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Refugees without fear

A guest reading from David Warnick, who is a minister at Coeur d'Alene and a third-generation Idahoan.

Fear is a funny thing.

No one in my neighborhood would feel any fear if I walk past. I look like what I am – a middle-aged (well, maybe older) conservative white guy. But I’m afraid they might react to my houseguests.

Why?

Because my wife and I decided to take a couple from Syria and their 6-year-old special-needs son into our home while their host agency found them a place to live.

I was afraid of my neighbors’ reactions, so I walked the family to the park with trepidation. I didn’t mention the situation to many people at my workplace.

Yet five minutes with this family would eliminate any possibility of fear. The husband doesn’t speak much English, but even in his first night in our home, he proclaimed with a big smile and an expansive gesture, “I love America.”

His wife taught children English in Syria. But she adds, “I forgot it all during the three years of darkness.”

I’m not sure if she means the first three years of their son’s life as they discovered his diagnosis of autism, or the past three years, which they spent in Cairo after fleeing Syria. They lived in one room on the roof of a six-floor walk-up apartment building – one room without any windows.

When we would hit a communication roadblock, Google Translate was wonderful. There were limitations – the husband was trying to explain they wanted a dimmer lamp. Google Translate said “bulb monastery”!

Early on they offered me some of their coffee. I tried to explain I don’t drink coffee because of my Mormon father’s influence. At first, they thought “Mormon” was a coffee ingredient I was allergic to! Once clarified, they could tell me Mitt Romney was Mormon.

And their son? He speaks only a couple of words of Arabic, when he’s calm. If he gets overstimulated, he makes only noises. I was constantly on guard at the park, where he loves to swing, because I knew he would not understand if someone were to shout at him.

He loves to caress his father’s hair. He started doing the same to me, to show affection, so I went along like a good sport. We were able to arrange a couple of meetings with other immigrants from the area. I haven’t gotten comfortable with the male practice of giving each other a kiss on each cheek. But I could handle kisses from their son.

My Swedish ancestors were persecuted when they arrived because they followed a religion – Mormonism – that was poorly understood. Fortunately, enough people helped them along the way so that part of the family survived cholera and made it to Utah.

I pray there are enough people to welcome our guests so they can find the new life they’re longing to give their boy.

I guess love is a funny thing, too. What else would allow us to overcome fear?

A title rejection

From Dan Meek of the Oregon Independent Party, on May 25:

In a stunning display of democracy suppression, this afternoon the Secretary of State of Oregon refused to issue a ballot title for Initiative Petition 77 for 2016, which would amend the Oregon Constitution to allow limits on political campaign contributions and expenditures and allow laws requiring disclosure of the true sources and amounts of such contributions or expenditures in the communications they fund.

The Secretary of State claims that the Initiative would constitute more than one "closely related" amendment to the Oregon Constitution.

"When a similar contention was made against Measure 46 (2006), the Oregon Supreme Court rejected it in Meyer v. Bradbury (2006)," noted attorney Dan Meek. "This decision now requires the chief petitioners of Initiative Petition engage in costly litigation to defend the right of the people to amend their own Constitution to achieve campaign finance reform."

The 3 Chief Petitioners are officials in three of Oregon's political parties. Seth Woolley, Executive Director of the Pacific Green Party's Portland chapter, stated:
"This rejection doesn't pass the smell test, as single subject issues were already adjudicated in 2006. The AG purports to believe the same decision wouldn't be made and so pro-democracy reforms shouldn't get a vote. It's absurdly undemocratic that an unaccountable opinion by a bureaucrat paid by an elected official can derail attempts to hold our elected officials accountable to the public with such clearly nonsense opinions."

Liz Trojan, member of the Oregon Progressive Party's State Council, added: "Initiative Petition 77 is a very simple constitutional ballot proposal to do two things: 1) allow for campaign contribution limits, 2) allow laws requiring disclosure of campaign contributions. The SoS and Attorney General have deemed that these two items are somehow not related. I am a citizen of Oregon and not an attorney, but to my simple understanding of Article XVII of the Oregon Constitution these two items are clearly related. It is profoundly disappointing that this is being turned into a political football. All we are seeking to do is what at least 44 other states have done."

