Exotic species enforcement gone wild

This editor sympathizes with growing concern among letter
writers about Minnesota’s hyper-emphasis on exotic species
enforcement. Columnist Shawn Perich recently questioned the DNR’s
dubiously named, “Pick It or Ticket” campaign, over the Fourth of
July. Real subtle, DNR: Threaten taxpayers to remove vegetation
from boats and trailers. The public employee who coined “Pick It or
Ticket,” and the sixth floor DNR brass who approved it, need a
reminder of who pay their salaries.

A personal brush with the exotic species law: Last summer my wife
and I found ourselves with a kid-baseball-free Saturday and headed
to a state park. En route, we stopped and purchased a
government-approved grade-A choice shrink-wrapped bundle of
firewood. OK, fine: Exotic species are a real problem, and every
citizen should take personal responsibility to keep emerald ash
borer from spreading. But I grew up in a household that burned
wood, and – coupled with a college summer stacking raw lumber at a
dry kiln – can identify logs and wood boards better than your
average ivory-billed woodpecker. The state doesn’t know my
background, but nonetheless, the whole acceptable firewood thing
always has struck me as mildly insulting to the intelligence of
even novice outdoors users.

When we checked in at park headquarters, staffers inquired whether
we’d brought wood. My wife said we had purchased a clean bundle,
but by not buying on-site, we apparently needed approval from park
wood cops. We waited several minutes before I got fed up and told
Annette, “I’m not sitting here waiting for an intern to tell me my
bundle of paper birch isn’t ash.”

We drove to a nearby trailhead, and had no sooner clicked off the
ignition before a state-owned SUV roared up. My wide-eyed kids
watched two park employees march up to our intimidating minivan and
demand to see the firewood. I doubt either could tell me what
species of timber the sanitized plastic-wrapped bundle contained,
but it had an ash-free sticker on it. They skipped away convinced
they’d prevented another dumb citizen from causing an apocalyptic
ash borer infestation.

What’s next? Irradiated firewood? Government-subsidized pressure
washers at every boat landing? A federal “Department of Exotic
Species Defense” complete with heavily armed and uniformed ash
borer police and a milfoil-cutting navy? As Perich and others have
suggested, what we need are politicians who will put their
reputation on the line to demand that the feds crimp down on the
ballast water and other commercial causes that spread this junk
around the planet. Instead, we’re nickel-and-diming around the
edges of this elephant-in-the-corner by hassling state citizens
looking to roast a few marshmallows. Has the state stopped a single
emerald ash borer outbreak by insisting that campers-gone-wild
possess special firewood?

The DNR and the outdoors industry spend big money on recruiting
youth and urging the public to experience state lands and waters.
View it from a citizen’s perspective sometime, St. Paul: When
government inserts itself into building a simple campfire or
launching a boat, go figure that the next generation of outdoor
users might be content playing Modern Warfare 2 or monitoring ESPN6
for Brett Favre updates.

Categories: Rob Drieslein

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *