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Playing God with "Endangered" Species

September 1, 2008

In mid-August Barack Obama had this to say about a White House decision regarding the Endangered Species Act: "After over 30 years of successfully protecting our nation's most endangered wildlife like the bald eagle, we should be looking for ways to improve it, not weaken it."

The White House executive order would eliminate the need for the advice of government scientists and permit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior and NOAA Fisheries of the Department of Commerce to determine whether to list or de-list an alleged endangered or threatened species.

Here's an example why this decision was issued. In an effort to ensure that no exploration or drilling for oil could occur anywhere in the habitat of the polar bear, this species was put forward for listing as "endangered" even though its population has been growing steadily since the 1950s.

The reason cited, however, involved the projection of melting sea ice over the course of the next fifty years resulting from global warming. That's right. A perfectly fine population of polar bears that have been around for millions of years is deemed "endangered" based on computer models for something that is not happening. As Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne delicately put it, "It is not possible to draw a link between greenhouse gas emissions and distant observations of impacts on species."

Well, no. It is possible if you are a government scientist with lots of time on your hands, a commitment to the idiotic and discredited notion of global warming, and a need to justify your existence. Or dare I say your survival?

The Earth is not warming. It has been cooling for a decade and many scientists have concluded that the Earth is heading into either another mini-Ice Age or a full-scale one that will pretty much ruin everyone's plans for anywhere between the next fifty or few thousand years.

Let's get to the nitty-gritty of the Endangered Species Act. Originally adopted in 1973, the framers of the Act wanted to protect species believed to be on the brink of extinction. This is a noble idea, but 99% of all species that have existed on Earth are extinct. At some point or other, Nature steps in to kill them off. This is why there are no dinosaurs around except in Steven Speilberg movies and animated documentaries.

Despite ample evidence that the Act is a great waste of time and money, Congress has been funding the ESA ever since the first 109 species were listed.

According to the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, these days there are approximately 1,300 species on the list with another 250 considered as "candidates" for listing and another nearly 4,000 species designated as "Species of Concern."

The ESA is testimony to the way stupid legislation, once it is passed, not only continues, but expands to ensure that government jobs and power do the same.

The website of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services provides six pages of small print listings of species put forth as "threatened" or "endangered." You will find 120 were deemed to lack standing because, as often as not, there was "insufficient data" to demonstrate any threat existed or it was determined that there were plenty of the critters. Others were believed to have gone extinct just as Nature intended.

Another USFWS page lists 21 species as "recovered" since 1978 and 9 as "extinct."  In order words, over its glorious 30 year history, the Act claims justification for the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars for less than one species per year of its existence. The same page lists 16 species that should never have been listed in the first place as lacking sufficient data and thus "de-listed."

There is probably no way of knowing how many thousands of hours were wasted adjudicating these proposed listings, but if your job as a government scientist depends on such foolishness, you can bet it cost the taxpayers a bundle.

Here's the kicker. The ESA officially expired on October 1, 1992. Congress has continued to fund it for sixteen years!

This is legislation that Sen. Obama claims should continue despite an abysmal record of performance and lacking any rational justification for its existence. Where is it written in the U.S. Constitution that the federal government should undertake to save any species?

Other than preserving the Bald Eagle from idiot hunters, what purpose was served in saving tree frogs, shrews, doves, and other species from presumed extinction?

What has been the result of saving the Canada Goose or White Tailed Deer? I can answer that! I live in New Jersey where huge, protected flocks of Canada Geese poop in the parks to the point of making them unsafe and unfit for human traffic. As to White Tailed Deer, my own county had to organize a hunt because they were literally putting a vast forested reservation area at risk by destroying the undergrowth on which many small species depend as well as any new growth of trees. Adjacent suburban homeowners had their gardens and ornamental shrubs destroyed due to deer over-population.

Unintended consequences to be sure, but that's what happens when people think they can or should play God and interfere with Nature.

The intended consequences of the Endangered Species Act have been the delay or loss of needed dams, highways, hospitals, and entire subdivisions of new housing for the nation's growing human population. When some "concerned" environmental group secures a listing of some obscure species, the process mandated by the ESA ensures that progress will slow or defeat many a worthy project that would benefit humans.

The most endangered thing about the ESA is common sense and the humility to stand aside and let Nature do what it has done for millennia.

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Copyright ©2008 Alan Caruba

Alan Caruba is an American public relations counselor and freelance writer who is a frequent critic of environmentalism, Islam and research on global warming. In the late 1970s Caruba founded the PR firm The Caruba Organization, and in 1990, the National Anxiety Center, which identifies itself as "a clearinghouse for information about 'scare campaigns' designed to influence public policy and opinion" on such subjects as global warming, ozone depletion and DDT.