Robert Harris of the State Caucus of the Independent Party of Oregon stated: "I am resigned to the fact that the Oregon political establishment and particularly its major donors are opposed to any campaign reforms, including something as simple and obvious as informing voters who is paying for the ads."
The Chief Petitioners and other supporters of badly needed campaign finance reform in Oregon will have further comment tomorrow.

Here is the full text of Initiative Petition 77 (2016):
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Oregon, there is added an Article II, Section 25, of the Constitution of Oregon:

Oregon laws consistent with the freedom of speech guarantee of the United States Constitution may:
(1) limit contributions and expenditures (including transfers of money or resources) to influence the outcome of any election; and
(2) require disclosure of the true sources and amounts of such contributions or expenditures (a) to the public and (b) in the communications they fund.

The Secretary of State has not posted her rejection letter in the Initiative Log at http://egov.sos.state.or.us/elec/web_irr_search.main_search or elsewhere. We posted it at http://cfr.progparty.net

Index isn’t a conservative standard

A guest opinion by Richard Larsen, president of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at rlarsenen@cableone.net.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) would have us believe that their “Freedom Index” is the benchmark by which conservative legislators should be judged. In reality, it is of marginal use in identifying fealty to conservative values, and is being used as a bully tactic against select legislators whom the Foundation has targeted as dispensable.

The foundational principles for conservatives are those articulated in our founding documents. Primary among these are the classical-liberal, inalienable rights of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” or property. To accurately gauge or measure the conviction of legislators to our ideological roots, some means of quantifying and indexing votes against this tripartite value system would need to be created. To my knowledge, there is no such system. Indeed, any kind of objective methodology behind such an index would likely be impossible to create and measure.

In spite of their impressive list of items considered in their “Freedom Index Rating Matrix,” every rating boils down to one factor; does a bill expand or constrict the growth of government. Indeed, in an online discussion with Wayne Hoffman, the President of the IFF, Hoffman conceded, “The Freedom Index measures growth of government.” This is wholly inadequate as the foundation for what is peddled as the ultimate statewide canon for measuring conservative orthodoxy.

Here is where the heretofore broadly applied “conservative” appellation for the index collapses. I have yet to find "measure growth of government" or even "growth of government" as a founding principle of the nation or for conservatives. No evidence of it in the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution.

Granted, as a general rule, when government expands, individual liberty is impeded and infringed upon. But expansion, or non-expansion, of government, is not the only definer of liberty. Nor is it the barometer to measure conviction to all of our founding principles. If that were the case, all conservatives would be anarchists, for they prefer no government. And since the Index only measures "growth of government," by that definition, absence of government, anarchism, would be the ideal. If "life, liberty, and property, are the core principles of conservatism (classical-liberalism) the Index is NOT a canon for conservative orthodoxy.

One simple example can illustrate the deficiency of the “expansion of government” basis for measuring conservatism. Based on that model, a statute that limits abortions would of necessity, be classified as an expansion of governmental power, and a restriction of personal liberty. But to conservatives who are constitutionally oriented, life, and the protection and preservation thereof, as a core value, is preeminent to concerns over expansion of government to protect life. Especially life that is most innocent and vulnerable to the political machinations of a predominately immoral society.

Here’s another simple example from the 2016 legislative docket. H0331 was a bill that sought to regulate the possession, sale, purchase and use of powdered alcohol. The IFF had this bill rated a -2. It seems inconceivable to me that a decision to protect children, and prevent abuse of powdered alcohol by underage kids dumping it into their Pepsi, could be classified by anyone as an ideological issue. Such a preposterous methodology plays directly into the hands of the left who think that “for the children” is their exclusive domain.

We see time and time again through the entire list of bills rated by the IFF where, based on their matrix, “expansion of government” assumes superiority over all other conservative core values. In short, just because a legislator voted against the Index preferences doesn’t mean they’re a “liberal.” It most likely means other core values were at play. Such prioritization of values, as subjective as it can be for individual legislators, is, I believe, impossible to quantify on a measurable index, and is clearly ignored with the “Freedom Index.”

