Have you ever seen just how much critical habitat is in the western United States? Thanks to the work of environmental groups who sue for profit it's a lot. Take a look at the map below to get some idea of the scope of this problem.
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.
Interestingly 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? This means 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?" "Oh, that's just poison oak."
So 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 about 80 miles to spend a week fishing for halibut. Don't ask about the wisdom of this, that's not the point. And I'm not sure if Prince William Sound actually goes for 80 miles, but it sure seemed that way in heavy seas.
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? 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 that. 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.
Pretty cool science, huh?
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 names. Not that we know what a Pomace fly is, but 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 1 DPS per 10 miles of river. 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. While you're sitting around staring at your dredge collecting dust you can make money from home. All you need is an internet connection. I suppose if we put this on the internet we'd say follow this "weird trick for getting rich."
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.
OK, so let's say you're busy scouring the internet and you read a report 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 with 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: "Local Farmer Loses Farm to Save Pomace Fly."
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.
Hmm, 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 Pomace Fly Foundation. We're just saying.
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 we're obscure fact kind of guys at the Western Mining Alliance. You never really know when this question will come up on Jeapordy.
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 or mining. The frog lives smack in the middle of mining and logging country, 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?
If you want to do something about it. You'll never have another opportunity as we do now. Write you representative and tell them ESA reforms need to be a priority for Congressional action. Send a letter to the Department of the Interior and the Trump Administration and tell them to amend this Act to take the financial reward for listing species out of the Act.