The Endangered Species Act is 45 this year. In 1973 the Act was passed, but we had been preserving habitat and saving species well prior to that. For the first 20 years of the act there was negligible impact on the West, and small impact in the East, most notably the fight over dams and the snail darter. The second 25 years of the Act has seen an explosion in the use of the Act as a weapon by environmental groups to control the land and water. How bad has it become, just look at the below map.
The dredging ban in California resulted from the listing of salmon as endangered. The State agreed and prohibited all dredging, everywhere, to protect critical habitat. The regulations which resulted from the environmental impact report closed over 1,600 mining claims from productive use.
Oregon followed suit last year with their own dredging ban and now environmentalists are filing suit in Washington state pushing a third statewide dredging ban. All in the name of endangered species.
What the Endangered Species Act (ESA) began as is not what it has become. The history of species conservation began well before the 1973 passage of the ESA.
In 1903 President Teddy Roosevelt established the nation's first wildlife refuge at Pelican Island, Florida to protect the breeding grounds of the brown pelican.
The first efforts to save the California Condor were made in 1937 when 1,200 acres of refuge were set aside for the bird. An additional 60,000 acres have been added over the years. In 1983 there were 22 condors in the world. Today there are 421. Not because of the set aside land, but because of the effort made to save the condor.
The history of America is an history of hunting species to the brink of, and to extinction. In the 1700s there were over 60 million bison living on the plains. Today there are 530,000 which is a significant increase from 1890 when they were virtually wiped out.
In the 1870s hunters descended on the rookeries of the snowy egret and nearly wiped them out. Shooting birds out of their nests and leaving the chicks to rot. In 1901 Florida stepped in and protected the rookeries.
The endangered species act was passed in 1973. Perhaps no other Act has had such a dramatic impact on the West as this one.
For the first 20 years of the Act it had little impact on the West. A few acres here and there, and some pretty big chunks for the desert tortoise, but in general it was pretty constrained.
In the second 20 years there has been an explosion of critical habitat and listed species. How bad has it become?
There are now 1,651 listed species.
So what changed from the first 20 years? In 1989 an environmental group was formed with the sole purpose of filing lawsuits to establish more and more endangered species, and to create more critical habitat. They have been wildly successful in this scheme.
Did you know there are 189 species which are listed that don't even have a common name? If you and I walked by one of these plants our conversation would go something like this: "Isn't that the Hesperomannia arborescens there on the side of trail? Or is that just poison oak?."
If something doesn't even have a common name, a name us simple folk could pronounce, how did it become endangered in the first place? It obviously wasn't common enough for some pioneer housewife to point at name it the something like the purple flowering sun bonnet.
There is 10% of the total list of species which no normal person, and by normal I mean someone who isn't paid to study the Hesperomannia arobrescens would ever identify. Which begs the question of just how common it could have ever been.
Glad you asked. Back in the day, when I lived in Alaska, a buddy and I would load up a 12' inflatable Zodiak and head out into Prince William Sound to spend a week fishing for halibut. Don't ask about the wisdom of this, that's not the point.
Not being scientists we had about 5 types of salmon. Chum; Coho; Kings; Chinook and Pinks. This was generally in keeping with the Alaska fishing regulations.
Did you know there are 9 different types of Chinook salmon listed as threatened or endgangered? That's in addition to the 4 different types of Coho. All total there are 29 types of salmon on the list.
Wow, who would have thought there were even 29 different types of salmon. I guess the environmentalists did because they figured out this whole Distinct Population Segment thing, or DPS for us simple folk.
Here's the way the DPS works. You have a Chinook salmon which swims up the Klamath. It starts off as just a Chinook. Then some scientist tags it and sees how far it swims up the Klamath. If it goes a long ways it becomes the upper Klamath DPS of the Chinook Salmon. If it swims upstream in the spring versus the fall then its the Spring Run Upper Klamath DPS of the Chinook.
See how that works? A salmon which lays its eggs at mile marker 53 is a different salmon than the one which laid its eggs at mile marker 43 and those environmentalists can prove those two salmon are different through DNA testing. Nevermind they could prove you and I were diffent through DNA testing as well, but we're humans. We're the scourge on the environment.
It's really not about the science, though, is it? In the case of the snowy egret we could clearly see they were in need of protection. I don't think any of us would agree slaughtering birds on their nests is ethical or warranted. Laws to protect species are needed, we won't argue that.
Did you know the Coffin Cave mold beetle is endangered? How can you tell? Really, how does anyone know this beetle is endangered? And why take the time to list it? How many people do you suppose are traipsing around Coffin Cave stepping on mold beetles? It was probably going to OK without being listed, but there's no money in it for the lawyers.
There are 10 different brands of Pomace flies which are endangered, but have no name other than Pomace fly. There should be a rule that in order to list something you have to name it first. Doesn't that sound reasonable?