Other firms take an approach based on more broad-based core conservative values, not just “growth of government.” For example, the American Conservative Union (ACU) rates Idaho legislators on a much more broad matrix. As explained by the Chairman, Matt Schlapp, “The Idaho legislators with the strongest scores voted most consistently with the ideals articulated in the US Constitution: limited and transparent government, individual rights, personal responsibility, and a healthy culture.”

But even their index is imperfect, as it only rates a dozen bills for the House and Senate respectively. But their results seem more substantively viable as many of those Republican legislators who were graded “D” and “F” by the Idaho Freedom Foundation Index, were scored “A” and “B” with the ACU.

As much as the IFF would like to tout their Index as the standard by which conservative orthodoxy is legislatively defined, it simply is not. Government growth is only one component, and only one aspect of governance. To place it in a position of preeminence over all other core values only diminishes what it means to be a conservative, based on our classical-liberal founding principles.

And to further illustrate the absurdity of their methodology, any spending increase would have to be considered an expansion of government. In other words, technically, any increase in spending for education, for healthcare, for law enforcement, for infrastructure improvement or expansion, or the mentally ill, would have to be considered an “expansion of government.” What an irresponsible way to govern that would be! No wonder the IFF intentionally doesn’t rate appropriation bills, since it would unmask their libertarian/anarchist agenda as quantified by their illegitimate Index!

Ronald Reagan’s insights provide the proper conservative perspective toward governance. He said, “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work--work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it." That’s clearly at odds with the objectives of the IFF and their Index.

Gratefully, and to the Freedom Foundation’s credit, they seem to acknowledge their indices’ limitations. Their website contains the disclaimer, “The Idaho Freedom Index is not intended to serve as either an express or an implied endorsement or rejection of any candidate for public office. Idaho Freedom Foundation recognizes that there are inherent limitations in judging the qualifications of any legislator on the basis of a selected number of votes, and legislative activities such as performance on committees and constituent services are not reflected in the scores of the Idaho Freedom Index.” Yet still they use it to bully, intimidate, and harass, in spite of their acknowledged deficiencies.

Clearly, the Idaho Freedom Index is not a measurement of how “conservative” legislators are, as it only measures “growth of government.” If that’s all that matters, their index is of value. Otherwise, it’s merely another quantitatively challenged and disingenuous tool with which to browbeat and intimidate legislators. Gratefully, most Idaho legislators have higher values, and don’t kowtow to their rankings.

Forever contamination

A submitted reading, from Tami Thatcher, about Earth Day and cleanup at the Idaho National Laboratory.

On Earth Day, it is fitting to understand the “forever” contamination sites the Idaho National Laboratory’s cleanup is leaving behind. Ignoring the spent nuclear fuel and calcine that will supposedly be shipped out of state some day, there are roughly 55 “forever” radioactively contaminated sites of various sizes, and about 30 “forever” asbestos, mercury or military ordnance sites.

The areas contaminated with long-lived radioisotopes that are not being cleaned up will require institutional controls in order to claim that the “remediation” is protective of human health. People must be prevented from coming into contact with subsurface soil or drinking water near some of these sites — forever.

The Department of Energy downplays the mess and usually doesn’t specify how long the controls are required when the time frame is over thousands of years: they just say “indefinite.”

A summary of the INL “forever” sites here.

Institutional control of “forever” contamination means they put up a sign, maybe a fence or a soil cap — and assume it will be maintained for millennia. “Don’t worry about the cost. And besides,” they always add, “you and I won’t be here.”

Frequently cited stringent EPA standards such as 4 mrem/yr in drinking water are emphasized. But cleanup efforts often won’t come close to achieving the advertised standards.

DOE argued against digging up meaningful amounts of transuranic and other long-lived radioactive waste at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex. Only the most egregious chemically-laden buried waste is being removed. Denying that exorbitant cost to dig up waste and lack of another place to put it may have played a role, DOE argued that the incremental risk to a worker was too high given the small incremental benefit to a member of the public.

