Category: Wildlife Issues

Obama Scandals Go Beyond Taxes, Spying, Political Suppression and Gun Running: Environment Takes a Hit as Well

It seems that the Obama administration is not content to trash the rule of law and the ideal of equal treatment before the law with regards to the differing treatment of political groups vis-à-vis the tax code, it has also done the same thing with Freedom of Information Requests at the Environmental Protection Agency.  Though the mainstream media is once again AWOL on the story, it seems that when environmental groups that support the Obama administration or push for more power for the EPA submit FOIA requests, their fees are waved 92 percent of the time.  However when pro-environment conservative groups submit FOIA requests and fee waivers, their requests are rejected 81 percent of the time.  Only the Obama administration could consider that equal treatment.


It’s been recognized by any who has bothered to look that the Obama administration, it (self-admittedly) treats traditional energy companies (oil, gas, coal, etc – in other words the reliable energy sources that create jobs and wealth) differently than green energy (primarily wind and solar – the unreliable sources of energy that create wealth for politically favored friends of the administration through enormous subsidies).  The bias is clear but even I was surprised to learn it extended to breaking environmental laws, but it does.  If and when an oil or coal company, during its operations, kill, harm or harass endangered species, their operations can be shut down for extended periods of time and they face huge fines.  However, if a green energy company does the same thing, its evidently “no harm,” no foul.    Taxpayers have spent millions of dollars helping the endangered California condor to recover, and set aside habitat for its protection – now, the Obama administration say, if you are building and operating wind turbines, it’s okay to kill them.  It seems that the condors well-being counts for little against Obama’s green energy fetish.

Failing Grade for the Endangered Species Act

Recent stories have highlighted the growing cost (in terms of resources and jobs) and diminishing benefits of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Construction workers building an underpass in Texas came across “bracken bat cave mesh weaver”(BBCMW)  – a blind, translucent spider.  The species, which had not been seen in 30 years, was thought to be extinct.  Thank goodness we’ve found it!  Except for one thing, to confirm its identity researchers killed the spider.  In doing so they may have killed the last remaining BBCMW in existence.  Good going.

This is not the first time the government has killed species in an effort to protect them – just look at the record of the black-footed ferret.  Since the existence of the, now late, spider has been confirmed, the $15 million dollar highway underpass is on hold indefinitely – costing money and jobs and all to protect a spider.  No one can seriously argue that the spider was in interstate commerce; the threshold for the federal government to supposedly be protecting species.  Nor can they argue with a straight face that the spider is a critical component of the associated ecosystem the absence of which would cause a cataclysmic collapse of said ecosystem, or that it could hold of miracle health cure or other useful commercial product.

This is almost as bad as the delhi sands flower loving fly which delayed a highway and a hospital in a rural area in California for more than a year. In that case, the day before San Bernadino and Riverside counties in California were to break ground on a new hospital, the USFWS listed the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly as endangered. Eight Delhi flies were found on the hospital site and the USFWS threatened to prosecute the counties if they built the hospital as planned. According to Ike Sugg, a wildlife specialist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, while the counties and the USFWS have been negotiating:

  • The counties spent more than $4.5 million dollars – more than half a million per fly.
  • The counties had to spend additional millions  to buy land to establish a fly preserve.

At the time, one USFWS official demanded that Interstate 10, an eight-lane freeway adjacent to the hospital site, be shut down or slowed to 15 miles an hour during the two months of the fly’s above-ground lifespan.

From blind spiders to jumping rats, to wolves, to owls, the ESA has cost and continues to pose a serious threat to hundreds of thousands of people’s peaceful enjoyment of their property (property rights guaranteed by the Constitution) and/or their jobs.

While I think the ESA is unacceptable on the face of it.  One might still ask,” With the significant costs involved, aren’t the benefits of saving species from extinction worth it?”  If the ESA actually saved species, we might be able to debate the question, however, it doesn’t.  the ESA has patently failed by any reasonable standard over the years to protect the species it’s meant to preserve.

Suppose a federal education program for high-risk students enrolled 1,434 U.S. children and 618 foreign kids but graduated only 56 in 39 years, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. A school system with this record would have been shut down years ago.  But that’s precisely the record of the ESA.

Even worse, the a majority of the delistings (the equivalent of graduation) were due not to the recovery efforts under the ESA but due to data errors, exinctions and other state, federal or private efforts that saved species.

