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Funds diverted to species protection could have saved storm-struck area

by Senator Doug Whitsett from District 28. Whitsett is a Klamath Basin rancher and retired veterinarian.
also appeared in the Herald and News 9/19/05

In my opinion the environmental movement which has developed in the US since the early 1960ís is directly responsible for the disaster condition in which the country now finds itself.

Untold billions or even trillions of dollars have been, and are continuing to be diverted to the environmental movement away from the development and maintenance of the basic infrastructure of our nation. Monies which should have been used by the Army Corps of Engineers over the last 40 years to engineer, fortify, and rebuild our bridges, highways, levees, dams, and tsunami warning systems have been allocated to other state and federal bureaucracies and special interest organizations under the guise of implementing the Endangered Species Act and to the "restoration" of "ecosystems" to prehistoric conditions.

The breaching of levees along the Sacramento River was a harbinger of the current disaster. The Army Corp of Engineers was prevented from repairing and fortifying these aging levees in order to preserve the habitat for the allegedly endangered Elderberry Beetle. Funds were allocated for beetle preservation rather than levee restoration. Predictably, the aging levees were breached resulting in several deaths and significant property damage.

Hurricane Katrina exemplifies the extent to which a combined regional natural and man-made disaster can and will affect the entire nation. The levees surrounding New Orleans should have been fortified many years ago. They were not because the federal budget to the Corps of Engineers was repeatedly cut preventing completion of this project. The more than $50 billion which is being initially allocated for disaster relief could have been used for the levee fortification which would have prevented or mitigated the breaching and subsequent flooding of the city. The predicted result of the breached levees is the death of thousands, the untold agony of the millions of affected and displaced poor, incredible property damage, and the near total destruction of the existing ecosystem. It is all too obvious that this tragedy could have been averted had the funds been made available to enhance the levees.

On the national scale the interruption of the supply of refined oil and gas commodities to our nationís industries and citizens is already evident with a 30% reduction in availability at the present time. The unemployment inherent in the destruction of an entire city is already weighing down our economy and the hundreds of billions of dollars required for disaster relief and reconstruction will cost us all for a generation. The true cost of this disaster in lives lost, lives disrupted, property, infrastructure and ecosystem destruction, and national economic stress has not begun to be imagined.

The systematic destruction of our infrastructure through depletion and diversion of state and federal revenues to fund environmental causes for fish, wildlife and ecosystem restoration is now evident. It will continue to increase as our cities, transportation systems and flood control systems age. This nation will never, and should never, be returned to a pre-civilization state. We have built a great civilization, a civilization to be proud of, and we are all in this life experience together.

Above all, we must continue to provide for the components of human safety and the infrastructure integrity of our society first. Humans are, and will always be, an integral part of our nationís ecosystems. We must recognize that human needs must be prioritized and addressed first and foremost with our tax dollars. Rather than being obliterated by the force of a huge storm, New Orleans was largely destroyed by flooding caused by breached levees. This disaster could have been prevented had the revenue diverted by our federal and state governments for programs like salmon restoration and the ongoing ill fated Canadian Wolf reintroduction been properly used for infrastructure maintenance such as reinforcement of the aging and inadequate levees. Funding for the protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife, as well as the restoration of their ecosystems, must be rightfully prioritized behind the basic needs and safety of our citizens.





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