Pat Powers and I appear to agree that Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan to convert the closely manicured turf of Hilger’s Gulch in Pierre to wildflowers and other native plants is a good idea. However, while I recognize the plan as good ecological and fiscal policy, Pierre native Powers reveals that his policy evaluation happens entirely through the persistent lens of sycophancy.
Governor Daugaard wants to convert Hilger’s Gulch to a more natural-looking park for good green reasons—and when we use “Daugaard” and “green” in the same sentence, we’re talking dollars:
“This is a planned transformation and it’s going to save us time and money,” Gov. Daugaard said. “On average the state has spent around $36,000 annually for irrigation and $23,000 annually for mowing, fertilizing and weed treatment. In dry years, the water bills have approached $50,000. We’re taking this project on as an effort to be better stewards of that money.”
For the project, the Governor selected vegetation that can thrive in the natural climate of central South Dakota. The new plant life is expected to save money over time because it will require less maintenance and will not necessitate the use of chemical herbicides [Office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard, press release, 2015.07.27].
The Governor’s press release secondarily mentions the aesthetic benefits of reseeding to wildflowers and hardier native plants. Perish the thought that our Republican Governor utter the words conservation or environmental benefits, but saving water is in itself a good conservationist action, and I noted a couple weeks before the announcement the environmental benefit of promoting pollinators. The plan is double green.
But the Governor’s plan appears to turn the crank the wrong way for some of his natural constituency, the country club crowd who think any green space should look like a golf course:
Bob Mercer reports that some Pierre residents apparently plan to turn out Monday night to raise a ruckus in Hilger’s Gulch for fifteen minutes in protest of the Governor’s green plan.
Pat Powers should hate this plan. The Governor is proposing change, and in the conservative world, change is bad. He’s acting by executive action, and in the GOP spin blog world, executive action is dictatorship. Local opponents say the shaggier flora could provide habitat for nasty critters, and Pat is scared to death of critters in town. And Bill Janklow turned Hilger’s Gulch into the Kentucky bluegrassy knoll it is today, and how dare anyone undo Bill Janklow’s holy work?
But no. Determined to defend the prerogative of his dear leader and blog sponsor, Powers contorts the Hilger’s Gulch issue into a curious defense of property rights:
But despite the falderal, it’s still the golf course owners’ property, and absence violating local ordinance, he should be allowed to maintain it as he will. The fact that it is government property, and all this maintenance is paid for by taxpayers should weigh far more heavily on the argument than the local property owners wanting their nice green view.
If we are going to open up the argument to the public, and have a public meeting in Pierre, where are the public meetings in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Aberdeen, etc. don’t those taxpayers deserve a say in the matter? Or is it only deserving of comment from those who want to maintain a nice green view? [Pat Powers, “Why I Can’t Get Excited over When the Governor Stops Wanting to Water Hilger’s Gulch,” Dakota War College, 2015.08.21]
Can you make sense of that? The government can do what it wishes with its property, and local wheels should stop squeaking for their grease? Pierre residents are selfish whiners and should submit to the will of the out-of-town majority?
What Powers is really saying is that he’s stuck between the anti-green, anti-government slogans that tickle his sponsors and a sound environmental conservation action taken by one of his sponsors that challenges that thoughtless sloganeering.
Here’s the simpler and more consistent narrative: a few decades ago, Governor Janklow screwed up by tearing up a natural area and created an artificial park that imposed ongoing cost on the taxpayers and the local environment. Governor Daugaard is undoing that error with eco-friendly landscaping practices endorsed by the EPA, demonstrating that conservation is good for the environment and the budget. The Hilger’s Gulch conversion is a model of stewardship that should encourage all South Dakotans to convert part of their lawns to native plants, which would save on maintenance costs (less mowing time!), run-off of fertilizers and other pollutants into the local watershed, and water usage.