  • 10 were delisted due to extinction.
  • 18 were delisted because of “data errors” – they either were undercounted when added to the list or were later determined not to be distinct species.
  • 9 exist solely on federal lands and are therefore federally protected without the ESA.
  • 3 were decimated by a pesticide, DDT, and recovered largely due to the DDT ban in 1972.
  •  The 16 remaining species have  conserved by state agencies or private organizations, with only minimal contributions by the federal government.

It is unclear whether any species has been recovered soley or even primarily due to ESA protections.

ESA, ohaaa, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again …


Government environmental efforts backfire, hurting the environment and human health

There is a great piece of bumper sticker humor: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  Unless one has been living under a rock, this statement is widely recognized as an ironic warning of sorts – if you hear these words, count your money, lock up your kids and pray for your property, business and/or job. A funny way of saying when the government tries to solve a problem, things often go from bad to worse.

It should not surprise anyone to learn that the same is true for government environmental efforts as well.

I, among others, have shown that government plans for energy, species, and land management (including public lands, farms and wetlands) have reaped a host of environmental and economic ills.

Recently, more evidence, both from Europe, and here in the U.S., of the disconnect between government’s good intentions and its flawed results have come to light.   For instance, in the U.S., which has yet to sign on to an international treaty or domestic legislation to strictly limit greenhouse gas emissions, such emission have fallen by 450 million tons as the shale gas revolution has taken hold (despite environmentalists ongoing efforts to shut it down).  Market incentives to increase efficiency are leading the U.S. to use the least expensive resource for energy production – all absent government mandates or intervention – and the environment is benefitting.  By contrast, in Europe, which has pledged to cut emissions, environmentalists have torqued the government into closing down the cleanest form of reliable energy, nuclear power, are preventing them from developing the 2nd greenest reliable energy source, natural gas, with the result that Germany is switching to coal – the fuel environmentalist fear the most.

And China, cashing in on the Western demands for inefficient, expensive so called “green” energy technologies (while developing its own energy resources as fast as it can) is ripping up grasslands and draining water to mine coal and produce associated germanium.  Couldn’t get away with it without central government control or backing.

And closer to home, in the U.S., the federal government punishes ranchers who fight wildfires on public land in an attempt to halt it before it gets out of control.  In addition, the government, in mandating the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), put public health at risk from ultraviolet rays (not emitted, by the way, by good old incandescent bulbs) which could damage skin cells and cause eye damage.  Use the new government required bulbs and get skin cancer – isn’t that special.


How The Lorax Learned to Love Foresters

Tomorrow, the motion picture version of Dr. Seuss’s book “The Lorax” will hit the big screen and the reviews indicate it sticks to the original 1971 storyline. In “The Lorax,” a businessman, the “Once-ler,” moves into town, cuts down all the trees and destroys the forest, air and water in the process. A furry creature, the Lorax, appears and proclaims, “I speak for the trees” and scolds the Once-ler for being “crazed with greed.”

The story is a product of its times, when people like Paul Ehrlich were claiming that the planet’s time was short and that pollution and resource scarcity would soon overwhelm mankind. Time has not been kind to Ehrlich, demonstrating that his predictions and those of other early-1970s environmentalists, were not based in sound economics or science.

Forty years later, The Lorax also shows its age. Since it was published, a different story has been written in forests across the globe. Rather than being at odds, the Once-ler and the Lorax have found a common interest in making sure forests grow and expand – and many of the world’s forests have benefited. Three things stand out.

  • Last year was the International Year of the Forest, and the United Nations offered some good news. For the last two decades, total land area covered by forest in the Northern Hemisphere – where forestry is particularly active – has increased.
  • Wood is increasingly recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly building materials. At the University of Washington, researchers compared the environmental impact of building with either wood, concrete or steel. The hands-down winner for lower energy use, less waste and less water use was wood. While concrete and steel can only be mined once, trees are constantly replacing themselves.
  • In “The Lorax,” the Once-ler’s business collapses when all the trees are gone. Foresters understand this. Destroying a forest by cutting down every last tree makes no sense, so there are more trees in American forests today than there were just a few decades ago. Replanting isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business.

Forty years after he sprung from the imagination of Dr. Seuss, the Lorax would be happy to see that, far from disappearing, many forests today are thriving. They are there because the real story of the forests has not been about an unending battle between the fictional Lorax and the hard-hearted Once-ler, but of a friendship that understands that both benefit from healthy forests future generations can enjoy.



