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 by retired FWS biologist Jim Beers, 4/29/06

Nessie The Woodpecker

It has been three (3) years now since the famous kayaker "spotted" an
elusive and heretofore extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker in a flooded Arkansas
woodland.  No evidence of the existence of this extinct bird has been
presented since that time despite the combined efforts of the US Fish and
Wildlife Service, Cornell University, The Nature Conservancy, and a bevy of
birdwatchers and volunteers.

For nearly two years, the reported sighting was kept secret from the general
public while the Federal agency (US Fish and Wildlife Service) obtained
millions of dollars from Congress that it then spent to secretly "recover"
the bird while sharing the funds with Cornell and The Nature Conservancy.
The past year has seen a continual stream of publicity articles calling for
more funding and more land closure and land purchase and land easement.
Indeed during both the "secret" two-years and the "public" year The nature
Conservancy has purchased land control easements from landowners, some of
whom knew about the sighting and others that did not know about the
sighting.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service has closed some Federal land and
restricted use and access on other federal land.  Environmentalists are
calling for 5.5Million Acres of southern bottomland woodlands to be
purchased or otherwise controlled by Federal bureaucracies.  But still,
after three (3) years there is NO PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF A SINGLE
IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER.

Congress has appropriated Millions of dollars.  A Federal agency has closed
and restricted access and use on a large National Wildlife Refuge that was
not made a refuge to be closed but to be used.  Cornell University and The
Nature Conservancy have shared in the millions of appropriated money and the
Wildlife Federation has been skirting the edges of this little group to try
and get some "scraps" for themselves as the acquisition and control of 5.5
Million acres looms on the horizon and the ruination caused by the spotted
owl out west is to be but a pale prelude of the havoc all these players plan
to wreak in the south with our money and a bad law.  All based on a bird
that no one can find, no one can prove exists (despite battalions of
"volunteers" and technology that rivals that found in Iraq and Afghanistan).
All for a bird that is claimed to be shown in a "grainy" video that most
likely is the common and widespread pileated woodpecker a long way away from
the photographer.

"Grainy" photo, controversial interpretation, extinct animal discovery,
believers and skeptics; where have we heard this before?  The Loch Ness
Monster in Scotland, Susquatch in the Northwest, and the Yeti in Nepal all
have the same scenario.  There have been scams associated with nearly all of
these "sightings" of all three of these classical myths.  I leave it to you
as to your notions about all these critters but let us focus on what makes
this Ivory-billed Woodpecker affair a scandal of major proportions.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is a scandal not because there is controversy
about its' existence (I have never believed that any survived for 60 years
undetected in southern forests).  The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is a scandal
of major proportions because:

1.)    Congress appropriated Millions of our tax dollars in secrecy that was
unlawful and unethical.

2.)    A Federal agency secretly schemed with groups that it selected for 2
years while denying the public information (hunters, loggers and others that
might have unintentionally harmed a bird.

3.)    A selected and favored private university, a favored private
land-buying organization, and a few others used and shared in the "insider"
information and took easements on and (purchased?) private property with
public fund support.

4.)    Public access and forest use have been restricted and closed on
public lands.

5.)    The public and Congress are being led to believe that more land must
be eased and purchased by the Federal government and their surrogate, The
Nature Conservancy to insure recovery of a bird that none can prove EXISTS!

6.)    The US Fish and Wildlife Service, with public funds, grinds out news
releases and articles about the bird as if it exists to justify more money
and more authority to "recover" a non-existent (per the proof) bird.

7.)    No audit of the actions of the private land buyers, easement
purchases, or government spending is or will be available and records of the
whole sordid affair are not granted even under the Freedom of information
Act.

How stupid would it have been if Scotland had closed boating and fishing on
Loch Ness to "recover" Nessie?  How dumb would it seem if Nepal had closed
all access to their portion of the Himalayas to mountain climbers and
grazers and travel between villages to "recover" the Yeti?  How absurd would
it be to close down all access into and travel through and use of
Northwestern woodlands for Susquatch?  (This last one has probably got some
Cornell professor and a Nature Conservancy "biologist" and a Forest Service
"Native Species" Coordinator thinking bad thoughts!)

Not only would these things have been thought improper and dumb in these
other countries but how long would the Scots or the Nepalese or the
Washington State folks (Seattleites would probably love it) tolerate a
government that would do those things?  How would they react to being kept
in the dark for two years?  What would be their reaction to three years
worth of looking high and low and NO BIRD?  What do you think would happen
to the people that would spend public funds to restrict public lands and
make plans to buy up private lands secretly for a bird no one can find or
substantiate the existence of?  Here in the USA we meekly accept this
treatment by government as our lot in life. We are turning into the nation
of sheep that the Founding Fathers cautioned against.

The thing here isn't that we should argue about the bird, we should argue
about government and elites run amok and politicians throwing our money at
them.  Let Cornell and Audubon and every Tom, Dick, and Harry birdwatcher
sleep in the woods for the next decade (that would keep them out of the rest
of ours' hair) and whistle and hoot to their hearts content AT THEIR OWN
EXPENSE.  If a bird or birds are found, then let the wheels of government
begin their "exceedingly fine" grinding.  Until such time those bureaucrats
have plenty to keep them busy and Congress should keep a cork in the money
bucket.

The fact that this even has to be said, says much more about the state of
the nation than it does about birds or Arkansas woodlands.

Jim Beers
30 April 2006

- If you found this worthwhile, please share it with others.  Thanks.

- This article and other recent articles by Jim Beers can be found at
http://jimbeers.blogster.com   (Jim Beers Common Sense)

- Jim Beers is available for consulting or to speak.  Contact:
jimbeers7@verizon.net

- Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist,
Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow.
He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and
Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western
Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the
Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security
Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress;
twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60
Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to
expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Centreville,

Virginia with his wife of many decades.
 

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