The analysis of the “worker” didn’t come down to concern over radiation workers monitored under DOE programs — which they argued were by definition protective. They argued that a state worker inspecting radioactive shipments would get an excessive radiation dose if working 30 years at the job, unmonitored for radiation. Then the benefit to the public was minimized by ignoring post-10,000 year contamination. Despite “remediation” radionuclides trickle into the aquifer at RWMC over the next millennia creating 30 to 100 mrem/yr doses, depending on the soil cap.

Cleanup decisions need to protect workers and the public. But studies continue to find that US radiation protection standards aren’t protective for either. A study of a large population of radiation workers getting an average 200 mrem/yr found elevated cancer risk. Find that study here. A prominent National Academy of Sciences study called the BEIR-VII report found radiation health risk for women double that of men, and female infants seven times more vulnerable than adult men.

Past and current decisions are based on ignoring the health risk to the most vulnerable. Current industry pressure is on loosening radiation standards to allow more emissions and to make waste burial easier.

Technical estimates of the rate of radionuclide migration to Idaho’s Snake River Plain Aquifer from the Idaho National Laboratory are biased to minimize the migration in the short term, avoid discussing the migration of contaminants in the long term and to ignore the spikes of contaminant migration during times of higher water infiltration. Experts have not been right very often about predicting contamination migration over the last several decades, they continue to be surprised by contamination migration now and in no way are their estimates of future contamination reliable or conservative. Naturally, the INL is planning to dump more radioactive waste over the aquifer.

What folks downstream of the INL from Rupert to Hagerman don’t understand about the aquifer — is a lot. And if they continue to rely on the nuclear boosters for information they will continue to be misinformed.

If the Department of Energy has its way, maybe all we will need is big sign placed on planet Earth, readable to potential visitors orbiting in space: “High radiation, don’t linger here and don’t drink the water.”

Thatcher is a former nuclear safety analyst at the Idaho National Laboratory and is now a nuclear safety consultant. Find out more at www.environmental-defense-institute.org.

Merkley’s endorsement

Top-rank Northwest politicians often this year have been slow to endorse candidates for president. In Oregon, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden endorsed Hillary Clinton a couple of months ago. Today, his seatmate, Jeff Merkley, endorsed Bernie Sanders. He is the first of Sanders' fellow senators to endorse him. From his statement:

NO decision we make as Americans more dramatically affects the direction of our country than our choice for president. He or she is more than the manager of the executive branch, commander in chief or appointer of judges. The president reflects, but also helps define, our national values, priorities and direction.

After considering the biggest challenges facing our nation and the future I want for my children and our country, I have decided to become the first member of the Senate to support my colleague Bernie Sanders for president.

I grew up in working-class Oregon. On a single income, my parents could buy a home, take a vacation and help pay for college. My father worked with his hands as a millwright and built a middle-class life for us.

My parents believed in education and they believed in the United States. When I was young, my father took me to the grade school and told me that if I went through those doors, and worked hard, I could do just about anything because we lived in America. My dad was right.

Years later, my family and I still live in the same working-class community I grew up in. But America has gone off track, and the outlook for the kids growing up there is a lot gloomier today than 40 years ago.

Many middle-class Americans are working longer for less income than decades ago, even while big-ticket expenses like housing, health care and college have relentlessly pushed higher.

It is not that America is less wealthy than 40 years ago — quite the contrary. The problem is that our economy, both by accident and design, has become rigged to make a fortunate few very well off while leaving most Americans struggling to keep up.

And as economic power has become more concentrated, so too has political power. Special interests, aided by their political and judicial allies, have exercised an ever-tighter grip on our political system, from the rise of unlimited, secret campaign spending to a voter suppression movement.

Under President Obama’s leadership, our country is fairer and more prosperous for all than it was seven years ago. But as we look toward the next administration, there is far more work to do. We need urgency. We need big ideas. We need to rethink the status quo.

