bog butterflies and misinformation

Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX Norbert.Kondla at
Tue Jan 19 14:45:44 EST 1999

I recently read an interesting article in the fall 1998 issue of American
Butterflies.  Unfortunately it contained some interesting assertions that
fall far from the facts of the situation.  Since I find it distressing to
see such incorrect statements in print, here are the statements, followed by
my comments:
Assertion: "One of the last great wildernesses on Earth covers the northern
third of North America. In this realm, beyond the bustle of modern human
culture, life progresses much as it has since the melting of the last ice
sheet 10,000 years ago."
Comments: Except for the relatively small area covered by the USA state of
Alaska, the northern third of North America is occupied by a country that
goes by the name of Canada. Altho we are blessed by still having some areas
of wilderness; this country is definately not a great wilderness. The thirty
or so million people that live in Canada might be insulted by the perception
that we live beyond the bustle of modern human culture - yes Virginia, we
live in heated homes, have live theater, drive on paved roads and use the
internet !!
Assertion: "Though they cover much of the North American landscape, such
peatland habitats are almost unknown to the continent's human inhabitants."
Comments: In fact there is a very rich scientific literature dealing with
most aspects of boreal peatland ecology. Further, the Canadian peatlands are
widely subject to human activity; including clearing and draining for
agriculture, building and maintenance of transportation infrastucture, oil
and gas exploration and production, forestry etc etc. Hardly "almost
unknown" !!
Assertion: Relatively easy access access to these peatlands is possible only
where modern human culture encroaches on the southern limit of the boreal
forest." (referring to northern and central Wisconsin) it is stated "There
may be no easier place on the continent to view these elusive species."
Comments: In fact there are at least hundreds of thousands of miles of roads
in Canada that run through or within spitting distance of boreal peatlands.
There is no shortage of easy places in Canada to view these "elusive
species" which in many places are common roadside bugs and not the least bit
elusive. I have routinely seen these in roadside ditches passing through the
right habitats and furthermore some of these species are not even restricted
to bogs and fens in other parts of North America. 
And finally I cannot resist also mentioning another older article in
American Butterflies that dealt with checkerspot butterflies in the western
part of the continent and, if memory serves, made some reference to the
Rocky Mtns. in Montana being the "northern" rocky mountains. In fact the
northern Rocky Mtns are  located some 10-11 degrees of latitude further
north.  NABA members please lobby your organization to be more cognizant of
North American cultural and physical geography in its publications. 
Norbert Kondla  P.Biol., RPBio.
Forest Ecosystem Specialist, Ministry of Environment
845 Columbia Avenue, Castlegar, British Columbia V1N 1H3
Phone 250-365-8610
Mailto:Norbert.Kondla at

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