationists and scientists cheered. American animal advocate, Nathan Winograd, reflected that in the hopeless battle to return America to a mythical ecological state, slaughter without end has been proposed. 

Bamboo after being killed with herbicide.
Bamboo after being killed with herbicide.

The effects of removing everything arbitrarily judged to be foreign are incalculable. Migrating thousands of miles, the incredible monarch butterfly – a precious natural wonder – has dropped an astounding 90% in numbers since milk weed was killed by herbicides. The worldwide massacre of plants and creatures sometimes just miles ‘out of place’ have evoked unlikely alliances between hunters and vegans who fear Earth’s animals are being wiped out. Andrew Tyler, Britain’s Animal Aid director, believes that the growing appetite for ‘alien’ blood is driving the slaughter of animals scapegoated for human-committed environmental abuses.

America’s Agricultural Department recently revealed that since 1997 it has destroyed a staggering 27 million animals by aerial snipers, poisons and traps, to help dessert bighorn sheep, deer and pronghorn. This alien killing mania spread quickly to unwanted natives. Elk, cougar, fox, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, prairie dogs, bears, wolves, wild longhorn, burros and horses – creatures which once filled us with wonder – among those left to rot that.  Alien disdain is worldwide: mustangs are killed lest they damage native plants, Britain’s grey squirrels destroyed to bring back the red, its deer culled to protect wildflowers, Canada Geese shot for dropping scat on pathways, while South Africa’s own shameful hit list includes the endangered black Kenya rhinoceros. Are purist’s any better than rhino poachers?

This madness, instigated and exonerated by invasion biology, is done at the unknowing tax-payer’s expense. With our living green world turning into a dead planet there have been increasing calls from the public, social sciences and ecology itself, for invasion biology to end. It is the only ‘scientific’ field ever doubted, and this, as they themselves admit, via a virtual ‘cottage industry’ of critical scientific articles, and even death-wishing obituaries in well-respected publications. Many regard this unproved discipline as money-making deceptive hype, xenophobic, immoral, cruel, nonsensical, climate changing and earth endangering. An English review of the book LA GRANDE INVASION explains the inspiring perspective of French ecologist, Jacques Tassin, who adjures conservationists to reconcile man to a new alliance with the living world, including invasives, which he believes are symptoms of pollution testifying to ‘ a richness for tomorrow’.

Invasion Biology has given chemical corporations an excuse to devastate our beautiful planet on a scale never seen before. We’ve become a world at war with itself. If this anti-life pseudo-science is not abolished, Earth’s millions of life-forms are doomed. Humanity has forgotten the spirit and intelligence innate in the wild: before it is too late we should unshackle nature to help heal itself. It’s time we all denounced what we’ve unknowingly allowed to happen. Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ We should empathize with terrified foreign nationals and innocent creatures persecuted and killed through xenophobia’s ugly ethos, and remember that Christ himself identified with the alien Samaritans of this world, declaring: ‘What ye do unto the least of these my brethren, ye do also unto me.’

Gloria Keverne is a South African environmental activist and the international bestselling author of A MAN CANNOT CRY and BROKEN WINGS. In xenophobic riots in South Africa this year seven foreign-national human beings tragically lost their lives, while for decades countless trees, animals and insects have perished, poisoned and deprived of habitat by this prejudiced mind-set.  She can be emailed at  If you agree with her viewpoint, please take a minute to thank her for defending her local landscape and wish her good luck in preventing its needless destruction.

The Sparrow Wars: America’s first “invasive species”

The public’s mania about “invasive species” often seems new to us.  It’s not.  In Peter Coates’ provocative book, American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species, we learn about one of the first episodes of public concern about an introduced species in American history, known as the “sparrow wars.”

English sparrow. US Fish & Wildlife photo

Like many introductions of non-native species of plants and animals, the English sparrow (AKA house sparrow) was introduced to perform a practical function.  Elm trees on the East Coast were being defoliated by a voracious native caterpillar.  In 1852, The English sparrow was brought to America to rescue the trees from the caterpillars.  The sparrows thrived and were soon reviled by ornithologists who considered them alien invaders.

The debate between ornithologists and those with a more cosmopolitan view of nature is reported at length by Coates.  Long story short, the debate is reminiscent of what we hear today from nativists:

  • They feared that the English sparrow would compete with native species for food and habitat and that native species would lose this competition.
  • They considered native birds superior to the English sparrow which was considered dirty and a promiscuous breeder.
  • The English sparrows were city dwellers and were considered the bird equivalent of ghettoized immigrants.
  • The English sparrows were criticized for not eating enough of the caterpillars they were imported to eat.  They weren’t doing the job they were hired to do!

This debate raged on amongst birders for decades according to the historical record reported by Coates.  However, we no longer hear birders complain about the English sparrow, although we hear them complain about many other birds.

