Elimination of the South Beach rabbits would taint the park with a bitter memory
September 7, 2010 · 1:13 PM
Those of us who wish to see the South Beach rabbits stay are not suggesting that “cute” rabbits are more valuable than any other species. We are simply opposed to eradicating a beloved, living, breathing island phenomenon.
Science, like all things human, has a subjective element. If we’re going to talk science, let’s be scientific, and remove words like “scenic” and “gorgeous” and “beautiful.”
The term “pest” is also subjective. In Taiji, Japan, 25,000 dolphins are slaughtered a year in the name of “pest control.”
The value of prairie wildflowers at American Camp or Yellow Island is unquestioned. However, the ecosystem that preceded it, the dunes on the east side of Pickett's Lane at American Camp, is also valuable. This rare active dune system is maintained in part by the burrowing and nibbling of rabbits. It supports three indigenous wildflower species found nowhere else in the county. If the rabbits are destroyed, that system will have to be maintained some other way (at taxpayer expense) or it will disappear. Historical reconstructions of island environmental succession indicate that the dunes were here first; the prairies followed and the forests came after that. Valuing prairie over dunes is subjective. It is not science.
By overwhelming majority, islanders want the rabbits to stay. It is not just because they are “cute.” It is because killing or removing them is, simply, wrong and unnecessary. The NPS has generously allowed for public comment because they realize this issue is controversial.
The good news is that there is an obvious compromise. In our discussions with the park, we have learned that they have developed effective rabbit-proof fencing, installed inexpensively by the Conservation Corps, that could be built along the east side of Pickett’s Lane, preserving the rabbit dunes and its indigenous plants, the redoubt, Island Marble butterfly habitat and possibly future prairie on the west side of the road.
American Camp, as Megan Dethier said, is a treasure, to be enjoyed by all. The elimination of the beloved South Beach rabbits would taint the park with a bitter memory impossible to eradicate for generations to come.
Rebecca and Bryn Barnard
San Juan Island