To The Editor:

Our nation is no stranger to natural disasters. The Dust Bowl, which was the exclamation point that punctuated almost a century of catastrophic soil loss in this country, was, until now, our most devastating natural resource calamity. Over 75 years of concerted efforts between the Knox County Soil and Water Conservation District and landowners, coupled with nature’s own regenerative capacity, has done much to heal those wounds, although much work remains to be done to control erosion and fully realize the benefits of comprehensive soil health on every acre of land.

We are currently in the midst of a much more sinister and potentially devastating natural disaster in the form of invasive species. The irony is that the very qualities that makes nature so miraculously resilient are what enables invasive plants to have such a horribly malignant impact on our native ecosystems. The damage caused by invasive species can only get worse if not addressed. These pests have been introduced either intentionally or through neglect and only human intervention can turn the tide. Even at this relatively early state of proliferation, treatment of the most severe infestations requires nothing short of multi-year reclamation projects that are extremely costly.

In all my years working in natural resources stewardship, I have always found satisfaction in the knowledge that things were being left in better condition than they had been found. Such a philosophy should be a core value of any functional society. Tragically, with the advent of invasive species, I can honestly say that future generations will inherit a landscape that will be greatly diminished in terms of forest productivity and overall biodiversity unless behaviors change drastically.

With the observance of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Feb. 24 through March 2, the people of Knox County can be thankful for the vision of our local elected officials and other concerned citizens that has allowed us to become leaders statewide in beginning to recognize and address the threat of invasive species. Each of us owe it to future generations to join with the Knox County SWCD and the Knox County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) in doing our part to continue to raise awareness and support for this cause on the local, state and national levels. As a people, the only way we can come to terms with this problem is through the realization that we have no other alternative.

Chattin is the associate supervisor for the Knox County Soil and Water Conservation District and a member of the Knox County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area

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