Update:  This post requires an update.  The New York Times published an op-ed in which a woman describes in horrific detail the monomaniacal attempts of her mother to exterminate all house sparrows in their neighborhood based on her belief that their eradication would benefit blue birds.  It is a blood-curdling story that contradicts my naïve belief that after nearly 200 years, the house sparrow has been accepted in America. 

Modern equivalents of the “sparrow wars”

Cherry-headed conure. Attribution: Share Alike

Birders in San Francisco are currently complaining about the cherry-headed conures, more commonly known as the parrots of Telegraph Hill.  They believe the parrots are depriving native birds of food and nesting places.  They object to their presence in a place where they “don’t belong.”

We were introduced to this mindset by an ominous encounter with a birder in Florida who is typical of the nativist viewpoint of the avian world.  The sound of gunfire drew us to a man with a shot gun on the lawn of our motel.  Starlings were falling around him, where he quickly finished them off with a vigorous stomp of his booted foot.  We were unfamiliar with the hatred of non-native species at that time and asked him why he was killing the birds.  He seemed stunned to be questioned.  He explained, as though speaking to retarded children, that the starlings were “trash birds” that must be killed.  Following a basic rule of survival, we walked away from a person wielding a gun.

Why was the English sparrow redeemed?

Returning to the English sparrow, why are they no longer the target of hostility from  birders?  We speculate that one reason may be that they have been here for a long time, nearly 200 years.  Just as human immigrants are often the target of prejudice and discrimination when they first arrive, they eventually become a routine part of our world.  We rarely think of the Irish or other Europeans as immigrants in America.

Another reason is that the population of English sparrows is actually declining:  “Since 1966 its North American population has declined by 2.5 percent annually.” (1) However, there is still an estimated population of 150 million in North America.

Ironically, the population of English sparrows is declining significantly in Britain, its ancestral home, where only 13 million are estimated to remain.  In 2000 the British press was full of stories about the sudden decline of their iconic bird, “Responding to the strong sense that an essential part of the nation’s natural heritage…was disappearing…”

The lessons of the sparrow wars

These are familiar themes to the readers of the Million Trees blog:

  • Some people fear newcomers to their world, whether those newcomers are people, animals or plants and that fear can result in destructive hatred.
  • Newcomers usually fit in eventually.  What is initially perceived as a threatening “invasion” rarely turns out to be a problem in the long run.
  • Because nature is dynamic, the new home of an introduced species sometimes becomes the only home of that species.  The movement of species is another way to ensure their survival.  In fact, there is a new movement amongst citizen “scientists” to move rare species which are threatened by changed climate conditions into new locations.  This is called “assisted migration.” (2)


(1) Peter Coates, American Perceptions of Immigrants and Invasive Species, UC Press, 2007.  All quotes are from this book.

(2) Emma Marris, Rambunctious Garden, Bloomsbury, 2011.

Rush Limbaugh on “invasive species”

We have noted in previous posts the common ancestry of native plant and animal advocacy and anti-immigration sentiment.  The relationship between these sentiments goes all the way back to 1930s Germany when there was a concerted effort to rid Germany of non-native plants, as well as people perceived as alien.  We have also reported that some native plant advocates—though not all–in the San Francisco Bay Area are also strongly opposed to immigration. 

Rush Limbaugh. Creative Commons Attribution

Today we will provide another example of the connection between these two apparently related opinions.  Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing talk show host, has a track record of calling immigrants an “invasive species.”  The following Limbaugh quotes are provided by Media Matters for America, a web-based non-profit dedicated to “comprehensive monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”

On April 1, 2005, Limbaugh described undocumented immigrants as an “invasive species,” saying:

LIMBAUGH: So invasive species like mollusks and spermatozoa are not good, and we’ve got a federal judge say, “You can’t bring it in here,” but invasive species in the form of illegal immigration is fine and dandy — bring ’em on, as many as possible, legalize them wherever we can, wherever they go, no matter what they clog up. So we’re going to break the bank; we’re going to bend over backwards. The federal judiciary is going to do everything it can to stop spermatozoa and mollusks from coming in, but other invasive species? We’re supposed to bend over and grab the ankles and say, “Deal with it.”

On August 15, 2011, Limbaugh said:

“[S]ome people would say we’re already under attack by aliens — not space aliens, but illegal aliens.”

Rush Limbaugh has been much in the news recently for his verbal attacks on a 30-year old female law student at Georgetown University who would like to have access to birth control.  In Limbaugh’s opinion she is a “slut,” and a “prostitute” who has “so much sex that she can barely walk.”  Women are not Limbaugh’s only target for abuse.  He routinely says equally nasty things about gay people, poor people, ethnic and racial minorities, and labor unions.

Native plant advocates who are also opposed to immigration might give some thought to the implications of their ideology.  Do they want to be associated with the likes of Rush Limbaugh?  If not, how do they explain the difference between the crusade against non-native plants and animals and the crusade against immigrants?

