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And What’s Wrong With The Endangered Species Act?

January 30, 2008

Grizzly BearsIt’s getting worse before, if ever, it will get better. Abuse of the Endangered Species Act is at an all-time high and rising like a rocket. Something must be done! (Scroll to bottom to find links to related articles)

Can it get any worse? Millions of dollars are being spent on lawsuits aimed at preserving habitat and some species of wildlife needlessly, with no end in sight. The ESA is being used as a lethal weapon that will destroy our property rights and further sink us into economic recession. It’s out of control.

In yesterday’s Tucson Citizen, B. Poole has an article that focuses the most of its attention on one such over the top environmental group called the Center for Biological Diversity. This is how Poole describes the efforts of this group.

The Center for Biological Diversity staff brandishes the Endangered Species Act like a blunt-force instrument. Leverage from its petitions and lawsuits – more than 500 in 18 years – helped gain protection for nearly a fourth of the 1,351 endangered or threatened plants and animals in the United States.

This has been much of my argument in the past about why we need to do something about the ESA. A piece of legislation that was created to insure that we humans wouldn’t knowingly wipe out a species of animal or plant, has now become a “blunt-force instrument”, costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

It doesn’t help anyone when the author of this piece states that the USFWS’s purpose is to protect endangered species.

Critics accuse the center of helping to hobble Fish & Wildlife, the federal agency with the task of protecting the nation’s endangered species.

The USFWS recently revised its “Mission Statement”.

Our mission is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

I fail to see here where the purpose of USFWS is to spend nearly every penny it has fighting lawsuits. The job of the USFWS is far more complex than protecting only endangered species but groups such as CBD are tying the hands of the agency by draining the budget that should be used for other purposes. This blatant act of suing the USFWS is only one tactic used to draw attention to the group in order to better be able to raise money. Donations are expected to exceed $6 million this year.

According to the article, the USFWS’s annual budget used for endangered species is $5 million. Since the year 2000, USFWS has used all of that money, $35 million, just on court cases from groups like CBD.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, who is executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife, another preservationist, animal rights group that spends all of its time in the courts suing USFWS, told the U.S. Congress that USFWS is in trouble and needs more funding. His complaint is that the USFWS has had to take money away from endangered species programs to fund other programs. Can Congress not see that this is an indirect request to put more money in the pockets of groups like DOW and CBD?

President Bush requested $146.5 million dollars be spent on endangered species. Clark is asking for that amount to be bumped up to $185.2 million. I would suppose in order to give her and her group more opportunities in court.

Incidentally, Defenders of Wildlife just announced they plan to sue the USFWS over the latest proposed ruling regarding management of wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The feds announced they would ease up some restrictions to make it easier to protect game animals and property owners in the event that the effort to remove the wolf from federal protection gets tied up in court for the next several years. As many as 27 animal rights and preservationist, environmental groups have threatened legal action once the USFWS makes the announcement, which is expected perhaps in March.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a California-based group that advocates property owners’ rights, has challenged some center lawsuits. Foundation President Robin Rivett accuses the center of exploiting the Endangered Species Act requirement for speedy habitat designation.

Once certain parcels of land are designated protected habitat for endangered species and/or a species is placed on the endangered list, it is nearly impossible to get it removed, as we have witnessed many times. The money being spent on lawsuits to stop this action serves only to line the pockets and promote the personal agendas of these groups and does very little if anything to protect species.

Even Rivett says the way the Endangered Species Act is being manipulated and interpreted falls into the hands of the protectionists.

“I don’t think it’s helping. It seems to be litigate first and talk second,” he said.
The Endangered Species Act requirements leave judges little choice but to side with the center, Rivett said.
“It’s like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to critical habitat,” he said.

Judges ruling in favor of the Center for Biological Diversity shows in that the Center has won 86% of the court cases they have fought. But some are saying that part of the reason for this success is the result of too little challenges from anyone, perhaps the result of lack of funds or organizations to fight back. It is clear to me that the USFWS does very little to fight back. They are so cash strapped they can’t afford to fight these groups and have found it easier to give them what they want. This is not in the best interest of Americans.

In Arizona, Jim Chilton, Jr. fought the CBD in court and won. He was awarded $600,000 in damages in a defamation lawsuit. The CBD posted photographs on its website claiming that damage done to land, deemed critical habitat for the Sonora chub and Chiricahua leopard frog, was done by his cattle.

Even thought the Center claimed in court that the photos were put up by mistake, we all know this is just part of the many unethical tactics used by such groups in order to strong-arm their way to get what they want.

And who’s behind this movement? Perhaps this will help shed some light on the kind of person and the mentality associated with them. Kierán Suckling, one of the founders of the Center for Biological Diversity and has a degree in philosophy, had this to say about why we think the way we do about animals.

The center’s work goes far beyond biology for Suckling, who has a master’s degree in philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. There are deep cultural bonds between people and animals that start soon after we are born, he said. From Garanimals to stuffed animals to familiar icons such as Big Bird, we wrap our children in wildlife from birth, he said.
“We don’t surround them with images of people. We surround them with images of animals,”

Unfortunately, much of what Suckling is saying is true, although I strongly disagree with his statement that “we wrap our children in wildlife”. This is much of the problem with this entire mindset. He is not drowning his kids in “wildlife”. He is presenting to children the myth that animals talk and play games. There is nothing about wildlife in how our kids are being presented animals.

Kids have found comfort and solace in hugging a teddy bear. At some point in their lives they need to be taught that it is only a stuffed animal and does not resemble the real bear in any way shape or form. We do not wrap our children in wildlife. We are telling them that animals have personalities. That there are mommy and daddy animals, with cute little kids that grow up to be just like us.

People like Suckling may find this a suitable means of educating their own children but not all of us agree. There is something just as perverse in teaching your kids this way as probably Suckling thinks is wrong in teaching kids about bears, wolves and mountain lions that attack and kill people and that people kill them back.

With organizations such as these that I have spoken, given a chance at exploiting a broken Endangered Species Act, there is very little that can be done until we decide to do something about the Act. I know I’m sick and tired of my money going toward enabling these groups that in my opinion are harming our society far more than most people may know.

Tom Remington

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