Subject: SW BIODIVERSITY ALERT
******* SOUTHWEST BIODIVERSITY ALERT #111 ***********
* 1/19/98 *
* SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY *
1. SUIT FILED TO LIST UTAH CACTUS AS ENDANGERED SPECIES
2. SW FOREST ALLIANCE TELLS CLINTON TO PROTECT ROADLESS AREAS
FROM LOGGING, GRAZING, MINING- NO EXCEPTIONS FOR NORTHWEST
3. MEXICAN GRAY WOLVES DECLARED "EXPERIMENTAL, NON-ESSENTIAL"
4. PRIVATIZE OR ENFORCE? SW CENTER AND RANDALL O'TOOLE DEBATE
SOURCE OF SPECIES ENDANGERMENT
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SUIT FILED TO LIST UTAH CACTUS AS ENDANGERED SPECIES
The Southwest Center for Biological Diversity filed suit on 1/13/97 in a
Denver federal court, against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for
refusing to list the Winkler Cactus as an endangered species. Found only
at six locations, totaling 200 acres, in Wayne and Emory counties, Utah,
the cactus is threatened by livestock grazing, mining and ORVs.
The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the cactus in 1993, but
predictably, let the species languish without a final decision despite the
clear requirements of the E.S.A. The agency's own research shows the cactus
has continued to decline in the last four years. Livestock grazing grand-
fathered into Capitol Reef National Park is listed by the agency as a
The case is being argued by Geoff Hickcox of Kenna & Hickcox (Durango).
SW FOREST ALLIANCE TELLS CLINTON TO PROTECT ROADLESS AREAS
FROM LOGGING, GRAZING, MINING- NO EXCEPTIONS FOR NORTHWEST
The Southwest Forest Alliance, a coalition of 56 forest activist groups in
Arizona and New Mexico, sent a letter to Clinton and Gore on 1/12/97,
telling them to ban logging, mining, road building, fire suppression, and
overgrazing from all roadless areas over 1,000 acres. The Alliance warned
that exempting forests in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest from full
protection, would severely undercut any policy.
MEXICAN GRAY WOLVES DECLARED "EXPERIMENTAL, NON-ESSENTIAL"
On 1/12/98, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule
designating the Mexican gray wolves to be reintroduced into the Gila
Headwaters Ecosystem of southeast AZ and southwest NM, as "experimental,
non-essential." As such, the wolves will not be fully protected under
the E.S.A. If they stray from designated areas for example, they will be
trapped and returned, or killed. Federal agencies such as the Forest
Service are required to treat experimental, non-essential populations
as if they are only proposed as endangered species. The rule becomes
PRIVATIZE OR ENFORCE? SW CENTER AND RANDALL O'TOOLE DEBATE SOURCE OF
The Arizona Daily Star, the Livingston (Montana) Enterprise, the Jackson
Hole Guide, the Idaho Post-Register, and the Colorado Springs Gazette-
Telegraph printed dueling editorials by the Southwest Center for
Biological Diversity and economist Randal O'Toole of the Thoreau Institute.
Both agreed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is failing miserably to
save endangered species. O'Toole sees this a failure of the ESA itself,
and calls for the privatization of animals to protect them. The SW
Center argues that the Act is basically OK, but has been systematically
abused by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The two editorials are printed
The Endangered Species Act just needs a little enforcement
by Kieran Suckling
At least five wild species will not ring in the new year. They were
officially declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in
September. One is the High Rock Spring chub, a beautiful little fish
which lived in three springs on the California-Nevada border. Its
extinction is a testament to the growing tendency of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service to put politics before the protection of endangered
The Service knew for years that the High Rock Spring chub was going extinct.
By 1980, water pumping had wiped out two of the three populations. But
afraid of angering the rich and powerful, the agency ignored its mandate
under the Endangered Species Act, refusing to list the chub as an
endangered species. In 1982, it let a businessman raise exotic, predatory
fish in the remaining spring, an activity that would have been illegal had
the chub been listed. The predators ate all the chubs. Now the species is
The Fish and Wildlife Service is failing miserably to protect native plants
and wildlife. Anti-environmental congressmen, backed by industry dollars,
have seized upon this failure to claim that something is wrong with the ESA.
When not whipping up hysteria to gut the law altogether, they propose
friendly rewrites such as the Kempthorne-Chafee bill currently before
Even people who should know better, such as Randal O'Toole, an economist with
the Thoreau Institute, believe that because the Fish and Wildlife Service
regularly violates the ESA (by poisoning prairie dogs, for example) the law
itself must be broken. Doesn't it make more sense to conclude that the Fish
and Wildlife Service is broken?
The biggest problem with the ESA is that it has never been implemented. The
Fish and Wildlife Service did not originate as a protector of endangered
species, and has never risen to the task. Under Clinton, it has lost its
bearing altogether, prompting good biologists to leave in droves. This
November, Ronald Nowak, a zoologist at the agency's national headquarters,
quit in disgust. His resignation letter stated: "...this agency is no longer
adequately supporting...the classification [i.e. listing] and protection of
wildlife...and indeed, is often working against this function." Nowak decried
the agency's "seemingly unrestrained use of public funds to carry on
and other actions to thwart or delay" listing and protection of species.
