Officials in the Pacific Northwest today announced the final clear-cutting of the Seattle National Weed Refuge. Naturalists and botanists reacted with sadness and criticized what one called “the end of a major national resource.”
Though it is a private facility, the SNWR’s end follows on the heels of several Federal policy decisions that have also angered environmentalists, most recently approval for drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Seattle operators refused to comment on future plans for the territory, but geologists have stated that there is no likelihood of finding oil there.
Robert Plant, of the University of Washington’s Botanical Sciences department, decried the destruction of the facility. “It’s the loss of an important resource of genetic material, and a blow to science. They must have had fifty different species of dandelions, and the crabgrasses? Incomparable.” Other scientists also spoke of the biodiversity in the refuge.
Established shortly after the millennium, the weed refuge developed great value since September 11. Several scientists were using the facility to study the possible ecological development of suburban areas following a mass evacuation, such as in the wake of a bioterrorism attack, or due to global warming. “It was a perfect laboratory,” said Jim Sung Ouid, of the University of California, Davis. “It was almost like a normal lawn that no one had attended to for years.”
Municipal officials in Seattle were not sorry to see the action. “It’ll save us work”, said one official, referring to a possible citation of the refuge under the city’s public nuisance ordinance. The reaction of neighbors was mixed. “Weed refuge? I thought that place was a crack house,” said one. “Damn, I guess I’d better cut my grass now,” said another. “At least that annoying buzzing is over,” said a third, referring to the sound of the high-speed string cutters used to shave the property.
Owners of the former weed refuge have been silent about future plans for the site. Some observers have suggested they may attempt to grow a conventional lawn there, though the huge cost and effort involved in such a move leaves many skeptical. Local property owners and naturalists will continue to watch for future developments.