Stephen Jay Gould examines the concept of “native plants”

The native plant ideology is inconsistent with the basic principles of evolutionary theory and has dangerous political implications which have been applied in the past.  In his article (“An Evolutionary Perspective on Strengths, Fallacies, and Confusions in the Concept of Native Plants”), published by Arnoldia, the journal of Harvard University’s arboretum, Stephen Jay Gould describes the concept of “native plants” as “a notion [which] encompasses a remarkable mixture of sound biology, invalid ideas, false extensions, ethical implications and political usages both intended and unanticipated.”(1)

First, who is Stephen Jay Gould and why should we care what he thinks about the ideological construct of “native plants?”  Professor Gould taught geology and paleontology at Harvard University and biology and evolution at New York University, while also working at the American Natural History Museum in New York.  His most significant achievements as a scientist were in the field of evolutionary theory.  He is one of the most frequently cited scientists in the field of evolutionary theory.  But he is best known as a writer of essays and best-selling books on natural history for the general public.  Incidentally, he had a life long interest in civil rights and he brought that interest to his scientific inquiries with his abiding opposition to the use of pseudoscience to promote racism or sexism.(2) It is that interest that led him to his analysis of the concept of “native plants.”

Native plant advocates believe in the inherent superiority of native plants.  This belief is based on an assumption that native plants “belong” in a particular place and that their presence in the proper location represents an “optimal” landscape for that place.  This belief is based on a lack of understanding of the concept of natural selection. 

As Gould explains, “Natural selection does not preferentially lead to plants that humans happen to regard as attractive.  Nor do natural systems always yield rich associations of numerous, well-balanced species.  Plants that we label ‘weeds’ will dominate in many circumstances…weeds often form virtual monocultures, choking out more diverse assemblages than human intervention could maintain.”   The mechanism of natural selection does not produce the optimal adaptation, but only the adaptation that is better than its competitors at any particular point in time, which is why introduced plants are frequently more competitive than their predecessors deemed “native.” 

The argument that native plants “belong” in a particular place is equally fallacious because it assumes that the plants are there because they are best suited to conditions in that location.  In fact, plants are “products of a history laced with chaos, contingency, and genuine randomness.”  Plants have been moved—and continue to be moved—about the planet by weather, by birds and animals, including humans.  “’Natives’, in short, are the species that happened to find their way…not the best conceivable for a spot.”  (see video, “The Fallacy of Native Plants“)

A closely related argument used by native plant advocates to justify their crusade against non-native plants and trees is that the natives have “co-evolved” with other species of plants and animals and that they therefore fit together like some magic puzzle, implying that if the native plants disappear, native animals will also disappear because they are dependent upon the plants.  Gould says, “this notion, however, popular among ‘new agers,’ must be dismissed as romantic drivel.” 

Gould credits the native plant movement for efforts to preserve biodiversity, a goal that is defeated if other plants are simultaneously eradicated by their efforts.  He counsels native plant advocates to balance their efforts to achieve an inclusive biodiversity and we share that view.  We encourage native plant advocates to preserve the plants they prefer and plant more if they wish, but to quit destroying the plants they do not prefer.

But Gould does not come to this topic solely from his knowledge of the principles of evolution and his desire for the public to correctly understand its mechanisms.  He is also concerned about the “slippery slope” of nativist ideology from application to plants to application to humans.  This is not a theoretical anxiety on his part.  It is based on historical precedents. 

Wikimedia Commons

In Nazi Germany and in the United States around the same time, horticultural theories abounded about the superiority of native landscapes and those theories were inextricably linked to the belief that non-native humans were also inferior.  For example, “In 1942 a team of German botanists made the analogy explicit in calling for the extirpation of Impatiens parviflora, a supposed interloper:  ‘As with the fight against Bolshevism, our entire Occidental culture is at stake, so with the fight against this Mongolian invader, an essential element of this culture, namely, the beauty of our home forest, is as at stake.’”   And similar sentiments from an American horticulturalist, Jens Jensen, “’The gardens that I created myself shall…be in harmony with their landscape environment and the racial characteristics of its inhabitants.  They shall express the spirit of America and therefore shall be free of foreign character as far as possible…Latin spirit has spoiled a lot and still spoils things every day.”

Having debated many times with native plant advocates about their plans to eradicate non-natives, and listened to their justifications for those plans, we know that no counter argument inflames them more than the suggestion that their plans are reminiscent of similar efforts to eradicate human non-natives.  However, for the vast majority of the public who have not engaged in this debate, we provide the scientific evidence that the native plant movement is an ideology not based on scientific principles which has been associated in the past with horrific discrimination against non-native humans. 

"The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal" Book cover in the public domain

 We cannot dismiss these historical precedents as irrelevant at a time when anti-immigration sentiments are rampant in our society.


(1) All quotes are from “An Evolutionary Perspective….”