We're not saying the only things we ought to save ought to be brightly colored butterflies (25 of them on the list) but maybe we ought to draw the line at how many different salmon there can be on a single river. Let's just start with no more than genetic variant per 10 miles of river. And that variant has to be named something like the Mile Marker 43 Chinook salmon. That sound OK for a start?
So how did we end up with 1,651 species on the list? Here's how it works, and its a great business opportunity. All you need is an internet connection, a lot of free time, and a lawyer who can type."
Step one, have lots of time to spend on the internet. Search for any reports, no matter how obscure, on any species where the researcher has determined its pretty rare, or at least they didn't see very many.
So let's say you're busy scouring the internet and come across a report in the journal of Cave Exploration Sciences which says in Coffin Cave they only found 10 mold beetles. Bingo, you're on the money. Clearly with only 10 mold beetles in Coffin Cave you've got a real moneymaker here. Don't worry about that report which says there are 1 million of them in Cemetary Cave next door, we're only concerned with Coffin Cave.
Now, go out and hire a lawyer on contingency and submit a petition to the US Fish and Wildlife Service demanding these last 10 mold beetles be protected. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, under the law, must respond to your petition and do an analysis within a prescribed amount of time. When they miss their deadline, which they always do, you sue. They settle. You pay the lawyer his $500 an hour fees, less your research fees.
If you're thinking this might be hard to do - nah. It works like this,
One morning a farm wife tells her husband, "You know the soybeans are looking an awful lot better since you sprayed for that Pomace fly infestation."
"Yup, that new spray sure knocked 'em back some."
Headline in the local newspaper a month later: "Area Farmers Expect Increased Yields Due to Pomace Fly Control."
Headline in the local newspaper 8 months later: "Center for Pomace Fly Diversity Sues to Save Johnson County Pomace Fly DPS"
Headline two years later: "Yields Down due to Fly Infestation."
Yeah, that's how it works, but it seems to work better in some areas than others.
If you look at the first map of critical habitat you'll notice a big hole where there is no critical habitat which pretty nearly matches the state of Nevada.
Really? Seems like there ought to be something endangered out there. With all the nuclear testing in Nevada there's got to be some unique species like atomic mold beetles or something.
It might, and we're just speculating here, have something to do with healthy donations to the Friends of the Nevada Mold Beetle Foundation. Just thinking out loud here, but it seems like Nevada learned its lesson when the gopher tortois critical habitat nipped away a little bit at Las Vegas. Hasn't been a whole lot since then and if you've been to Nevada then you know even a fruit fly would be considered endangered there, at least prior to bursting into flames.
When you examine the map below, of the eastern U.S. versus the western U.S. you can see a big difference. First it becomes obvious the states of California, Washington and Oregon have been full partners in theis racket to take the west. Secondly, it's clear the objective of the states and environmentalists has been the water.
Want to do some of your own research. We'll put forward a theory here and you can see if we're wrong. We're willing to bet the amount of critical habitat in democrat controlled states is at least twice the amount in republican controlled states.
One would think the eastern U.S. would have a whole bunch of endangered species and critical habitat, so what's the difference. The amount of federal land obviously. So there seems to be a two tiered systems and it seems to be an awful lot easier to slap critical habitat in the west, and in particular on the waters of the west, than the east.
Control the water, control the land, control the people. Simple enough.
We're not proposing more critical habitat in the east, but the picture of the west appears to show a conspiracy between the states and the environmental groups to welcome the establishment of critical habitat. Did we mention the states get money to manage critical habitat? No? Just thought it was obvious. Nothing like a financial incentive to designate more species is there?
OK, let's loop all the way back to where we started - the California condor. Remember him from the start of the article sitting on a mere 60,000 acres of land down in the Big Sur area?
California condors can fly up to 250 miles in a day. Did you know the world record for travel of a Mountain Yellow Legged Frog is 1 mile? Yeah, pretty obscure fact, but you never really know when this question will come up on Jeapordy. Picture the researchers following this one frog as he crosses the finish line to beat the world record.
So a bird which can fly 250 miles a day gets 60,000 acres, yet the frog which has never gone more than 1 mile gets 1.8 million acres. Huh, who would have thought?
The condor lives in some pretty rough terrain with no logging, mining or water. The frog lives smack in the middle of mining and logging country, and water, and apparently they're thick as thieves on my mining claim. Coincidence, yeah probably.
So a creature who can travel no more than 1 mile in its lifetime gets 1.8 million acres of land. Not playing the sore loser here but doesn't that sound excessive for a little guy with no luggage?
So the USFWS, under direction from the current administration, is doing a few cosmetic changes to the Act. You can read about them here. Our opinion? It's what you'd expect, it doesn't go nearly far enough. If you want to really make changes you're going to have to stop naming a Chinook salmon the 43 mile Chinook salmon. Secondly, let's stop paying researchers $500 an hour to study frogs. It is our belief you could hire a frog researcher for $20 an hour and they should be happy to get it.
Good money if you can get it, but damned few of us can get it.