The publication of the two letters regarding my February column illustrated perfectly one of the points it made: Speak against the invasive-plant movement and you get a public verbal smackdown—the sole purpose of which is to eliminate debate by suppressing speech.
And, instead of presenting a valid case for their contentions, the signers of the first letter chose to attack me personally and professionally by lying about, and fraudulently representing, my work in a deliberate attempt to damage my reputation as a credible naturalist.
They employed innuendo by referring to my “casual observations” when, in truth, I have been documenting my observations throughout my life in writing and in photos, with over 25 years of published nature articles/environmental commentaries to my credit in newspapers, magazines (including a wildlife research journal), and a book.
Virtually the entire text of that letter, which is signed by three people touting their degrees as a sign of their supposed integrity and presumed knowledge, is dishonest or shows erudition not based in reality. However, in the interest of keeping this short, I will only point out three examples that clearly illustrate their deceitfulness.
(1) They write that I “cite as a scientific reference an eight-year-old Comment from the journal Nature”, when my article stated quite clearly, “In an opinion piece [emphasis mine] signed by 19 ecologists in the journal Nature,”
(2) The writers state that I “repeatedly assert that land managers are driven by the ‘foolishness of blindly pushing an agenda without giving any thought to the real-world consequences of doing so’”, when I actually made a very explicit reference to one particular case: “A situation in California illustrates the foolishness of blindly pushing an agenda without giving any thought to the real-world consequences of doing so.”
(3) They mention that, in earlier articles, I erroneously concluded that Autumn Olive fruits are good for wildlife, but scientists have “determined that our migrating birds require high-fat foods to fuel their southward flights in autumn.” I have never written one word about these fruits in relation to migrating birds. By citing research that is totally irrelevant to anything I’ve ever written, they deliberately changed the whole argument, a diversionary tactic typical of political groups trying to show someone in a bad light.
The writer of the second letter, while more polite than the group of three referenced above, reveals a lack of familiarity with “invasive” plants, as well as how those plants function in the environment.
She writes that Japanese Knotweed, “in fact…is a perennial herbaceous plant…that completely dies back, leaving bare exposed ground subject to serious erosion throughout the winter, especially along streambanks.” In fact, while the above-ground stems do die, those tall, thick stems remain standing, serving to limit the impact of rain upon the soil all winter—unless someone overly concerned with neatness instead of environmental function comes along and makes the mistake of cutting those stems down before spring. Additionally, she doesn’t recognize the value of a perennial plant’s root system for soil retention.
Lastly, all four people write that I “misinterpret,” or infer I deliberately misrepresented, the opinion piece by the ecologists, yet the second letter writer used the following quote from the conclusion of the opinion piece that states: “[I]t is time for conservationists to focus much more on the functions of [plant] species and much less on where they originated [emphasis mine]”—the primary point of my article!
Marlene A. Condon
(The Blue Ridge Naturalist)