Unlike the Republican primary circus, Democrats have a choice between two candidates with lifelong track records of fighting for economic opportunity and who are committed to America’s being a force for peace and stability and who are eager to meet today’s challenges and move our country forward for all its citizens, together.

From her time advocating for children as a young lawyer to her work as first lady of Arkansas and the United States, and as a senator and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has a remarkable record. She would be a strong and capable president.

But Bernie Sanders is boldly and fiercely addressing the biggest challenges facing our country.

He has opposed trade deals with nations that pay their workers as little as a dollar an hour. Such deals have caused good jobs to move overseas and undermined the leverage of American workers to bargain for a fair share of the wealth they create in our remaining factories.

He has passionately advocated for pivoting from fossil fuels to renewable energy to save our planet from global warming — the greatest threat facing humanity. He recognizes that to accomplish this we must keep the vast bulk of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground.

Bernie is a determined leader in taking on the concentration of campaign cash from the mega-wealthy that is corrupting the vision of opportunity embedded in our Constitution.

And he has been unflinching in taking on predatory lending, as well as the threats to our economy from high-risk strategies at our biggest banks.

It has been noted that Bernie has an uphill battle ahead of him to win the Democratic nomination. But his leadership on these issues and his willingness to fearlessly stand up to the powers that be have galvanized a grass-roots movement. People know that we don’t just need better policies, we need a wholesale rethinking of how our economy and our politics work, and for whom they work.

The first three words of the Constitution, in bold script, are “We the People.” The American story is a journey of continuous striving to more fully realize our founding principles of hope and opportunity for all.

It is time to recommit ourselves to that vision of a country that measures our nation’s success not at the boardroom table, but at kitchen tables across America. Bernie Sanders stands for that America, and so I stand with Bernie Sanders for president.

Reading: prison mentors

A guest opinion by Idaho Department of Correction Director Kevin H. Kempf about the department’s new Community Mentor program.

I recently came across a statistic that says a lot about the people of Idaho. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Idahoans volunteer at a higher rate than just about anywhere else. In fact, we’re second on the list of 50 states, just behind Utah, for the number of citizens who donate their time to help others.

At the Idaho Department of Correction, we depend on volunteers. More than 1,100 of them work in our correctional facilities. In addition to conducting religious services, volunteers teach inmates practical life skills like how to get a job, stick to a budget and be better parents.

However, we don’t have those same connections in our Probation and Parole side of the house. Frankly, that’s been our fault. Even back when I was probation and parole officer we didn’t truly understand how much these volunteers and community organizations could help.

That doesn’t make sense. Not only are these volunteers willing and capable but many of them also represent organizations that already have just the kind of resources offenders need to transition from prison back to society -- things like food and clothing, even housing and jobs. Our probation and parole officers are some of the best in the country, but could even be made stronger with having the offender connected to the community.

We need to think differently. So the Idaho Department of Correction is launching an innovative program aimed at recruiting a select few from Idaho’s army of volunteers to mentor offenders.

IDOC’s Community Mentor program will match volunteers with offenders while they’re still in prison. From the day the offender walks out the prison gate, their mentor will be there to guide them as they take on challenges like searching for employment and housing.

But it takes more than a job and an apartment to become a law-abiding citizen. So along the way, the mentor will help the offender grow roots in the community by connecting them with activities involving the offender’s faith, their family and their positive avocations.

The Community Mentor program is not for everyone. The mentors will be carefully screened, trained and supervised. Former probationers and parolees, with track records of clean, successful living, will be welcome to apply. We need to take advantage of their experience and wisdom.

We often look to government for solutions. But I believe that community and faith-based groups have much to offer when it comes to changing hearts and turning around lives -- especially here in Idaho where the volunteer spirit remains strong.

To learn more about IDOC’s Community Mentor program and apply to serve as a mentor, visit the Volunteer Services section of the department’s website at idoc.idaho.gov.

Costly nuclear

A guest opinion about the rising cost of nuclear power, by Tami Thatcher, a former nuclear safety analysis at Idaho National Laboratory and a nuclear safety consultant.

