February 4, 2011

Federal funding for a beetle that doesn’t need it: your taxpayer dollars at work (Part 4)

By Federal funding for a beetle that doesn’t need it: your taxpayer dollars at work (Part 4)

Author: Brandon Middleton

Yesterday I discussed how American taxpayers are paying for federal agencies to provide unnecessary Endangered Species Act protection to the healthy valley elderberry longhorn beetle (VELB).  The situation is even worse for those of us who live in California, who have to watch as local governments and businesses are hamstrung by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the agency's outdated VELB regulations.

One sad example is the City of Winters' inability to replace the deteriorating Putah Creek Bridge.  The Putah Creek Bridge carries 1200 cars per day even though has been condemned, but according to the Service the City can't replace it with a new bridge because doing so would affect VELB habitat, namely elderberry bushes.

Of course, this wouldn't be a problem had the Service promptly effectuated its staff's 2006 recommendation to take the VELB off of the list of federally-protected species under the Endangered Species Act.  But the VELB's regulatory status as a threatened remains, as the Service stalls in response to Pacific Legal Foundation's petition to delist the VELB.

Sacramento KCRA's story on the Putah Creek Bridge and the VELB is a must-see and is available here.

Watching the Putah Creek Bridge story makes me think of the NBC series, "Fleecing of America."  Well, Californians are paying for excessive regulation of the recovered and healthy valley elderberry longhorn beetle, what one may call the "Fleecing of the Golden State."  More examples below:

1) In 2009, the East Bay Municipal District went through the expensive process of obtaining a safe harbor agreement because they owned property which had "known occurrences of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle."

2) The Southern California Edison Company put together a similar plan in 2007 due to the presence of VELB habitat near hydroelectric projects.  Curiously, although a "total of 572 elderberry shrubs [were] identified in the vicinity of the four Projects," the company noted that "only 10 shrubs show evidence of potential VELB occupancy."  Despite such an insignificant effect on VELB habitat, the company still  felt the need to spend its money on a "Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle Managament Plan."

3) You know about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan?  You can rest easy knowing that the folks in charge of the BDCP are spending your money to ensure that any final plan offers adequate protection for the VELB and its habitat.

4) What about the California Department of Transportation?  Don't worry, the state agency has a website devoted to the VELB and is spending money considering the effects of its construction activities on VELB habitat.

5) In 2006, a Stockton area housing developer's road-grading equipment came within 25 feet of an elderberry shrub.  The horror!  Thankfully, county officials stepped in and forced the developer to halt the project pending compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

6) A 2004 Porterville Recorder article noted now the City of Porterville had to spend more than $150,000 in order ensure that a new community center and library did not violate the Endangered Species Act and VELB restrictions.

It's clear that people throughout California have to pay substantial amounts of money based on the notion that the VELB needs protection under the Endangered Species Act. This notion is not credible in light of the Service's 2006 determination that the VELB now is a recovered species, yet the agency does nothing but watch as we continue spend money and other resources due to outdated VELB restrictions.

[Note: If you need a laugh after reading these stories, check out the valley elderberry longhorn beetle maternity t-shirt!]

Federal funding for a beetle that doesn’t need it: your taxpayer dollars at work (Introduction)

Federal funding for a beetle that doesn’t need it: your taxpayer dollars at work (Part 1)

Federal funding for a beetle that doesn’t need it: your taxpayer dollars at work (Part 2)

Federal funding for a beetle that doesn’t need it: your taxpayer dollars at work (Part 3)

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