Utility corridors

Anne Kilmer viceroy at anu.ie
Sat Jun 19 03:05:39 EDT 1999

Mark Walker wrote:
> Anne wrote:
> >
> > I received (a while ago) from my pal the tree pruner, a copy
> > of a study
> > on the effect of herbicides vs. pruning on leps. Didn't make
> > a particle
> > of difference, was the conclusion.
> <some snippage>
> Did we ever discuss dowsing?  Well, anyway...

long ago. There were three schools of thought, and all were immovable.
Much like the collecting debate, the scientific nomenclature debate, the
Bt debate ... Have you ever noticed anybody assailed by a blizzard of
facts changing his/her position? 
A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. 

> It's not that the herbicides are targeting Leps, it's that the herbicides
> neutralize the area and often target Lep larval food supplies. 

That is, of course, what we all would have expected the study to find.
It is not, however, what it found. 
Mowing, pruning, and the invasion of size-eleven beetle crushers* on the
feet of the indifferent yard workers did just as thorough a job of
removing the choice plants and allowing the boring ones to replace them
as the herbicides did. 
I'm sorry I don't have the thing here at hand, but run your own study if
you like. The one my friend Mike sent me was probably biased. 

 This tends
> to make the powerline and railroad track corridors less "interesting" from a
> diversity and native species standpoint. 

Have you data on this, or is it just your theory? Yes, the herbicide
strips it down, but so would mowing. Especially if done
unsympathetically. Some people leave tufts of flowers sticking up (see
Robert Frost) and some do a clean sweep. 

 I agree, the cool solution would
> be to plant butterfly gardens along these runs, and open the areas up for
> study (but please, don't make them inaccessible - leave the WMAs and NWRs
> for that).
> Mark Walker.
> Mission Viejo, CA

They've made the vacated railroad tracks into walking trails. If we did
that with the utility easements, paths would be kept clear by people's
feet, and the game-trail aspect of it would take place naturally. 
Let communities and groups adopt swatches of easement and maintain them,
keeping records of wildlife observed. 
Four-H, garden clubs, school groups, church groups, hunting clubs,
Audubon society groups, Isaac Walton league groups, hiking groups ... 
and each group could keep its area according to its own prejudices. 
(It was a garden club group that was pulling the gaillardia. Their plan
was to plant marigolds, I think.)
We have made such an association in Palm Beach County, calling it the
Butterfly Coalition. Teri Jabour <MYQF88A at prodigy.com> is our leader at
present, and it is associated with a NABA chapter; the Atala chapter,
which she also heads. (I don't think we're doing utility easements yet,
but I don't know.  There is a splendid lack of organization, and most
people don't know about the coalition ... they just get on with the
Put the Cooperative Extension Service in charge of teaching people which
weeds they wish  to retain, if they hope to attract leps. Do displays at
Nature Centers. Most people can't tell ragweed from wild mustard ... and
it never occurs to them to smell a plant, just to make sure ... 
I think garden leps do best in a semi-neglected garden where every so
often a natural disaster takes place, with much trimming and mowing and
tidying and building of brush piles. Preferably you do this side this
month and the other side next month, so different larvae and pupae
survive your efforts. For there is no safe time to clean up. 
Even harder than getting folks to cherish their weeds is the task of
getting them to leave dead stuff as habitat for pupae, not to mention
beetles etc. They rush around snipping. 
I'm prejudiced against herbicides (pesticides, fungicides, all that
stuff ... even chemical fertilizers). But there are too many people for
the world to feed without them. Or so we are told. 
And the feet of the volunteers will kill far more aspiring milkweed
seedlings than herbicide could possibly find. They will not look where
they are stepping. 
I like the part where the utilities folks are asking us how to cherish
wildlife in their cuttings. Maybe we could do a lot of actual
observations, species counts, looking for what sorts of butterflies
exist in an area pre and post herbicide or mowing ... because although
our opinions are nicely aired, fresh facts are even nicer. 
Anne Kilmer

* P.G. Wodehouse.

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