From brilliant nuclear scientists there is an endless variety of proposed reactor designs from various small modular reactors, fast neutron reactors, molten salt reactors, to thorium reactors.

But from advanced light-water reactors to fast reactors, the construction prices never seem to come down.

From the Argonne National Laboratory – West, now part of the Idaho National Laboratory, came the sodium-cooled fast EBR-II reactor. Advancement of its design by GE-Hitachi has yet to be built commercially.

Fast reactor economic disappointments range from the We Almost Lost Detroit Fermi I reactor, whose license to construct was denied by the reactor safety committee but overridden by the chairman in 1957 and suffered a partial meltdown before ever reaching full power — to Japan’s costly problem-plagued Monju reactor — to France’s Superphenix, at $9 billion, 6 times the original construction estimate. It generated electricity only an average 6 percent of the time.

NRC licensing processes are costly, but bypassing thorough licensing reviews can also be costly. An existing design was changed during steam generator replacement at San Onofre, and despite modern computer codes and engineering wizardry, the change allowed the tubes to vibrate excessively causing tube cracking and failure very soon after being installed. The utility tried to argue safety was not compromised.

Burning plutonium in fast reactors could shuffle the spent nuclear fuel problem a bit, but according to the Blue Ribbon Commission report from 2012, it doesn’t solve the problem. It does not alleviate the need for long term disposal in a geologic repository.

Plutonium-blended Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel can be burned in conventional reactors, but the Department of Energy’s South Carolina project can’t even give its MOX fuel away. The MOX plant is so over budget that a panel has recommended just burying the excess plutonium at the struggling to re-open Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. But pork keeps rolling to the fizzling MOX project.

Last year the NRC cancelled funding of what would have been the first meaningful epidemiology study of health near US nuclear facilities. They claimed it would cost too much (at $8 million) and take too long.

The US NRC prefers reliance on the 1980s epidemiology study that mixed children and adults and populations near and far from nuclear plants and predictably found no harm. The NRC actively ignores the irrefutable studies from Germany that found increased cancer and leukemia rates of children living near each of the plants.

What are a few children’s lives compared to the health of the nuclear industry anyway?

While accident risks threaten the public’s health and economic future, and seven decades of unsolved and politically untenable nuclear waste issues continue, it is largely construction cost overruns for new US plants as well as internationally that have further dampened enthusiasm for nuclear energy.

Construction costs do not include the decommissioning and waste disposal costs, the cost of repairs, or the cost of early reactor retirement.

French taxpayers on paying billions for state-backed company AREVA’s cost overruns on its fixed price promise to construct a reactor in Finland. Construction costs are three times the original estimate and 9 years behind schedule.

Who pays for construction cost overruns depends on the contract between the builder and the utility.

The NuScale small modular reactor, if built at the INL, may be obsolete before it is finished. And it doesn’t solve spent nuclear fuel disposal issues.

With closed meetings being conducted by Idaho energy planners, will the citizens who are the captive ratepayers and taxpayers and also bear the consequences of an accident be able to discuss lower cost, infinitely safer low carbon alternatives?

Reading: incoming exotics

An Oregon Department of Agriculture article on the 88 new exotic terrestrial invertebrates that have come to Oregon in the last nine years.

Playing the craps table in Las Vegas or buying a lottery ticket for a chance at more than a billion dollars doesn’t seem as risky as gambling that the high number of new, exotic insects, slugs, and other terrestrial invertebrates discovered in Oregon the past nine years are harmless.

“It’s a crap shoot and we are gambling every year,” says Jim LaBonte, an entomologist with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “The vast majority of species we have found are believed to be relatively harmless. In some cases, a few species have actually proved to be beneficial. But a certain percentage are seriously bad and can do damage. It comes out to be one out of every seven. Every year that we roll the dice, there is a strong likelihood we will come up with a significant or major pest.”

LaBonte has been tracking all known new exotic species of terrestrial invertebrates detected and established in Oregon since 2007. There have been 88 of them, some new to North America. Out of roughly 25,000 insects, mites, slugs, and other related spineless species currently in the state, he estimates that about 1,000 are exotic. The number may also just be a tip of the iceberg.

