law news and legalese

Mark Walker mwalker at
Thu Aug 28 09:36:23 EDT 1997

Doug Yanega wrote:

> Trying not to drag this out indefinitely, but still not sure I've made my
> stance clear...

Yeah, I was concerned about this too.  But taking the discussion off-line, so
to speak, goes against the basic philosophy of a newsgroup.  If I say something
that someone else takes exception to, I should hear about it.  Making private
statements that are not subject to scrutiny is a bunch of hot air.  So, in that
light, I will continue...

Reviewing the wording on the report:

-Scripps Howard News Service

	FRESNO, Calif. - Italian tourist and butterfly fancier Adriano
Teobaldelli's trek through America ended suddenly in federal court Monday
(week before last, I think) when he discovered that butterflies are not
free - especially those taken from national parks.
	Teobaldelli pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally
transporting wildlife taken in violation of U.S. law after rangers in
Sequoia National Park found him with a butterfly net and 51 dead
butterflies in his possession Saturday.
	Later they confiscated nearly 200 more that Teobaldelli admitted
he captured in other parks across the United States.

One of my problems with this is that the report provides justification for
well-intentioned but misinformed nature enthusiasts to consider any person with
a butterfly net as part of the enemy.  "51 and 200 dead" is a large number of
fatalities in the context of an earthquake or terrorist attack, but they are
not particularly alarming for an entomologist.  Interesting that I miss quoted
the incident to have occurred in Yosemite - it was actually Sequoia N.P.  It is
very easy to collect 20+ unique species of butterflies and moths in this area
(especially if you are from another continent), and very easy to cross into
N.P. boundaries without even noticing it.  The groves of large trees constitute
a very small area of this N.P., and most of the area is accessible only by
foot.  Other than the redwoods, the flora is quite homogenous with the
surrounding National Forest (which, by the way, is also regulated).  

I know I have driven into N.P. boundaries with envelopes of Leps I have
collected in surrounding areas - that makes me an idiot - but when I'm on an
excursion, it's a perfectly natural thing to do.  My net is always with me.  I
do not appreciate being treated like a criminal by people who have no real
clue, and who for the other 364 days of the year couldn't care less about the
well being of butterfly populations.  As for the Park Rangers, I can only
assume that it must look good for them to have this kind of bust on their
record.  Otherwise, I can't imagine why anyone would throw the book at our Mr.
T.  You think it's appropriate to scapegoat, to make an example, so that people
KNOW that the rules against collecting in N.P.'s will be enforced?

> I don't think the rules that were broken owe their existence in
> any way to the hype you refer to.

I agree, but their enforcement contributes significantly.  And so does the way
that particular regulations are interpreted.  There is the spirit of the law,
and then the interpretation of the law.  I will not argue that people are
generally inconsiderate and motivated by greed.  If a piece of the Alamo were
of significant value, and if it were easy to pick up a piece without getting
caught, then the Alamo would be dismantled in a forte night.  As soon as they
dedicate a National Park to a unique, endemic butterfly, I will be the first to
lobby for strict laws against collecting within that park's boundaries.

This part of my argument is rather weak, because I'm really not opposed to
regulating or outlawing the collecting of wildlife or resources within National
Park boundaries.  My problem is with the implication that collecting is a bad
thing, and that collectors are bad people.  I also know that there is no good
reason for regulating butterfly collecting in most of the public lands where
the Lacey Act can be enforced.  Fortunately, it isn't usually enforced to the
letter of the law.  But these types of incidents only increase the likelihood. 
I guarantee that the Mr. T. incident will result in a higher frequency of
collector harassment and hassling - by tourists and rangers alike.

> If Colorado Hairstreaks were worth $500 apiece, do you really think they'd
> last long without protection?

No, and it's such situations that really screw things up for us collectors to
begin with.  Not only do endangered species cause increased negative hype, but
they also attract poachers.  As usual, the actions of the few affect the
liberty of the many (by the way, I haven't collected that beautiful little
butterfly yet).

And I don't mean to sound ecologically sacrilegious.  Neither collectors nor
poachers create endangered species.  Once endangered, and the dust clears, any
person standing with a net is declared an enemy.  The tragedy is that the
person standing with the net is most likely the butterfly's best friend.

> >If  Barney and Mr. T. are not responsible enough to
> >visit these areas, then either are you or I.
> You honestly don't think some people are more responsible than others? This
> would seem to be a hard viewpoint to justify. Why do we have laws in the
> first place? Legal drinking ages? Legal driving ages? Speed limits? Traffic
> signals? It certainly can't be that simple. The "tragedy of the commons"
> would never exist if everyone were truly responsible.

I think you missed my point here.  But now that you mention it, the fact is
that all people are equally responsible - responsible for the condition the
world is in.  We all contribute to the destruction of habitat on a daily basis,
and we fool ourselves into thinking otherwise.  As a result, we can act awfully
hypocritical when we choose to throw environmentally self-righteous stones. 

> Me, I fight because I believe all living species have a right to exist.
> Utilitarian values, including personal enjoyment, aren't adequate
> justification. Heck, I'll never get to visit the moon, but that doesn't
> mean I'd be quiet if someone wanted to carve it up and sell the pieces as
> souvenirs.

I don't know about any _right_ to exist.  But I'll accept the possibility that
you are genuinely not motivated by selfish interests.  Still, you do get to
enjoy the moon...  You think you'd be equally opposed to the strip mining of

The moon analogy does highlight another issue, though.  There are moon
souvenirs out there.  No real problem with that because the resource is, at the
rate that we're collecting it, essentially unlimited.  But moon rock (like oil
deposits and redwood forests) is, on our time scale, really a non-replaceable
resource.  I don't see living organisms which can propagate on a much smaller
time scale being in this category.  If we can ensure sufficient habitat and
support low impact monitoring of population, there is no reason why we have to
treat butterflies any different than fish or deer.  Wildlife management, I
think they call it.  Sure seems like an easy task when you're dealing with
arthropods capable of propagating hundreds of offspring in a single generation,
and often multiple generations within a single year.

> >By the way - I'd love to collect down in your neck of the woods...
> Actually, about all we've got right here that's really interesting are the
> skippers. Not all that much diversity in the rest of the macroleps - this
> ain't the Amazon, not by a long shot. If you want monarchs, queens,
> buckeyes, painted ladies, thoas and pipevine swallowtails, though, this is
> a fine place for them.

Actually, I'm particularly fond of Hesperiidae.

Mark Walker
Castleton, VT.

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