THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT: AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
THAT DESERVES EXTINCTION
By Alan Caruba
This decision, handed down in late December, 2003, came around the same time that the State of New Jersey permitted, for the first time in three decades, a hunt to reduce its bear population, estimated to number up to 3,000. Bears! New Jersey is also home to an estimated 170,000 deer. An estimated federally protected 97,000 Canadian geese also find the Garden State a lovely habitat. I doubt that anyone knows how many opossums, raccoons, wild turkeys, and even coyotes share New Jersey with its human species. In short, New Jersey does not lack wildlife species of every description, but what it does lack is adequate housing for its growing population of 8,590,000 humans (as of 2002).
Naturally, the largest daily newspaper in the state headlined the story: “A legal victory for endangered species.” No, it was a legal defeat for every man, woman, and child living in New Jersey. It was, in fact, a legal victory for every environmental extremist group that has dedicated itself to destroying the foundation of our society and economy, private property rights. How important are private property rights? President John Adams said, “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God … (then) anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist.”
Private property was so important to the Founding Fathers that its protection was written into the Bill of Rights. No doubt, were he alive today, Adams would have been criticized for referring to God.
So, what does this have to do with “endangered species”? Everything! What the Endangered Species Act (ESA) does is transfer ownership or control of private property over to the government. I am indebted to Dr., Allyn McDowell, M.D., of San Diego, California, for sharing his research into the ESA with me. In a carefully researched 29-page analysis, Dr. McDowell notes that, “in 25 years, ESA has ‘saved’ few, if any, creatures at all, but has nevertheless grandly succeeded in placing under temporary or quasi-permanent government control some 25 million acres.” This is a land area equivalent of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut combined! When you add in the landmass of socalled government designated “wetlands”, it’s another 100 million acres, equivalent to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois combined! Land that is bone dry for 350 days a year can and has been designated a “wetland,” if a handful of migratory birds lands upon it after a single rainstorm.
It seems almost foolish to point out that, only under Communism, does land belong to or is controlled by the government. In effect, the ESA and wetlands legislation cedes control to the federal government. In the USA, the federal government owns in excess of forty percent of the landmass of this nation. In effect, it controls all of it through the powers granted under the ESA.
For example, 400,000 acres in southern California is protected for the California gnatcatcher, which Dr. McDowell notes “is not a species, but merely a hardly distinguishable variety of innumerable thousands of other gnatcatchers ranging throughout most of the western States and on into Mexico.” Likewise, the Spotted Owl is “only a subspecies of innumerable barred owls whose range extends through British Columbia, our Pacific Northwest, California, and into Texas, and even into Mexico.” This, of course, is of no help to the once thriving northwest communities that were turned into ghost towns or the millions in lost timber revenues that resulted from the hoax perpetrated in the name of “saving” the Spotted Owl.
Just recently, researchers at the Denver Museum of Nature and History determined that the Preble meadow jumping mouse is not a distinct species from other common mice and should not be protected by the ESA. Good science counts for nothing among those who use the ESA to extend their control over millions of acres said to be the habitat of such species, even when they are not a separate species. Wyoming Governor, Dave Freudenthal sent a 110-page petition to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to have this mouse removed from their list and the USFWS pretty much told him to take a leap. U.S. Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota urged them to drop consideration of prairie dogs for ESA protection, saying: “The notion that a prairie dog is threatened defies logic.” This isn’t about logic. It isn’t about science. It’s about property rights and who gets to call the shots on its ownership and use.
And therein lies the essential evil of the Endangered Species Act. It is based on a totally false assertion that species can or even should be saved. Worse, the law states that, in saving designated “endangered” species, no economic considerations will be allowed. A 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld this provision of the ESA. No matter the harm done to various economic enterprises from timber to ranching to farming to the building of homes, the “saving” of an endangered species takes precedence. What a wonderful formula for the destruction, piece of by piece, of our economy!
The abject failure of the ESA is a simple fact. Another fact is that 95% of all species that ever lived on the earth have gone extinct. Darwin was right. Indeed, the history of biological evolution is not one of equilibrium, but rather the result of every kind of natural calamity you can name. Does anyone really believe Nature is concerned for various species in the process of producing ice ages, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, or floods? In Iran, in late December, 2003, an estimated 20,000 humans lost their lives to an earthquake, as did untold numbers of wildlife from cockroaches to large mammals.
In November of last year, a senior official of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Craig Manson, had the courage to criticize the critical-habitat provision of the law. He said that such designations, which limit development, aren’t necessary for the perpetuation of many plants and animals. Manson oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for enforcing the ESA. He said the 30-year-old law is “broken” and should no longer be used to give endangered plants and animals priority over human needs.
Now, here’s something that will surprise you. Originally adopted in 1973, the ESA expired October 1, 1992! It continues only because Congress continues to fund it. There is not one single reason to fund a law that, during its lifetime, has “delisted” or removed from its “endangered” list only 25 species. Seven were removed due to extinction and twelve because the data suggesting they were endangered was proved to be “faulty”, i.e., false. At last count, 1,853 species are listed as endangered or threatened. And 4,000 more species are designated “Species of Concern.” With such a dismal record, one wonders why the ESA is permitted to continue.
Millions of dollars that could have otherwise improved the lives of Americans have been diverted to the bizarre notion that species can be “saved” by government intervention. Billions in tax revenues have been lost because development of every description was stopped because of the ESA.
Right now, there are a number of pieces of legislation that would further aggravate the damage done. HR 199 would institute “The Invasive Species Act”. If this were enacted, it would create a huge, new Green bureaucracy and regulate everything, including the grass on your lawn. There are no protections for private property in this legislation. Another proposed legislation, HR 652, would make the Wildlands Project official government policy. In essence, this subversive Green plan would put more than half of all of the U.S. landmass off-limits to any human habitation or use. HR 2036 is called the “Open Space Preservation and Conservation Act, and would allocate $25 billion to be used for permanent conservation easements, giving the Nature Conservancy and other Land Trusts, along with government agencies, co-ownership of millions of acres of land.
The government already owns more than 40% of the landmass. Why would anyone want to allow it to have any more? The answer is that there are elected representatives who are dedicated Statists and Socialists who will do everything in their power to destroy the property rights of Americans and, with them, the essential element of our economy and our freedoms.
The effort to add more thousands of creatures, from bugs to birds, to anything else that crawls, walks, swims or flies, continues today. It must STOP! The funding of the ESA must STOP! The Invasive Species Act must be DEFEATED. The funding of legislation to take still more land away from American citizens must be DEFEATED.
This is the new American Revolution that must be fought -- a revolution against the political environmentalists and animal rights extremists. Behind the endless lies of the radical Greens and animal rights activists here and around the world, is a movement determined to impose Socialist control over every square inch of the United States of America. This is a plan to destroy America acre by acre.
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