“There has been a huge influx of species and limited resources to detect and deal with them,” says LaBonte. “This is a vast tsunami that is probably only going to get bigger.”

Exotic species are not necessarily invasive species. Exotics originated somewhere other than Oregon. Invasives cause damage of varying degrees. Of the 88 that have made Oregon their home the past eight years, 13 are known invasive species.

LaBonte has two good examples of bad actors.

“The spotted wing drosophila has had a huge impact on Oregon’s fruit industry and another recent newcomer– the azalea lace bug– is causing a lot of damage to azaleas and rhododendrons.”

Even though ODA has a contingent of experienced experts who can identify these species when they are discovered, it isn’t easy to keep tabs on so many invertebrates. Some sneak in undetected. For many species, there are no traps or lures. Sometimes the only way to find them is to literally turn over a rock. That’s why several of the exotics may be legacy species that have been present in Oregon for decades or longer with nobody recognizing them until the past few years.

Spread over the nine years, the average number of new species established in Oregon comes out to nearly 10 per year. Last year was a banner year, in a negative way, as 20 new exotic terrestrial invertebrate species were found in the state for the first time. The 20 new species are nearly twice as many as the previous two years combined. The reason for the increase is a combination of factors, not the least of which is that ODA is out there looking for insect pests in general. Surveys for specific, known pests included traps that were able to capture some previously undetected species.

The list of known major pests included in the detections since 2007 contain some names well-known to agricultural industries and others–barred fruit-tree tortrix, cabbage whitefly, ash whitefly, rose stem girdler, hemp russet mite, and garden slug. Some were found because of ODA’s survey work, others were samples submitted to the agency’s Insect Pest Prevention and Management Program experts.

Where do the new exotic species come from? The answer may be surprising. Despite Oregon’s strong trade ties with Asia, nearly half of the 88 species detected since 2007 originated in Europe. Asia is responsible for 19 percent, another 19 percent came from other regions of the United States– dispelling the notion that exotic or invasive species all come from other countries.

The onslaught of new species may seem overwhelming. But for the “glass half full” crowd, at least it’s not as bad as it could be.

“We aren’t like California or Florida– both of whom have huge ports that can bring a major influx of exotic species through global trade,” says LaBonte. “On the other hand, Oregon is a popular place for people to move to and they sometimes unknowingly bring in some species. Gypsy moth and Japanese beetle are exotic pests established in other parts of the US that have been brought to Oregon by people who’ve moved here.”

LaBonte has a few targeted messages for Oregonians who would rather be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

“When you travel abroad or purchase items from other countries, be cautious. It’s easy to unwittingly bring in infested material. Suitcases are one of the primary modes of introduction to Oregon as many of these species are excellent hitchhikers. Also, be aware of damage in your vicinity. If you see something suspicious like trees dying that you wouldn’t expect or insects that seem unfamiliar, contact ODA.”

LaBonte will present the latest information on Oregon’s exotic terrestrial invertebrates at an international conference of entomologists meeting in Orlando, Florida later this year, hoping others recognize that Oregon is actively looking for new species, especially those that can cause harm. Interest in the topic at the conference is a reminder that every state and country has similar issues with exotic species crossing borders on a regular basis.

“The conference will hopefully give us an opportunity to collaborate and get better ideas on what to look out for, how to look for it, and what to do about some of these species that are Oregon-bound,” says LaBonte.

Surveillance will always be the first line of defense and ODA remains active in survey work. In 2015, more than 140 species were targeted, but LaBonte says that was a drop in the bucket as there are thousands of species out there that could cause problems. Nonetheless, LaBonte and his cohorts will not wave the white flag.

“We have detected species early on in the past, before they became permanently established, and we’ve been able to eradicate them. Just because the issue is daunting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tackle it.”

The challenges are significant, but when there are successes in keeping invasive species at bay, the effort is worthwhile. (photo, ash whitefly/Oregon Department of Agriculture)