Author: Damien M. Schiff
Yesterday, my colleague Joshua Thompson posted this fine piece rightly criticizing the Pasadena Star News for its inaccurate reporting of the recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning a Michigan law that forbids racial preferences. Recently, the paper also ran an editorial applauding a San Francisco federal judge's ruling requiring the Forest Service to implement increased protections immediately for some 40 endangered species. Among those species is the Santa Ana sucker, a bottom-dwelling fish that is hurt by suction dredge gold mining in the San Gabriel River.
The judge's ruling may well have merit; what concerns me about the editorial is its rather tendentious depiction of agriculture and other productive uses of land. The editorial contends that species like the sucker and the Delta smelt are unfairly blamed for causing "regulatory droughts," and instead fingers rice farmers, thirsty residents of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and gold miners as the bad guys who are not using natural resources wisely. The editorial rhetorically asks whether there are other places to mine for gold or to grow rice.
Perhaps there are. But the point that the editorial misses is that the real controversies over endangered species arise when there are, so to speak, no other places to mine for gold or to grow rice. For example, with respect to the water restrictions imposed on the Central Valley owing to the smelt, it is unrealistic and unfair to expect agriculture to shut down and people to move to wetter climes at this point in history. Both agriculture and the people of the San Joaquin Valley will and ought to remain. The smelt and the sucker should too. But let's not fault people for making reasonable use of their land, or pretend that the environmentalists' alternatives are always costless and convenient.