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Endangered homo sapiens.

ITEM: The Endangered Species Act, maintains The Olympian (Wash.)for January 6, "has strong public support. In a Lou Harris & Associates poll commissioned by The Olympian several years ago, 71 percent of the adults surveyed called the act some what to very effective in protecting plants and animals from extinction.... Despite strong public support, the act has its fair share of critics, too. We've all heard of examples where the presence of an endangered species has held up or threatened some sort of land-development project. Usually, compromises are reached...."

BETWEEN THE LINES: Putting aside the fact that pollsters often design their surveys to get the results they want, one wonders if the public really knows that there were only 78 species supposedly threatened with extinction in 1967, as compared to more than 1,800 deemed endangered or threatened today. Fewer than three dozen have been removed from a list of more than 1,000 "endangered" species. Case Western Professor Jonathan Adler notes, "Of the first 27 species removed from the endangered species list, at least one-third were delisted due to scientific errors. Either the species was misidentified or miscounted."

Rather than promoting trade-offs, the law has been used as an inflexible weapon against development. Mountain States Legal Foundation attorney Christopher Massey told the Denver Post it has gone from being used for species protection "to stopping urban sprawl or development, or what have you."

The scam has helped bureaucrats thrive. Congressional testimony reveals that the legislation has engendered so many lawsuits that the Fish and Wildlife Service spends more time and money on litigation than on "saving" species. Not that the money devoted to "saving" species is necessarily well spent. The Bureau of Land Management has estimated, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, that it will spend $850,000 this year walking its employees around for 1,700 miles to count little plants called Pierson's milkvetch.

But the Endangered Species Act is not only responsible for a misuse of federal power and abrogation of private ownership rights, it is often counterproductive to the species in question. Professors from Montana State and Towson University in Maryland found that timber owners have changed harvesting practices, cutting their trees more often and earlier than they otherwise would so that their forests will not become a habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker, which nests in certain old-growth trees.

Other studies found that many private owners want to avoid the economic liability of having an endangered species on their property. If a farmer finds such a species, as Ronald Bailey of Reason puts it, his incentive is to "shoot, shovel, and shut up."
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Title Annotation:Between The Lines
Author:Hoar, William P.
Publication:The New American
Date:Feb 9, 2004
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