January 24, 2011

Species spin!

By Species spin!

Author: Reed Hopper

Sean Paige has an interesting piece at The Huffington Post; "The Maguire Daisy: Regulatory Triumph or Bureaucratic Blunder?"

 Mr. Paige calls the Department of Interior's declaration, that the delisting of the Maguire daisy is a triumph for the ESA, nothing more than "shameless spin."  According to Mr. Paige, this is "actually a case of bureaucratic bumbling and regulatory malpractice that took 25 years to correct."  As proof of this assertion, Mr. Paige cites a revealing article that ran in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Once thought to have only seven specimens in the San Rafael Swell's Calf Canyon, the daisy now numbers at least 163,000 plants, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It's not just that the plants thrived under protection, said Bekee Hotze, the agency's chief of terrestrial endangered species for Utah. Rather, the scrutiny that came with the daisy's listing led an interagency botany team to search for more, and they found plenty growing south through the swell and in Capitol Reef National Park.

"This species probably got listed too quickly," said Tony Frates, conservation coordinator for the Utah Native Plant Society.

Mr. Paige correctly notes that the "daisy is one of many species that gain federal protection erroneously or prematurely, only to have researchers later discover that the science was flawed and the threat was exaggerated. About a third of all species removed from the list fall into this category."

How does this happen?  Mr. Paige attributes the phenomenon in large part to  "lawsuit-happy green groups pursuing an anti-development agenda."  In this case, he continues, the "daisy served as a pawn in efforts to block drilling and mining in Utah's San Rafael Swell, and the ploy probably worked, as it usually does."

Mr. Paige concludes his piece with a justified remonstration against the so-called precautionary principle:

Proponents of the "precautionary principle" see nothing wrong with such listings: "better safe than sorry" and "whatever it takes" are their mantras. But that presumes that such erroneous or premature listings are cost-free events, with few consequences for anyone other than the plant or animal being "protected." This ignores the mounting "opportunity costs" of having federal bureaucrats working to protect something that doesn't need protection, instead of spending their time protecting species in real need of attention. And the critical habitat designations that accompany such listings carry significant costs for those on whom the regulatory hammer falls, whether it be the energy company denied a drilling permit, the recreationists denie[d] access to a road or trail, the private land owner who must hire a professional consultant, and commission a study, before she can construct a tool shed in the "critical habitat" overlaying her property.

See the entire piece here.

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