Enough With the ‘War on Weeds,’ Already!


Just about every popular article talking about invasive species management uses the same tiresome clichés of wars and battles. It was cute once, but it has gotten old.

Worse still, these clichés are now threatening to bite us in the bum.

OK, I admit that I used the lame War on Weeds terminology myself; it was early in my career in invasive species management, and I thought I was being cleverly ironic. I even used to refer to my boss as a Weed Czar, and myself as a Czardine. Har! Har har!

But what happened to the great War on Drugs, War on Crime, War on Terror, etc.? They did not end up being the best icons for success, did they?

But worse than this — way worse — is that the wartime terminology is dosed with hostility and xenophobia.

We declare war on tamarisk and battle against zebra mussel. And as a result of this charged language, we are starting to lose the support from important constituents who could be allies. We risk marginalizing the very real impacts of invasive species as merely hysterical fears of xenophobic extremists or genetic purists.

I have better things to do than to defend myself from charges that I’m acting like a Nazi!

Conservationists do not demonize greenhouse gases or vilify fire suppression. So we need to lay off on the heinous invasive species talk, too.

(Image: Invasive crayfish species found in the Potomac River. Credit: Mark Godfrey/TNC.)

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. This blog posting reminds me of a story I heard (can’t vouch for its accuracy) about ten years ago. Here it is:

    The National Park Service (NPS) manages an area called the “Presidio” (a former military installation) in San Francisco. The NPS was interested in re-establishing some of the native plant communities in this area. One of the places the NPS wanted to do this was (and perhaps still is) a grove of mature Eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus trees are non-native and are considered by many to be ecologically disruptive. So the NPS proposed to remove the trees and replace with native vegetation. As one might guess, some concern was expressed by citizens who liked the trees and did not want to see them cut down. So the Park Service felt the need to “turn up the rhetoric” and use more hateful terms (like calling the trees “aliens”) to demonize the eucalypts in an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of its proposed management decision. In response, a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, who was of Asian heritage, voiced his outrage at this harsh language, saying “that’s what you [white people] called my grandparents”.

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