Green Policies, Bad Results

We at the NCPA have for a number of years written about how public policies and private actions intended to protect the environment often end up causing environmental harm.  Such unintended consequences continue to this day.

We first warned of the misguided policies that harmed the natural environment in our national parks and national forests in 1986.  We followed up on those themes a number of times, most recently in 2007 in a study which, among other things, documented how failed federal forest management has resulted in the huge forest fires that have become so frequent in recent years.

The same study also showed how federal policies have encouraged overharvesting of ocean fish stocks lead to the near collapse of the ocean fisheries.

Another study examined how federal policies have resulted in environmental destruction on the nation’s coasts and farmlands and have encouraged the destruction of wetlands.

In addition, the NCPA has written extensively on how subsidies and mandates for green energy, including wind power and solar power result in a variety of environmental ills.

Now comes an odd story of how building energy efficiency upgrades – like the ones touted by President Obama during his recent State of the Union Address – can result in expensive unintended consequences.  It is fairly widely recognized that indoor air is up to five times more polluted than outdoor air.  And the more efficient the home, the worse the problem since efficient homes don’t let air flow from outside but rather recycle the same polluted air over and over.  Now a new problem, specifically with energy efficient windows has come to light.  In California journalists have confirmed and the National Association of Homebuilders is investigating the case of a Prius owner who have found parts of her car melted by the sunbeams reflected off of a neighboring condo’s energy efficient windows.  I’ve experience the ability of reflective windows to blind drivers on the highway, but I never worried about them melting my car.  Does insurance cover that?

The King of the Tacos

Today we offer a segment called “unlikely environmental headlines.” At what point do you think we will see either of these headlines?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service places cattle on the endangered species list

Scientists say bison population plummeting. WWF advocates listing as ‘threatened.’

My guess is that these are extremely unlikely to occur at any time in the near, or even distant, future. The first headline is patently absurd. If anything, environmentalists want fewer cows, not more. The second headline would not have been outlandish a few decades back but is now absurd, given that ranchers are now actually raising bison. In both cases, the reason for the animals’ abundance is that they are in demand by consumers at steak houses. Bison is now on the menu at restaurants beyond just Ted Turner’s joints.

So, my reaction to a big story last week was a bit different than the responses of others.

A restaurant in Tuscon decided not to sell tacos containing African lion meat after it received threats of violence. The AP reported that “Bryan Mazon, the owner of Boca Tacos and Tequila, said Monday that his Tucson eatery has received ‘many threats’ against the restaurant, family members, customers and vendors since he announced last week that he was taking prepaid orders for the exotic tacos.” In the past, the restaurant has offered tacos with python, alligator, elk, kangaroo, rattlesnake, oysters, turtle, duck and frog legs.

People have eaten stranger things than lion…and that’s just my in-laws. But I digress.

I assume the concern by those threatening violence is concern for the population of African lions. I can’t say that I would enjoy lion tacos, but if they did catch on, is there any reason to believe that the number of lions would increase as has occurred with bison? Making lions a valuable commodity is likely to increase their supply, giving lion ranchers (and those looking to go into taming), a financial incentive to increase their population.

Of course all of this depends on the quality of the lion meat, which we’re less likely to know about with the restaurant’s decision not to serve the tacos. It is, however, an opportunity to note that so much of what passes for environmentalism these days is more about emotional reactions than thoughtful solutions. Increasing the market for lion meat would, in all likelihood, increase the population of the species. Keeping them a luxury, to be enjoyed only by those wealthy enough to afford a safari, continues to create costs for protecting them borne by countries that aren’t exactly stable or wealthy, is a strategy that is more tenuous in the long run.

In this case, however, the visceral reaction (known by culinary experts as the “ewwww…gross” reflex), won the day. It is a reaction that I must admit, I share. It is the same reaction some in India have when we eat cattle.

Imagine, though, what would happen if lion meat did take off as a delicacy. They could change Burger King to Lion King.

GM Fish: It’s What’s for Dinner!

In an article in Heartland’s Environment & Climate News I detail the FDA’s long overdue approval of the first genetically modified animal for human consumption — the Aquabounty Salmon.  After ten years of development, testing, paperwork, hearings, etc… the FDA found that the salmon was safe for human consumption and posed no threat to the environment.