|Invasive Legislation: Citizens'
September 30, 2003
By Kathleen Jachowski
Politicians thrive on passing new legislation. Unfortunately, citizens do not. Citizens must endure the burden of too many laws, poorly written laws, hastily considered and emotional laws, vote getting laws, some needed laws, and very invasive laws. Such seems to be the fate of the democratically governed Republic known as the United States of America.
Proposed invasive species legislation is about far more than just non-native species of plants and animals. No, all versions of invasive species legislation are about two huge things!
First, in any form which such proposed legislation might finally get passed into law, the Federal government would have unbridled control of what will be allowed to grow and where in this United States. That is the uncluttered and accurate assessment which some proponents want, and other proponents unfortunately don't seem to realize.
Second, invasive species legislation is actually about 'conservative' politicians championing the growth of big government.
Each of these dynamics is taking a huge toll on our nation. Proposed legislation can be almost as detrimental as passed legislation because of the assumptions which are made, and the resources consumed in public debate, both necessary and unnecessary.
Invasive species legislation encompasses the discussions around native and non-native species, noxious weeds, invasive plants and animals, and in general the control of what will and should grow anywhere in this country.
What most folks don't realize is that such legislation, no matter how 'lightly worded' could and would come to be interpreted in court to include such things as many domesticated plants and animals, and ornamental plants, shrubs and trees. Alfalfa, cattle and Norway elms are but a few examples. Your supermarkets are full of other examples of non-native species. These are the realities that past experience with the Endangered Species Act should have taught us.
The Federal government should not be in control of such issues. The Federal government should, however, help states to manage their lands via education, research, facilitation of the availability of products and mechanisms to achieve state/county decided land management goals. There is a huge difference between these two roles.
There is big money to be had in the passage of such legislation.
Universities, herbicide producing entities, livestock and farm operations, federal regulatory agencies charged with enforcement, the list goes on.
The appeal of immediate money to study or help control unwanted species and such, can easily obscure the silent grenade of re-interpretation via court battles of what the law was intended to cover. Invasive species legislation would know no boundary.
This is exactly what has happened with the Endangered Species Act.
But where there is money, one will usually find support. Money alone, however, is not the only reason why lawmakers should question the appropriateness of legislation.
Politicians who subscribe to the school of thought that less government is better government should publicly and privately champion those instances and issues which should be handled by the individual states and counties. Invasive species legislation is a classic example.
Conservative legislators should not simply assume that 'some form' of a vote-getting hot topic should be legislated at the national level. Conservative politicians are undermining states' rights at every turn when they blindly attach themselves to some passable version of government-growth legislation because they don't take a serious look at what is the historic and legal jurisdiction.
Conservative federal legislators seem as eager to pass laws as their liberal counterparts. When is the last time we heard a federal legislator publicly encourage states or counties to object to federal legislative interference? Usually conservative federal legislators seem to take a conservative vs. liberal side on proposed legislation. In many instances, what is called for is not a partisan position but a jurisdictional position.
States rights can and would be strengthened by federal legislators encouraging citizens to pass laws at the lowest common political denominator such as at the county and state level. Legislators should not simply find some version that is passable at the federal level and assume they are doing what's best for the nation. Federal legislation should be the legislation of last resort.
Unfortunately, it appears that many entities within our nation see the federal arena as the first and last line of government. What has happened to the rest of us? Have our states, counties, associations, industry interest groups all come to look for the line of least resistance? Let Big Brother do it?
It really is time for Americans who tout a preference for less government to again act like it. Stop legislative invasions before they start -- legislate at the correct level of jurisdiction.
Kathleen Jachowski is a public speaker and free lance writer on natural resources and cultural issues. She can be reached at: http://www.jachowskispeaks.com