Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Legal Foundation Announces 2006’s “Top Five Earth
Day Lies” -- Myths Pollute Policy Debate
April 20, 2006: As the nation’s premier defender of property rights and a balanced approach to environmental protection, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) seeks to clarify discussion by announcing its 2006 list of the “Top Five Earth Day Lies.” These are untruths, peddled by environmental extremists, that distort and pollute debate.
This year’s list highlights the myth that heavy regulation promotes environmental health. “In their zeal to promote their eco-political agenda, many environmentalists ignore evidence that overbearing regulation is counter-productive,” said PLF Vice President Dave Stirling. “A balanced approach—one that takes into account the human factor, the effect on jobs, the economy, and people’s ability to provide shelter and support for their families—is actually the most promising and humane way to protect the environment.”
In advance of Earth Day (April 22), Stirling is available for comment on the 2006 “Top Five” list. A former chief deputy attorney general of California, he is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, where he is preparing a book on how over-regulation harms the environment and constitutional rights.
LIE NO. 1: THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT HELPS ENDANGERED SPECIES
Truth: The ESA puts species in danger and undermines constitutional property rights.
For more than 30 years, the Endangered Species Act has been used as a weapon by radical, litigious environmentalists to lock up vast areas of private property in the name of “species protection”—often without scientific justification, and without compensation for people who can face financial ruin when they are prohibited from making productive use of their land.
The best way to protect imperiled plants and animals is not to deny private property owners the reasonable use of their land. That policy only encourages landowners to keep quiet when they spot a threatened animal or bird, and to regard the species as their enemy.
For these reasons, the ESA doesn’t work. Approximately 1,300 domestic species have been listed as endangered or threatened over the ESA’s 30 years of existence. Only 33 have been taken off the list—and 15 were removed not because they were “recovered,” but because the original listings were based on faulty science.
LIE NO. 2: SALMON FISHING MUST BE HALTED ALONG THE WEST COAST TO PROTECT “ENDANGERED” CHINOOK SALMON
Truth: Halting fishing would be an economically devastating “solution” in search of a non-existent “problem.” Salmon are not “endangered.”
Federal officials are considering cancelling this year’s ocean salmon fishing season, from California’s Bay Area northward to Oregon and Washington, because of what regulators claim is the low salmon count on the Klamath River. But the feds are artificially underestimating salmon populations by not counting vast populations of hatchery-spawned salmon. This undercount violates a 2001 federal district court ruling that pointed out that hatchery salmon are genetically indistinguishable from stream-bred salmon.
Halting salmon fishing will deal a crippling blow to local marinas and economies by closing down a $150 million a year industry.
LIE NO. 3: THE FEDS MUST MICROMANAGE PRIVATE PROPERTY TO PROTECT CLEAN WATER
Truth: State governments adequately protect clean water; federal intrusion is unconstitutional.
Traditionally, land use zoning has been the job of local governments, in keeping with the Constitution’s limits on the national government. But federal regulators are trying to make themselves into a National Zoning Board, with power over land use decisions nationwide, by misusing the Clean Water Act. The Act gives the federal government oversight only over property that abuts “navigable waters.” But the feds have now defined that term to mean almost any water, anywhere. As Investors Business Daily puts it, “If collected rainwater drains into a gully, thence into a ditch, thence into a river, it’s now deemed under government control.”
The feds’ power grab is being challenged by PLF in a case currently before the United States Supreme Court. Rapanos v. United States, which will probably be decided by June, contests the feds’ attempt to regulate a Michigan man’s land because it has wetlands on it—even though the property is 20 miles away from the nearest navigable water.
LIE NO. 4: DRILLING IN ANWR WOULD HARM A FRAGILE ENVIRONMENT
Truth: Past energy development in Alaska belies doomsday warnings.
Even though sky rocketing oil prices are driving gasoline pump prices to new highs, extremists in the environmental community continue to oppose the Bush Administration’s plan for oil and natural gas drilling on a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Yet the proposal is extremely limited—it would allow drilling in a small area of the northernmost region of the 19.6-million-acre federal reserve; the proposed drilling area is about the size of Dulles airport. Drilling engineers believe recent technological advances would require the use of as few as 2,000 surface acres—just one acre for every 10,000 acres in the refuge area.
Doomsday claims that the project would threaten the porcupine caribou, arctic wolf, and the polar bear are belied by experience. The porcupine caribou herd occupying the Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska’s North Slope has increased tenfold—from 3,000 to 32,000 animals—since oil production began there in 1977. In fact, there are no scientific studies demonstrating that any Arctic species has been reduced in number as a result of North Slope oil production activity.
LIE NO. 5: THE BEST FOREST STEWARDSHIP IS TO LET FORESTS BURN
Truth: Removing dead wood prevents out-of-control fires, and spares species from incineration.
There’s a species of self-described environmentalists who act as if they never met a forest fire they didn’t like. For example, following a devastating 2001 fire in the Lake Tahoe area, some enviro-extremists cited the continued “presence of owls” as a reason to oppose a plan to clear dead wood through logging.
But how does it help owls or other species if the forest is allowed to remain a tinderbox? Burned trees serve as wildfire fuel; and wildfires kill owls, scorch their habitat, and incinerate the small rodents that owls love to eat. On the other hand, quick removal of dead trees and reforestation of the area increases the species’ chances of long-term survival.
Clearing dead wood, reforestation, and active forest management are central to sound forest stewardship. Taxpayers and nature lovers should be tired of seeing the nation’s natural resources endangered because myopic environmentalists oppose tree cutting even at the price of letting forests burn.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation is the nation’s oldest and largest public interest legal organization dedicated to protecting property rights, limited government, and individual freedom.
“Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.. ” -- Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919)--
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