New Beginnings

Weed Wars

In one week this past April, I celebrated Passover, Earth Day and Easter. Each holiday, in its own way, is about new beginnings. Passover celebrates the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery in ancient Egypt. Earth Day focuses on the environment, and how we can sustain life on our planet. And Easter is all about resurrection and renewal.

EggsSpring is also a celebration of new beginnings. The above holidays all celebrate the eternal cycle of life and death which is on the rise in early spring. Here on the coast, we had our first inkling of spring, with (relatively) warm and even sunny weather during the week we celebrated the above holidays. Leaves are out or on their way, flowers are blossoming, and the inevitable lawn mowers, weed whackers and other power tools of choice made their way out of winter storage.

This column is a new beginning for the occasional feature concerning invasive species that has sprung forth on the pages of HIPFiSH as recently as last month. Each month will feature news, views and history about invasive species and our continuing battle against them. The focus will be on the local scene, but the big picture will always be kept in mind, and examples from other regions of the county and world will be shown to enhance the debate.

And the debate is the essence of this column.

Opposing views on invasive species will be presented, with a sprinkling of skepticism and fact-checking. You’re invited to chime in with your thoughts and comments on this web page (just log on and comment away).

It’s probably appropriate to start out with some definitions. Perhaps the best definition I’ve seen of invasive species comes from the Invasive Species Definition Clarification and Guidance White Paper, submitted by the Definitions Subcommittee of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC), in conjunction with Executive Order 13112, issued in 2006:

Invasive species are those that are not native to the ecosystem under consideration and that cause or are likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human, animal, or plant health. Plant and animal species under domestication or cultivation and under human control are not invasive species. Furthermore for policy purposes, to be considered invasive, the negative impacts caused by a non-native species will be deemed to outweigh the beneficial effects it provides. Finally, a non-native species might be considered invasive in one region but not in another. Whether or not a species is considered an invasive species depends largely on human values. By attempting to manage invasive species, we are affirming our economic and environmental values. Those non-native species judged to cause overall economic or environmental harm or harm to human health may be considered invasive, even if they yield some beneficial effects. Society struggles to determine the appropriate course of action in such cases, but in a democratic society that struggle is essential.”

Homo sapiensSince invasive species are defined to be “not native”, a legal definition of native species would be useful in our discussions. According to, a native species is one that:

“occurs naturally with respect to a particular ecosystem, rather than as a result of an accidental or deliberate introduction into that ecosystem by humans. In the U.S., non-native species are typically defined as those that arrived since the time of European contact.”

Armed with the definitions above, it’s pretty obvious that the most important invasive species in our area is Homo sapiens (since all of us living now arrived after 1492). But don’t let the invasive species councils know that one…

Next month, we’ll look at some of the local projects to eradicate or control invasive species, and their effectiveness. Welcome to Weed Wars!

By Bob Goldberg

Bob moved to Astoria from Seattle in 2005, on the day Katrina hit New Orleans. He started writing for HIPFiSH in 2007. With a previous career as an environmental engineer with the Washington State Department of Ecology and a researcher at various companies and national labs, Bob tries to bring his scientific (i.e. objective) background to journalism. Outside the HIPFiSH world, Bob does programming on KMUN radio, sings tenor in the North Coast Chorale, tutors at Clatsop Community College, and helps with websites. He lives in Astoria with his beautiful and wonderful wife, his son and two cats.