[leps-talk] Re:Glassberg and protecting butterflies

Barb Beck barb at birdnut.obtuse.com
Wed Jan 23 19:16:35 EST 2002


Like it or not decisions are being made now and many more will be made in
the future concerning what lives and what dies... what species continue on
this planet and what will go extinct.  What lives and what dies will depend
a lot on the habitats that are protected.  What habitats are protected will
be those that win the POLITICAL battle between economic interests and large
numbers of people who are willing to speak up to have them  protected -
almost always because of some charismatic feature or species.  Extinction is
going on all the time but usually just of species we know little or care
little about.

We protect trees to the exclusion of open areas because people like trees -
they are the charismatic mega flora.  People like to recreate in them.
People do not like to see trees die.  We lock up our National parks and
think we are protecting things by not allowing disturbances to take place.
We protect habitat for things that can be caught by hunters and fishermen.
We protect some bird habitat because there is an army of birdwatchers out
there interested in them.  We have a horrid record with our grasslands and
prairie because people are less interested in protecting them than trees..
Mussels have almost completely lost the political battle - most of our
species are now extinct..... frankly they do not have the political
constituency to oppose the economic interests - not enough people care
enough and they are not in habitats protected for other more glamorous
species At the same time people are pushing to protect Mute Swans (an
introduced exotic from Europe) in the eastern US which are taking over
wetlands and pushing out native species - because they love to see the
"Cinderella swans" - "they are so relaxing and peaceful".  These birds are
lovely to look at but do not have a place outside zoos and places where wing
clipping and oiling of eggs can keep them in check.

Now to butterflies.  We need an informed public interested in protecting
habitat for these creatures. Protecting butterfly habitat will not protect
habitat for all species at least can cover habitat for some other less
charismatic critters.  We need to know what we have and what habitat it
needs to protect it.  There is a lot of information we do not have about our

Many vocal people who claim to be high up or at the top of the NABA
organization seem to be ignorant of the importance of habitat blaming the
collectors for the demise of butterflies even when facts can prove
otherwise. One tried to tell me that catch and release butterfly counts
severely damaged the butterflies. They show a remarkable ability not to be
confused by facts.

People do not have to be turned off by scientific collecting.  At the start
of my class this year most of my class was against collecting.  By the end
when students found out how much we really did not know about what we have
most were willing to collect samples for people willing to study them and to
find out what we have.  Of those who are not comfortable with collecting
themselves (I completely respect this) many have expressed a desire to help
in other ways - teaching, counting and rearing and looking out for host

Those pushing the anti net stuff  claim that we know all we need to know
about butterflies and further study is unnecessary.  They keep data in their
database about our butterflies in lumped species of convenience lumping
field identifiable forms which may be good species (and some that have been
shown to be good species or have shown to be lumped for no valid reason).
Glassberg claims that this does not matter because things can be split by
geography.  That is quite difficult when we have the two forms flying
together (Northwestern and Atlantis Fritillary (S. hesperis and atlantis) or
forms in different habitats or at different elevations in one count circle.
We must know what we have to protect it.  We must keep track of what we have
to the limit of our skills so than when work is finally done to sort out
what are species and what are ssp we have we can sort out their the
information.  It is a simple problem to lump split data - in some cases it
is impossible to split lumped data. In his efforts to maintain that
everything can be identified without a net and with his books he apparently
feels the need to ignore species he cannot easily separate.  At least that
is the only reason I can figure out for his actions.

The horribly anti scientific bent to those at the top of the NABA worries me
terribly and in the long run can only do damage to the butterflies

Hank and Pricilla I am glad Glassberg turned you onto butterflies.  Many of
us up here were turned on by Pike's book and by our very own Nature Nut,
John Acorn and by the publication of a good book to identify our butterflies
by Bird, Sperling, Kondla, Hilchie and Pike.  Glassberg makes big claims of
inventing butterflying with binoculars which do not hold up at least not
here - as do his claims that nets discourage butterfly watching (we
butterfly with nets and have more counts than any other area in the US)  He
appears to be a person who is not often confused by facts.  Most people up
here do not even know who Glassberg is because we have no NABA chapter. His
books are of little use identifying butterflies in our area so are not used.
I finally gave up bringing count reports to counts to encourage people to
buy them because so many complained about the state of the names of our
butterflies. I thought for a while about starting a chapter but then had
second thoughts because of the actions of the club and the extremist anti
netting anti scientific stance the national organization appears by its
actions to be taking.

If butterflies are to be protected we cannot afford to have people
interested in butterflies divided into  (stealing from Paul Cavalconte)
"smoking, non-smoking and anti-smoking".  We must respect those willing to
collect and study what we have to the best of their abilities so we can find
out how to protect things.  We must respect those who do not wish to
collect.  We must respect those who feel they need a net to properly
identify what they find and we must respect those who only want to enjoy the
great gift of butterflies with binoculars.  We cannot afford to have a
divided constituency when it comes to protecting butterflies.  We must be
honest in what we know and what we do not know.

We do not need inflammatory rhetoric put out by the hierarchy of the NABA
about nets are the equivalent of shotguns - that is a silly and foolish
statement they are not shotguns anymore than the mist nets I use to band
birds are the equivalent to shotguns.  Or the statement that butterflies
lose their legs in nets - we have now checked hundreds of butterflies in our
nets and all have been released with all of their legs.  We do not need the
NABA using an airbrush to remove the nets from a photo of our counters in
their publication.  We need an organization which can have a balanced
approached which can accommodate both those who net and those who do not.
The harassing email I have received in the past because our counts use nets
and the comments about netting from the president make me feel very
uncomfortable as a member of the organization.

We need to work together.  We need to realize that all of us leave big
footprints on the earth - those that net, those that photograph, those that
only use binoculars and those that collect to find out what we have. We need
those who know about butterflies to help those who do not.  We need people
who know about butterflies to make their information as accessible as
possible using good common names as well as the scientific names for

Hank and Pricilla - another question - The NABA is a private company owned
by Glassberg.  What is the real status of the butterfly "preserve" they
have.  Is it something that can be later sold for high price housing or
other uses or is it truly a preserve and how is it to be run.  Could
Glassberg build a home there and have his own private place in the future?
Does anybody out there in lep land actually know the real legal status of
the place other than the owner?  I would certainly be willing to donate but
only if I was sure it was totally owned and run by a non-profit organization
with guarantees that it be kept so.

Barb Beck
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


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