Misguided political priorities

New Hanover County, North Carolina has the usual “challenges” created or enabled largely by our political class: overspending, incurred debt, failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and urban gang violence. So, how is one of our State representatives spending legislative time in Raleigh? Would you believe, criminalizing the theft of an obscure plant that grows in this part of the state, but is rarely seen by most people—certainly not on anyone’s list of important issues.

Well, not exactly. Environmentalists and state bureaucrats with no useful work to do want to “provide some protection to flytraps in our area.” The Wilmington StarNews devotes a front page story to this pressing social issue (“advocates have urged state officials to increase protection for the species”). (link)

Press hype in the spring of 2013 over the theft of 1,000 plants in a Wilmington park (how did they get that count?) contributed to this being a vastly overblown issue. People harvest the plants to sell them. Their value is only as a novelty—buyers want to observe the unusual function of this predator plant, up close and personal.

But, alas, the infamous Venus flytrap has been elevated to untouchable wild status in the expanding environmental religion of sacramentalism—necessary for salvation.
(Yet, animal “rights” activists should demand capital punishment for this killer plant; the flytrap invites hapless insects into its open maw with enticing scent, then closes on the unsuspecting animal and slowly digests it in a cruel and unusual death.)

N. C. State Rep. Ted Davis Jr. plans to sponsor a bill in the General Assembly that will make the taking of a plant—or even a seed from a plant—a “Class H felony.” I don’t know what that means in the law, but Davis, a lawyer, has apparently decided this will bring an appropriately harsh penalty to deter those plant-criminal types who dare to dig up one of the precious plants, or gather its seed—but only in New Hanover County (I wonder what his position is on the human “death penalty” for convicted killers). Although the plant grows in a dozen counties in the State, Davis knows his bill wouldn’t get statewide support. It seems obvious why.

We don’t learn what prompted Davis to take on this legislative imperative, but he “worked with the N. C. Coastal Land Trust on the bill,” according to the StarNews story. These people in cahoots with several state agencies likely put pressure on Davis to assist their anti-development agenda.

David Welch, with the State’s Plant Conservation Program (North Carolina also has a Plant Conservation Scientific Committee and a Plant Conservation Board), believes that land development is the biggest factor (maybe Davis would want to sponsor legislation to criminalize developers). Furthermore, the plants can’t tolerate competition from other vegetation; burning landscapes removes competing plants, but burning is banned in many places for obvious reasons. Poaching is probably a minor reason why the flytraps seem to be losing ground.

This is a sad example of why citizens have become increasingly cynical and suspicious that many of our elected officials don’t really represent our primary interests—they display disconnect from us. Rather than concentrating on the high priorities of our faltering economy and the breakdown of our culture—vital issues that affect all of us—, Rep. Davis spends valuable time on frivolous projects that are of interest only to very few of his lobbying constituents.

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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