FEBRUARY 27, 2002
DO GOVERNMENT WILDLIFE
HAVE AN ANTI-PEOPLE AGENDA?
CHURCHVILLE, VA- Do government
wildlife biologists know a fish from a file memo? Their official
work doesn’t seem to show it.
The National Academy of Sciences just
concluded that government biologists had no scientific basis for
cutting off virtually all the irrigation water to farmers in the
Klamath Basin of Oregon and Washington last year. The water shutdown
coincided with the worst drought in the region’s recorded history,
leaving most of the farmers with no crops—and no income—for a
Supposedly, the water cut-off was to
protect the endangered sucker fish and the threatened Coho salmon in
Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River. However, the National
Academy points out that the government "has not shown a clear
connection between water level in Upper Klamath Lake and conditions
that are adverse to the welfare of suckers."
In fact, the National Academy noted
that the best year ever recorded for sucker survival was a low-water
year. Nor have incidents of fish die-offs paralleled years of low
water level. The NAS panel even warned that releasing extra water
during a drought year might endanger the salmon because the
reservoir water had warmed so much that it might "equal or
exceed the lethal temperature for Coho salmon during hot summer
A Fish and Wildlife Service official
quickly noted that the Academy panel "didn’t say the science
proves we were wrong; they just said there wasn’t enough science
to prove us right."
Why does that statement fill me with
foreboding? Does this mean government biologists will now go out and
try to justify themselves by "finding" new evidence? Good
science generally comes from trying to find the larger truth among
the oft-conflicting cycles and anomalies in the natural world. Good
science rarely comes from bureaucratic self-justification.
Salmon catches have soared in the
past two years throughout the Pacific Northwest, belatedly reminding
the world that there is a natural 25-year cycle in the huge North
Pacific salmon fishery—between the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf
of Alaska. Oregon’s 2001 salmon catch was 272,000 tons, up from
only 62,000 in 1999. In fact, I predicted the return of big salmon
catches two years ago based on that 25-year cycle.
Did the biologists of the National
Marine Fisheries Service remind us of this natural fish population
cycle when the Sierra Club began predicting the extinction of
Pacific Northwest salmon, supposedly due to logging, irrigated
farming, dams, and the other things the Sierra Club hates?
They did not.
Are the Fisheries Service experts
currently pointing out the recovery of California salmon as part of
the same phenomenon? The San Francisco Chronicle noted last December
19, "A 14-fold increase in the numbers of endangered salmon the
past five years has set off a ring of euphoria across California
among the few who have learned of it." The Chronicle credits
the upturn in salmon numbers to California’s expensive
fish-management efforts, but Oregon’s salmon manager says,
"The [Pacific Ocean] is alive with bait fish" (thanks to
the return of the currents).
So far, biologists haven’t helped
us to see environmental reality very clearly:
In the 1960s, biologist Garrett
Hardin invented "lifeboat ethics," which demanded we let
millions of poor Third World people starve, instead of launching the
Green Revolution to triple the crop yields on their existing
Dr. E. O. Wilson, a Harvard biologist
who has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his writing skills, predicts the
world will lose 50 percent of its wild species in the next 50 years.
The United National Environmental Program, in sharp contrast,
suggests the world will lose less than 1 percent of its wild species
over the next five decades. Is Dr. Wilson an alarmist?
Paul Ehrlich, the biologist who wrote
The Population Bomb in 1968, urges us to reduce the world’s human
population from the current 6 billion to less than 2 billion
"soon," and says the policy implications of his
recommendation are obvious.
Note also the recent "lynx
hoax" in Washington State, in which a small group of federal
and state wildlife biologists used hair from "tame" lynx
to "document" the presence of rare Canada lynx in two U.S.
national forests. Only a whistle-blower prevented further limits on
public activity in those publicly owned forests.
Many wildlife biologists apparently
prefer the world as it was 10,000 years ago, before so many people
began to live so well. Many "wildlife experts" seem to
have formed a dangerous relationship with eco-activists, who dislike
people, and scare-hungry journalists to indict legitimate and
sustainable human activities.
By promoting to the public
unwarranted fears of forest loss, salmon or owl extinction and
sucker fish reduction, the government wildlife biologist becomes
even more dangerous. He or she can gain additional public approval
(and budget) by shutting down small farmers, keeping small fishing
boats in port, and putting healthy forests off-limits to sustainable
Today the Pacific Northwest, tomorrow
T. Avery is a senior fellow for Hudson
Institute of Indianapolis and the Director of the Center for Global
Food Issues. He was formerly a senior policy analyst for the U.S.
Department of State. Readers may write him at Post Office Box 202,
Churchville, VA 24421.