American Elephants


Obama Will Veto Any Attempt to Fix This Mess. by The Elephant's Child

California’s great Central Valley has been called the breadbasket of America. Certainly it has been a great agricultural region, and the Congress of the United States has turned it into a dust bowl. Unemployment is huge, but statistics do not include those who have stopped looking.

Those sticks in the photo are a young orchard deprived of water by the use of the Endangered Species Act to protect the Delta Smelt — a very small inedible fish.

The Endangered Species Act is one of those laws cooked up in Washington D.C. that was well intentioned, but questionable in its effects. It quickly became a weapon in the hands of radical environmentalists. A claim that an “endangered” species was present was enough to shut down huge proposed projects — at least through years-long court battles — often permanently.

It is easy to claim that a species is endangered, and hard to confirm. In the history of the earth, it has not been unusual for a species to go extinct. The famous ones are the passenger pigeon — over-harvested to extinction for food, and the Dodo.

The modern list of endangered species is not a great record of success, but full of species that turned out to be not endangered after all, species that recovered promptly when a predator was removed. Is extinction a natural act —survival of the fittest — or something that must be prohibited at all cost? We don’t know.

Remember that the polar bear was just listed as “threatened” in spite of the fact that there are more bears at present than ever before. There’s a lot of politics attached to the list, for modern environmentalism is largely political.

Environmentalists don’t like the modern world, they don’t like rivers to be dammed, they don’t like suburbs, they don’t like development, and the more radical want a return to the Pleistocene. They prefer that people live in very dense cities, have few children and except for corridors between dense cities, return the rest of the land to wilderness.Those are the complications.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Water Reliability Act is now before Congress. Obama has announced that if it reaches his desk, he will veto it. Why am I not surprised.

Nunes’ Sacramento-San Joaquin Water Reliability Act goes to a vote in the House Wednesday and if it passes, it will guarantee that water the farmers paid for finally gets to the parched Central Valley. It will put an end to the sorry stream of shriveled vineyards, blackened almond groves and unemployed farm workers standing in alms lines for bagged carrots from China.

The White House announced that Obama would veto Nunes’ bill because it would “unravel decades of work” on California water regulations.

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1837, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act because the bill would unravel decades of work to forge consensus, solutions, and settlements that equitably address some of California’s most complex water challenges. …

The Administration strongly supports efforts to provide a more reliable water supply for California and to protect, restore, and enhance the overall quality of the Bay-Delta environment.  The Administration has taken great strides toward achieving these co-equal goals through a coordinated Federal Action Plan, which has strengthened collaboration between Federal agencies and the State of California while achieving solid results.  Unfortunately, H.R. 1837 would undermine these efforts and the progress that has been made.

Lots of weasel words.



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.



The bare facts about the bear business… by The Elephant's Child

Polar Bear

Are you confused by the whole global warming thing? Do your eyes glaze over and do you quickly turn the page at the very mention? You are not alone.

The Interior Department ruled today that the polar bear will be protected as a threatened species”. The polar bear population across the Arctic has doubled from an estimated 12,000 to 25,000 since 1960. But some scientists believe that sea ice, necessary to the bears, may diminish in future years because of global warming. This is an enormous threat to the American economy.

But there has been no global warming for the past 10 years, and there has been actual cooling for the last 5 years. What’s up with that?

“Threatened” is a term with specific meaning. It means their numbers are declining and the species is likely to become “endangered”. But if the numbers of bears are increasing, then why… Because the predictions of computer climate models said that in future years the sea ice may diminish. But…

But the predictive ability of the climate models is increasingly in question. Meteorologists will tell you that they can predict the weather with some degree of accuracy about 5 to 7 days out. Many scientists say that the climate models have no predictive ability whatsoever.

Well then, how effective is the Endangered Species Act? It’s very hard to tell. In some cases, an order to stop shooting the animal in question meant that the species increased. Many have been de-listed because it turned out that they weren’t threatened or endangered in the first place. Counting species accurately is exceedingly tricky. Do they only live here, or could they live just as well there? Is this a lone population or are there 20 more just over the next ridge? Faulty data is frequent.

The Endangered Species Act is, for many environmentalists, not a law to protect plant and animal species, but a back door means of preventing economic development of some chosen area. It is for others a mythical attachment to the idea of “a balance of nature”, which does not exist, for in nature there is only constant change.

The drive to list the polar bear as endangered is more about drilling for oil in the Arctic than it is about the bears. And the propaganda has been intense. We watched “The Golden Compass” recently, a movie made about a children’s book, a fantasy that includes ice-bears — essentially talking polar bears. To watch the movie, we had to endure a commercial from the WWF featuring a little girl pleading for other children to enlist their parents in the campaign to save the polar bear. Unbelievably crass.

So, it is back to the courts, for both sides have said they will sue.

This is a dreadfully dishonest way to deal with national conundrums. No matter how much the naive urban people dream of a world energized by the power of the sun and the wind and hydroelectric power, it’s not going to happen. At least not in the foreseeable future. And if you don’t like the price of gas, write to the Congressional Democrats — they have a lot to answer for.

In the meantime, no wonder your eyes glaze over…




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