In the past weeks, while Ammon Bundy et al. have set up shop in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, he has effectively undone years of invasive species management, denigrated scientific research, jeopardized collaborative partnerships between the Native American Paiute and other regional stakeholders, and wasted countless hours of work and US taxpayer dollars on his thinly veiled efforts to secure mining and timber rights on this land (which is coincidentally not in his native Idaho. But that’s another story.)
In reality, the invasion of the Malheur by non-natives has gone on for not just weeks now, but years. Though these out-of-towners have been attempting to assert a take back of “government owned” lands so that they can make it “useful” again (millions of migratory birds would beg to differ), the Malheur Lake and nearby waterbodies have been suffering under the reign of another, equally distasteful outsider: the common carp.
Carp were introduced to the area in the 1920’s and, like countless other non-native species, immediately impacted water quality and food web dynamics. Common carp are bioturbators and effectively disturb the sediments to dig up worms and food at the bottom of a lake, and this in turn muddies the water and reduces light penetration. Aquatic plants die off from lack of light, dissolved oxygen plummets, and organisms that relied on plants for food, shelter or oxygen are suddenly out of luck. But the carp are happy. Really, really happy.
So when U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Linda Beck had her personal space taken over by Ammon Bundy, it wasn’t just a violation of common decency but also a serious blow to her multi-year efforts to get the invasive carp under control. Plans to begin carp removal from the Blitzen River (feeding into Malheur Lake) have been cancelled due to the militia’s invasion, and without timely follow up, other water bodies that she and her team have cleared of carp will likely succumb to re-infestation again. Commercial fishing of the carp was set to begin shortly as well, but is on hold indefinitely until this hostile take-over is resolved.
Read more about the militia’s impact to the work of Linda Beck and her fellow scientists here, and an op-ed piece on the importance of National Wildlife Refuges. The High Desert Partnership is a great example of what can be achieved across, and even because of, widely differing perspectives.