American Elephants

The Price of Gas, The ESA, and a Lack of Adult Government. by The Elephant's Child

This little three-inch long lizard, called the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, has the potential to shut down oil and gas operations in portions of Southeast New Mexico and West Texas, including the states’ two oil and gas-producing counties.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has considered the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, since 2001.  It is a rare species found only in 655 square miles in the Mescalero Sands in New Mexico, where it is listed as endangered by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and in at least five counties in adjacent parts of Texas. How many square miles that involves, I don’t know.

There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in terms—how can a 3″ species be “rare” or “endangered” in 655 square miles in one state, and five counties in another state.  That has to be a lot of territory for a lizard. even for hundreds of thousands of lizards. How would you possibly count the number of lizards occupying just one square mile, or even one square quarter-of-a-mile?

They don’t seem to be basing this on lizards, but on sand dune complexes where shinnery oak grows. That is habitat where Dunes Sagebrush Lizards would be expected to be found.  They don’t know whether there are lizards there in either small or large numbers, nor how much territory is needed for a family of lizards.

Species are listed by a petition process, which means that anyone can send a letter to the federal government asking that a species, either plant or animal, be put on the ESA list. The federal government must respond in 90 days. If the federal government fails to respond the petitioner can file litigation against the federal government and get its attorney’s fees paid. Between 2000 and 2009, in just 12 states and the District of Columbia, 14 environmental groups filed 180 federal court complaints to get species listed under the ESA and were paid $11,743,287 in costs and attorney’s fees.

The problem here is that the land includes a big chunk of the Permian Basin, important oil and gas country. The President is demanding that the two largest oil-producing countries increase their oil production to lower gas prices here.  At the same time, he is demanding that the 3rd largest oil producing country (us) cut back on drilling everywhere.

“We are very concerned about the Fish and Wildlife Service listing,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, noting the service also has proposed listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken next year. “The wolf at the door is the lizard; we’re concerned listing it would shut down drilling activity for a minimum of two years and as many as five years while the service determines what habitat is needed for the lizard. That means no drilling, no seismic surveys, no roads built, no electric lines.”

At the moment, 1,374 U.S. species are listed as endangered, with 251 classified as potentially “warranted.” The Obama administration just announced that it will clear a decades-long backlog by agreeing to decide within six years whether or not to include any of the 251. And of course in six years, six times that many may well have petitioned.

As of last year, only 47 species have been removed from the list, and of that number, only 21 because they had “recovered”.  Nine species went extinct, (maybe) and the others should never have been on the list in the first place. Some species have been “saved” by making it illegal to shoot them.  Some extinct species have been found not to be extinct after all.

The American taxpayer is paying for Big Environment to petition for species to be listed as “endangered,”  if the government does not respond within 90 days, and with an apparent six-year backlog, the government doesn’t seem prepared for quick response.  This is simply not responsible law, but perhaps typical of Big Government, and good for the funding of Big Environment.

Most organizations are happy to agree to actions to preserve species, but the government moves with a very heavy hand. BrightSource Energy had to spend $20 million to relocate 20 tortoises and to create a permanent tortoise trust fund so that it could build a solar power plant.  That’s over $1 million per tortoise, and certifiably insane.

You have perhaps noticed that endangered species seem to pop up just when there coincidentally happens to be something going on that Big Environment wants to stop. Surely there can’t be a connection.

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[…] You have perhaps noticed that endangered species seem to pop up just when there coincidentally happens to be something going on that Big Environment wants to stop. Surely there can’t be a connection.-American Elephants from The Price of Gas, The ESA, and a Lack of Adult Government. […]


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