America at a crossroads….protect endangered species or protect the American people?by Hugh Holub on Jul. 10, 2011, under endangered species act, litigious environmental groups, politics
A fight has broken out between Republicans and Democrats in Washington over what takes priority:
….protecting the American people from Mexican drug cartel smugglers and terrorists who have easy access to our border with Mexico through National Forest and Department of Interior managed lands?
…or protect endangered species and wilderness areas along the border?
The battleground is HR 1505 which seeks to waive environmental laws in favor of giving the Border Patrol better access to federal lands along our borders.
Let us first consider the Endangered Species Act itself.
The ESA does not just seek to protect “species” like polar bears. It also seeks to protect “subspecies” and “distinct population segments” of species and subspecies.
There are lots of subspecies….and it is not extinction of an entire species if a subspecies is threatened.
Where the ESA gets really squirrelly is the “distinct population segments”.
We can have a wolf which is genetically identical whether it lives in Montana or eastern Arizona. But because each is living in a different area, both are claimed to be “endangered”.
One would assume that the ESA is about saving plants and animals…but it has morphed into a powerful tool to attack virtually every kind of land use radical environmentalists oppose.
God forbid one should want to drill for oil or natural gas in an area inhabited by a subspecies of lizard.
Never ever even think about building a solar array or a wind farm if that will interfere with a distinct population segment of some critter that may actually be quite abundant somewhere else.
The really powerful weapon in the ESA arsenal is Section 9…the “take” provision.
If, for example, a Border Patrol vehicle should run over a protected lizard, that is a felony under US law. Modifying a “habitat” that is or could be used by an endangered species, subspecies or distinct population segment is also a felony.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&W) can grant what are called “incidental take permits” to allow the Border Patrol to occasionally run over a protected lizard…provided the Border Patrol pays a ransom to USF&W such as the $50 million deal Janet Napolitano entered into which diverted Department of Homeland Security funds to USF&W so they could study…among other things…bats in the borderlands.
Ironically it is a misdemeanor to illegally enter the country, but a felony if a Border Patrol agent runs over a protected lizard.
Using the Endangered Species Act, environmental litigation factories such as the Center for Biological Diversity have launched a war against Fort Huachuca. In CBD’s pantheon, protecting endangered fish in the San Pedro River is more important than national security.
The ESA has set up a massive conflict between national security and national economic self-sufficiency versus the environment.
And to radical environmental groups there is no question which comes first…protecting endangered species and subspecies and distinct population segments of species. The heck with being able to mine copper or rare earths inside our country. The heck with producing our own oil and natural gas. The heck with renewable energy projects.
The Endangered Species Act need a serious re-think.
The subspecies element needs to be eliminated.
The distinct population segment protection needs to be eliminated.
The length of time the US Fish and Wildlife Service has to evaluate a listing or habitat protection petition needs to be increased. Why? So the feds don’t end up paying millions of dollars in Equal Access to Justice Act fees to groups like Center for Biological Diversity…which are paid not because there was any merit in CBD’s lawsuits…but because the feds simply don’t have enough time to respond to hundreds of petitions filed by groups like CBD.
And Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act needs a serious re-writing.
I doubt if anyone would oppose a felony charge for a poacher killing eagles for feathers or other endangered species for their livers or horns or whatever.
But when US Fish and Wildlife can threaten a rancher with felony charges because his cows may accidentally step on a frog and then give USF&W the ability to charge ransom for permission for the cows to continue walking around the range…or charge an energy company ransom to protect flies….we have gone way too far.
But when US Fish and Wildlife can demand millions from the Central Arizona Project because fish from the CAP canals “might” escape the canal system and then swim upstream on the Santa Cruz River and eat native species…we have gone way too far.
HR 1505 directly focuses the conflict between national security and the environment.
Do we want our borders open to both drug cartel smugglers and jaguars?
Radical environmental groups want to tear down the border fence so jaguars can roam from Mexico into the United States.
They apparently don’t care if drug smugglers follow the jaguar’s tracks.
The Endangered Species Act series of articles:
Background info on Endangered Species Act:
News about litigious environment group activities: