A Journal for Western Man
Congress is going through the process of trying to fix the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Why do they think it needs fixing? Because, quite simply, the ESA is the worst law ever to be enacted by Congress.
For thirty-two years the ESA has taken control of private land out of the hands of the owners in the name of protecting endangered species. Yet the ESA is actually responsible for the destruction of whole industries and the towns they supported, as lumber mills are shut down for lack of cut trees. Farmers and ranchers have lost vital grazing land.
Urgently needed minerals are left in the ground and imported from foreign countries because the ESA blocks mining efforts.
The ESA has become a very powerful tool, used by radical environmentalists who want to stop literally any use of certain lands for any purpose. They have made up endangered species like the Spotted Owl, which actually flourishes throughout the Northwestern part of the nation. Environmentalists have used the ESA to block the building of hospitals and airports, always claiming to find an obscure sand flea or snail darter buried somewhere in the sand. Los Angeles International Airport urgently needs to build new runways, but environmentalists claim the 108-acre plot of land is home to the Riverdale fairy shrimp that sometimes live in swampy areas. The entire community of Klamath Falls, Oregon, has been literally choked to death as its water supply was shut off to protect a sucker fish that isn’t endangered. The law suits begin. The costs go up. The projects die. Jobs are lost. It happens time after time.
The ESA is also used by industry to hurt its competition. The Surdna Foundation, which was created with money from the timber fortune of the John E. Andrus estate, makes grants in the millions of dollars to a wide array of environmental groups whose sole purpose is to enforce the Endangered Species Act. In one case, documents show that Surdna made grants in excess of one million dollars in “an emergency action to protect forests and save the environment.” As a result of those grants and the actions they paid for, thirty-six lumber mills were closed in Northern California, 8,000 loggers lost their jobs, and the price of lumber, now in severe shortage, rose dramatically. Who gained? Surdna, which owns its own timber operation that was left unharassed by environmental legal action. Surdna earned a profit of $2.7 million from the otherwise devastated timber industry.
Yet all of this pain and suffering is for
absolutely nothing, as far as endangered species are concerned.
Incredible as it may sound to the average American, in the 32 years
since the ESA has been on the books, just 34 of the nearly 1,300 U.S.
species listed have made their way off the endangered list. Of this
number, 9 species are now extinct, 14
Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center (http://www.americanpolicycenter.org).
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