Reform ESA - Costs are too high!

TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr.

May 4, 2004

TRACKSIDE last ended in the middle of a discussion about the costs to society of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Besides regulators under reporting federal ESA costs by a factor of four, the investigations of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) also revealed that some agencies had reported zero ESA expenditures when in fact they had spent millions for ESA-related work. (Congress is also kept in the dark about the tax dollars being sent overseas by The Clerks to protect African elephants and Corsican swallowtail butterflies.)

In an April 14 report, PERC gave examples of unreported costs, costs laid on citizens and ignored by The Clerks. On a $55 million high school in California, ESA delays cost over $1 million a year. Farmers in the Klamath Basin in Oregon lost an estimated $53.9 million of crop value when their irrigation was cut off to protect two fish species. A House subcommittee stated that the spotted owl has been the cause of the loss of at least 130,000 jobs and the closing of more than 900 sawmills, pulp and paper mills, and other forest product facilities since 1990. ESA-mandated water reductions in a California water district cost the California economy more than $218 million and 4,500 jobs statewide. But what the heck, it did not come out of The Clerk’s budget.

For all this money and the harassment and impoverishment of citizens, have we prevented critters from becoming extinct? PERC reported that more than 1,200 species are officially designated as endangered or threatened, but for the 30 years the ESA has been in force, only 12 species have recovered. In fact, over 50 percent of the reported expenditures were for but seven species. As stated by a House staffer to the Washington Times, that amounts to a success rate of 0.01% or a failure rate of 99.9%. Not too whoopy-doo. Not worth the draconian rules, the devastation to citizens’ lives, the economic costs to entire communities, not worth the degradation of freedom.

With critters not benefitting and with such huge costs imposed on society, who benefits? The ecofascists benefit, for they gain power over society. The magic number is the 1,200 species designated under the Act. With every species comes a critical habitat, and once that is designated, the environmentalists have the legal reason to bring economic use and development within the critical habitat area to a grinding halt by filing law suit after law suit against anything and everything that people propose to do on their land in the habitat area. (PERC noted that the economic cost of designating the critical habitat for the coastal California gnatcatcher will average $300 million a year.) As a practical matter, as enforced by courts the nation over, once the critical habitat designation is made, the land, for all intents and purposes, belongs not to the land owner but to the self-appointed Guardian environmentalists and The Clerks. Spending very little, they profit greatly, they whose goal is to overturn our economic and political system. They sit in the cat-bird seat, using the power of government to enforce their whims and run interference for them.

Thomas Sowell gets to the nub of an issue. He was not talking specifically about the ESA and legislators - but it applies - when he said: "[T]hings that cost employers money and cost workers jobs do not, however, cost anything to those who pass laws that enable the legislators to feel good about themselves and look good to the voters. These costs do not get counted....Costs, consequences, logic and evidence are concepts that are too old-fashioned for those who are in tune with our times. The ability to ignore costs is at the heart of the attraction of government for some and of the expansion of government over time. Anything that might conceivably be of some benefit to someone, sometime, is worth doing, if someone else is paying. In our own lives, we pass up all sorts of benefits when we decide that they are just not worth their cost. .... Life is full of trade-offs when it is your own money. Not so when it is the taxpayers' money or -- better yet -- money that business is forced to spend, which does not even show up on the government's budget."

The inequities and injustices created by the Endangered Species Act cry out for reform, but the majority of our elected officials are deaf and dumb - and in reading this, feel free to apply all the definitions of dumb. If they really understood - and believed in - the nation’s founding principles, the ESA would be toast tomorrow, as charred as the kangaroo rats in the 2003 Southern California fire.

See you Trackside.



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