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The Cedars of Our Discontent

The so-called cedar of the Texas Hill Country, actually a true juniper, Juniperus ashei, has been called a weed, allergen, invader, nurse-tree, building material, allelopath, and not too long ago, crucial component in the life of the Golden-Cheeked Warbler. It is all that and more.

Ashe Junipers have grown on the picturesque hills of central Texas for many thousands of years. Their range has not changed appreciably, their density, however, has. Whereas they were originally restricted to the steeper sites, they now occupy vast areas which were once a prairie. That prairie was a fire climax flora. Fires, set by lightning or native Americans, killed the woody invaders but rejuvenated the grasses and broad-leafed plants of the prairie matrix. 

When the prairies of the Hill Country were overgrazed in the mid to latter years of the nineteenth century, that beneficial cycle of fires was broken. Oaks, Cedar Elms, and Ashe Junipers soon invaded lands where grazing animals and deer were the only check on their growth.

Those who are restoring the prairies of the Hill Country, either for sustainable ranching activities or because they wish to heal a wound man has caused, have my admiration. Prairies are beautiful, especially at dawn and dusk. Their charms, except in the peak of spring bloom, are subtle. I revel in their broad sweep as well as in their smallest details.

However, I do not want to extirpate all Ashe Junipers. A scene of ancient ones with massive, fluted trunks clothed with shaggy, aromatic bark, seeming to flow out of vertical limestone canyon walls, is also worth preserving. That is their prime habitat.  They have been growing there for millennia. They are not out-of-place on those craggy slopes. They are certainly out-of-place and unwelcomed on gentle slopes and level fields.

Media-savvy environmentalists, when they try to appeal to the public, use a few basic images. One is of cute, cuddly animals. They refer to them as "critters" in their press releases and staged events. One witty observer called their poster animals, the "charismatic megafauna". Another icon is "old growth". It is a powerful and evocative image for a society surrounded by the ephemeral and the disposable.

Wilderness was the catchword of the seventies. Old growth took its place in the nineties. Global warming and climate change are the latest crusades of the so-called progressives and the self-appointed environmentalist nomenklatura. They and their useful idiots in academia and the media are so concerned about a weak "greenhouse gas" found at about 400 parts per million in our atmosphere (CO2). They conveniently disregard a more potent "greenhouse gas" found at about 10,000 parts per million in the earth's atmosphere (H2O - water vapor). 

The manipulated masses, and especially children in government schools, have come to believe that preserving some acres of old growth here and a hillside of old growth there will actually make a difference.

With the over-used and malleable tool that is the Endangered Species Act, the environmentalist's agenda of protecting ecosystems from any development (and not having to personally pay to set aside such lands) has gained much territory as well as ill will. The case of the Northern Spotted Owl is illustrative. A creative taxonomist, saw within the Spotted Owl, a species known to range from British Columbia to Baja California, a brand new subspecies. He named it the "Northern Spotted Owl" and conveniently limited its range to the old growth forests of gigantic Douglas Firs of the Pacific Northwest. 

That designation and subsequent listing of the bird as an endangered species caused severe economic dislocations. Scientists now know the bird is not that choosy in its habitat requirements. It is regularly seen in forests logged and re-planted in the last century. The scientific fraud of identifying a new subspecies and claiming it had a restricted range is still causing problems.

Closer to home, environmentalists have claimed a bird which spends only five months of the year in Texas, and seven months in Mexico and Central America, is endangered and is, it seems, restricted to Juniper/Oak woodland old growth. Ornithologists have stated the bird, to build its nests, must have, "exceedingly old juniper trees", to obtain, "long strips of Ashe Juniper bark."

In Warren M. Pulich's 172-page study of the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, we learn that 78.91 % of a nest, by weight, is strips of cedar bark. But, 24.49 % is strips 0.79 to 1.18 inches long, 29.93 % is strips 1.18 to 3.15 inches long, 18.37 % is strips 3.15 to 4.33 inches long and the remaining 6.12 % is strips 3.94 or more inches long. 

Strips of such "great length" can be found even on very young junipers. In fact, in the Recovery Plan for the bird, which represents the official position of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we read that, "Female warblers have been observed obtaining bark strips for nest building from Ashe Junipers with diameters at breast height as small as 7.5 cm", that is only 2.95 inches!

Is a three-inch-caliper tree worth being called "old growth"?

Facts do not support the contention that old growth junipers are a prime habitat requirement of that migratory songbird. Yet, voodoo science is being used to limit what men may do with their plants on their private property. It is a low point in the saga of plants and man.
Please read the Constitution for the united States of America and find where Congress is authorized to craft an "Endangered Species Act" or any other environmental legislation where there is no connection to interstate commerce. To continue this exercise in futility, look for any language which extends federal jurisdiction beyond the District of Columbia, federal territories, forts, dock-yards, arsenals, places purchased by the consent of the legislature, etc.

The misinterpretation of the Commerce Clause is at the root of much of this congressional creativity.


The botanical images on this site were produced by The Photon Hunt.

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Copyright at Common Law by Manuel Flores