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"Endangered species" cost USA billions

By Alan Caruba
web posted June 21, 2004

At a time when this nation is engaged in a war, putting the lives of its soldiers in harm's way to end the threat of Middle Eastern terrorism, it would seem inconceivable that it would also be wasting billions to protect some species of salmon or the shortnose suckerfish. But it is.

Unfortunately, when the truth is revealed, the mainstream press often ignores it. For example, on April 14 of this year, the Pacific Legal Association, in association with Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC), released a study that demonstrated the mind-boggling costs of the Endangered Species Act.

"PERC researchers found that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) grossly underreported federal and state ESA costs in its recent report to Congress, and completely ignored the private economic and social costs of ESA compliance, which together easily total billions of dollars a year."

The PERC researchers based this finding on a December 2003 FWS report to Congress, "Three-Year Summary of Federal and State Endangered Species Expenditures, Fiscal Years 1998-2000." According to FWS, the federal and state expenditures totaled $610.3 million. PERC estimated the real costs to be as much as four times greater; more in the area of $2.4 billion. When you add in the private costs to those of government expenditures, the total "may easily reach or exceed $3.5 billion per year."

There is something obscene about this, considering the many other priorities of our nation. As the Pacific Legal Foundation report notes, "People have lost their jobs, businesses, homes, farms, and even their lives to protect plants, insects and fish," said Emma T. Suarez, an attorney for the Foundation. It is the story of a government more committed to so-called endangered species than to its citizens and to the economy upon which government depends.

Indeed, the story of the entire environmental movement is about the steady degradation of the American economy and other nations around the world. It is an attack on capitalism designed to thwart access to natural resources, and attack agriculture, ranching, the production of beneficial chemicals and pharmaceuticals, transportation, and every other element of the economy.

The FWS report managed to omit critical information in its 2003 cost report.

Only "estimates" of costs to taxpayers, not actual costs, were provided.

The report ignored government-wide costs, neatly skirting the many federal agencies and departments affected by the ESA reported expenditures and noting only costs that were "reasonably identifiable" for individual species. That's a hole big enough to drive a truck through.

Costs to state and local entities for implementing species recovery were also ignored, along with those represented by ESA-caused interference with the building of schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure projects. Also ignored were the costs to private landowners. The study noted that "75 per cent of all listed species have portions or all of their habitat on privately owned land and the FWS regulates 38 million acres of private land through conservation plans. Landowners are not compensated for their losses from ESA regulations that prohibit them from using their land productively." These costs are enormous.

It is little wonder that the costs of housing, old and new, are soaring. ESA regulations are widely used to deter the creation of new housing stock despite the obvious need of a rapidly growing population. Nor are the other economic and social costs from regulatory burdens placed on agricultural production, water use, forest management, and mineral extraction included in the FWS report. If they were, the public would be in the streets demanding an end to ESA.

The FSW report did not take into consideration lost jobs, lost business, and lost tax revenues. If it did, the ESA would be rescinded within days. One famous example was the hoax about the "endangered" northern spotted owl. "At least 130,000 jobs were lost when more than 900 sawmills, pulp, and paper mills closed in mid-1990 to protect" the owl. In California, ESA-mandated water reductions in the Westlands Water District cost the state economy more than $218 million and 4,500 jobs statewide" according to the PERC study. The federal government was estimated to have lost about $2.3 million revenue as a result.

The Endangered Species Act has proven to be an expensive and destructive failure. Despite listing 1,260 US species as of December 2003, only fifteen were "delisted" and those mainly because the original data citing them as endangered proved to be inaccurate!

Environmentalism is not about caring for the needs of human beings or our nation's economy. It is just the opposite. It is not some benign movement, but rather a malignant cancer that destroys lives, jobs, and the quintessential basis of our economy, the rights of private property owners.

Easily 90 per cent or more of all the species that ever existed on earth are extinct. It's called survival of the fittest and has been going on since life on earth began. It is worse than a conceit to think that government can "save" a few species; it is an arrogant and dangerous notion that seeks to replace the process of nature with the goals of the environmentalists.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on www.anxietycenter.com, the website of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba 2004

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