Red herring and reproduction capacity in the new age

Ron Royer royer at
Wed Sep 3 10:20:19 EDT 1997

I must agree with Ken Philip that the reproductive capacity of insects is
hardly a red herring in the present harrangue about parks regulations and
collecting. I would also point out that while I obtain as many as a dozen
federal permits over the course of a summer to collect what usually amounts
to not more than 20-30 "voucher" examples within a given national wildlife
refuge or park, in my state (North Dakota) FWS and other federal agencies
routinely spend thousands upon thousands of our tax dollars, under the
banner of "management" and "habitat restoration," in burning, spraying,
mowing, and otherwise "disturbing" tens of thousands of hectares of
butterfly habitat (and no doubt literally millions of individual
butterflies, caterpillars, pupae and eggs). Until very recently, almost all
of this has been done without any attempt even to determine its effect on
butterflies or other invertebrates. In the face of these facts, none of
this diatribe makes much sense to me beyond the absurd, negative impact it
has had on my own lifetime of work (42 of my 52 years so far), work that
has until recently routinely involved collecting long series of butterflies
in landscapes which, like Ken's in Alaska, tyically host butterfly
populations in the thousands per hectare.

In Roosevelt National Park (which this summer was inhabited mainly by
_Colias philodice_ and _Pieris rapae_) I was asked last June by a "back
country ranger" "how bad" I thought "the butterfly poaching problem" was in
his park! I pointed out to him that I have seldom encountered anyone with a
butterfly net anywhere in the ND badlands, whether inside or outside the
boundaries of Roosevelt National Park, and that _no_ threatened or
endangered butterfly species is known to occur within the park or the
state. (In fact, with rare exception there is surprisingly little in the
park that one could not find much more easily in a nearby K-Mart parking
lot on the grille of a Winnebago.) I proposed off-handedly that he should
be more worried about new age health faddists digging up _Echinacea_ in the
park. He asked me what _Echinacea_ was. A couple of days later I ran into
another park worker in an entirely separate park unit (about 80 miles from
the first encounter). She asked me if I could help her identify
_Echinacea_, since she had just learned that there was some problem with
"poaching" it in the park. This little event should tell us a great deal
about all these matters.

     __       __
    /  \     /  \    Ronald Alan Royer
   |   o\\ //o   |   Professor in the Division of Science
    \____\o/____/    Minot State University, Minot ND 58707
    /    /O\    \    701-858-3209 (Desk), 3161 (Office)
    \_  / | \  _/    701-839-6933 (FAX)
    '\\/     \//'    <royer at>
     /         \


"The study of butterflies ... will someday be valued as one of the most
important branches of biological science."
                                            -- Henry Walter Bates,
                                         _A Naturalist on the Amazons_

More information about the Leps-l mailing list