The Southwestern willow flycatcher is another sad example. Although the Fish
and Wildlife Service has known since 1987 that the flycatcher is going
extinct, it took three lawsuits by the Southwest Center for Biological
Diversity to make the agency list the bird as endangered and identify its
critical habitat. Because extinction appeared immanent, Service biologists
called for limits on public lands livestock grazing and fundamental changes
in the management of publicly owned dams. Instead, the agency authorized the
destruction of 30 percent of the entire subspecies in the last two years,
never demanding, as required by the ESA, that public agencies put wildlife
and ecosystems above the profits of private corporations.
In a memo obtained through a lawsuit the agency's head flycatcher biologist
warned: "the Southwestern willow flycatcher is being piecemealed to
extinction; the Service is turning a blind eye...." When he insisted that
changes in the management of Hoover Dam were necessary to avoid extinction,
the review process was moved to the regional headquarters where bureaucrats
authorized the destruction of the Hoover Dam population in the summer of
The biologist quit the agency soon after.
When another Fish and Wildlife Service biologist insisted that Lake Isabella
Dam in California be reformed to prevent the extinction of the flycatcher,
political drama played out again. The review process was suddenly moved from
Sacramento to Washington, D.C. Rep. Calvin Dooley, R- Calif., browbeat White
House and Interior officials, threatening to cause an endangered species
train wreck during Clinton's re-election bid. The Fish and Wildlife Service
buckled, approving the dam in 1997 with no management changes, no references
to extinction, and no concrete mitigation plans.
To understand why species continue to go extinct, you don't need complex
theories of British common law. You need only look to the $216,000
to Calvin Dooley's re-election campaign by agribusiness. It's called
and it has ruled resources extraction since Europeans set foot on this
Before we go monkeying around with the Endangered Species Act, privatizing
animals, or exempting corporations from the law, we should at least try to
implement the it. If we keep the politicians and the big money corporations
out of it, it may just work.
Privatize Creatures to Rescue Them
By Randal O'Toole
Environmentalists don't want to admit it, but the Endangered Species Act is
a failure. Passed with the noble goal of recovering diminishing populations
of wildlife, the means it uses remain cumbersome and ineffective.
At most, the law can take credit for saving only two or three species, while
it has witnessed the extinction of many more.
The prairie dog and black-footed ferret illustrate the failings of the act.
The federal government declared war on prairie dogs, a minor nuisance to
ranchers, in 1916. Eventually, federal poison campaigns helped to wipe
prairie dogs from 98 percent of their range.
Fortunately, prairie dogs are prolific. But by the mid-1970s, one species,
the Utah prairie dog, was so reduced in numbers that the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service listed it as endangered. The main threat to the Utah
prairie dog was - guess who? - the Fish and Wildlife Service, which at that
time was the federal agency in charge of wildlife pest control. It
immediately stopped poisoning the Utah prairie dog and within a few years
the happy rodents recovered.
Not so happy is the black-footed ferret, a weasel-like predator that eats
prairie dogs and lives in prairie dog burrows.
For many years, both before and after the act was passed, the Fish and
Wildlife Service fretted about the ferret. But the agency never seriously
considered ending its campaign to poison prairie dogs, which after all was
the reason the ferret was endangered.
Finally, in 1984, the last ten living ferrets were captured and the species
has since been bred in laboratories and zoos. Even today, federal agencies
continue to poison prairie dogs (except in Utah) and the ferret continues to
Now, environmentalists like to describe the Endangered Species Act as ``the
strongest environmental law ever passed.'' But if it isn't strong enough to
stop federal agencies from killing the prey on federal land, what good is it?
Although most of the debate over the law in recent times has been over
private property rights, most listed species are largely threatened by
federal subsidies or programs. Meanwhile, the unfortunate debate over
property rights has given private property the spoiler image. In fact, it
may be species' salvation.
Consider that the real cause of wildlife endangerment today is the fact we
treat wildlife as a commons. No one, that is, has any incentive to protect
commonly owned fish and wildlife.
It is time, therefore, to consider the possibility of private ownership of
wildlife. Such ownership will not solve all endangered species problems, but
it could help.
In some cases, people would be allowed to own individual animals. Just as
dog breeders compete in sheep herding and other exercises, black-footed
ferret owners might compete on their ability to raise ferrets that can
survive in the wild.
In other cases, ownership might extend to entire populations or even a whole
species. There are nearly 300 distinct stocks of Northwest salmon. Let's try
giving a few to Indian tribes, sports or commercial fishers, or other
entities to see how well they do in recovering them.
Ownership of wildlife should not seem a radical idea. People own trees,
flowers, water, soil, rocks, land. Under British common law, landowners can
own the fish and wildlife on their land.
In view of that, the best thing Congress can do to save species is to let
the Fish and Wildlife Service experiment with private ownership of fish and
Kieran Suckling email@example.com
Executive Director 520.623.5252 phone
Southwest Center for Biological Diversity 520.623.9797 fax
http://www.sw-center.org pob 710, tucson, az 85702-710