Viewpoint - Law Gone Loco
In the Hands of Environmental Extremists and Elitist Bureaucrats, the Well-Intended Endangered Species Act Has Gone LocoIn 1960, this country had 30,000 federal laws and regulations on the books, and we called America "The land of the free and home of the brave." By 1990, we had more than 200,000 federal laws and regulations. We have become "the land of the regulated and the home of litigation." There are so many laws, if you obey one, you may be breaking another. If a person clears a firebreak around his home, he may be found guilty of "murdering" endangered weeds, and he may have to pay the government a mitigation fee to buy a weed sanctuary. Of course, it is illegal not to clear firebreaks around one's home, ranch or business.
Environmental ExtortionOne can usually "take" (kill) as many Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species as he can pay for in cash or land to environmentalists or government agencies to buy preserves for that species. In Mexico, they call this mordida, the "little bite," or payoff. In the US, being more politically correct, we call it environmental mitigation. It is never little.
Even though the US Constitution forbids quartering of troops on one's property, except during time of war, under ESA a person can be forced to host "endangered" beetles, cockroaches, flies, rats, spiders, and weeds on his property indefinitely.
Riverside County, CA, is the home of an ESA-listed subspecies of rat, the Stephens Kangaroo Rat. If one wants to build on private property that has a rat habitat, one has to pay the government amounts up to $1,900 an acre, so they can buy "rat homes" somewhere else. These rats carry diseases: rabies and bubonic and pneumonic plagues fatal to humans. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt's US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reportedly will spend more than $100 million buying rat homes. The homeless humans who live under freeway bridges in Riverside County should be so lucky!
Neighboring San Bernardino County has the endangered Delhi Sand Fly. The new county medical center there was required by USFWS to pay $10 million in environmental mitigation to purchase a fly sanctuary for one to eight flies! This is equivalent to the cost of more than 150,000 human visits to the emergency room! The scientist paid to study the fly reported, "During 43 hours of observation, I sighted eight flies, but I can't be sure if it was eight different flies, or the same fly seen eight times."
San Bernardino County sued the USFWS, and discovered the agency's internal reports predicted the fly could not be saved, and would be extinct by 2001. Yet it is still a federal felony to swat this fly, punishable by five years in a federal penitentiary and up to a $100,000 fine. The county lost in court, and now the USFWS is demanding $220 million for additional "fly sanctuaries" to "mitigate" new community projects!
Endangered WeedsIn 1996, the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) spent $300,000 in taxes protecting allegedly endangered weeds. In 1998 Interior Secretary Babbitt's USFWS proposed spending $780,000 in taxes to save these "endangered weeds." These weeds tend to thrive in areas cleared of brush or forest, such as firebreaks, roads, quarries, timber harvest, or in areas subjected to wild land fire. However the US Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service will not let miners plant the same weeds in their quarries to "save the species."
Several years ago, my family cleared some property we own in SBNF of brush and a few small trees. The cleared area was invaded by weeds, one of which has the cute name, milkvetch, the scientific name Astragalus albens, and which has now been placed on the ESA list. In reviewing scientific literature I found out it is really a poisonous, noxious weed called locoweed. It is hazardous to browsing animals and to humans. If eaten, it can make one delusional, blind, and cause birth defects or death. These weeds are alleged to be restricted to the SBNF, although the scientific literature suggests some may be found all over western North America; and birds who eat the weed seeds have spread these species up and down the Pacific and Rocky Mountain flyways from Mexico to Canada.
Under SBNF Supervisor Gene Zimmerman, botanists may have unintentionally reduced the weed habitat by failing to maintain firebreaks, failing to keep brush cleared, and suspending lumber harvesting for decades, thus reducing open space available for weeds. In September 1999, this policy of allowing uncontrolled fuel buildup resulted in the 65,000-acre Willow Fire, the largest wildland fire in SBNF history. This fire destroyed 50 homes, and tens or even hundreds of millions dollars in timber and threatened lives of 70,000 local residents. Forest Service botanists Scott Eliason and Robin Butler arrived at the fire lines telling firemen they should stop dragging fire hoses or bulldozing fire breaks in the "endangered weeds." Eliason is quoted in the LA Times (Sept. 2, pA25)... "Three different endangered plant species, found only in these mountains, may be jeopardized - not by the fire itself, but by being crushed by the fire fighters' hoses and bulldozers."
Locoweed, A. albens, turns out to be a noxious weed ranchers, farmers, and local farm bureaus have been trying to eradicate for the last century. In many localities, it is against the law to knowingly propagate locoweed on one's property; now it is a federal crime to remove it. Enforcement of the Endangered Species Act has gone loco, and the country's elitist, "biocentric" bureaucrats have added new meaning to the old saying, "The inmates are in charge of the asylum."