07 Aug 1998 Relief Report #67: August 7, 1998
* Interior Department Cites Species Extinction as Evidence the Endangered Species Act Works
* No Link Between Global Warming and Wildfires
* Could Vulnerable Democrats Benefit from President’s Heritage River Designations?
*New Releases from The National Center for Public Policy Research
Interior Department Cites Species Extinction as Evidence the Endangered Species Act WorksIn a public relations blunder of monumental proportions, the Interior Department recently cited failures of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) — including the outright extinction certain species — as evidence that the ESA works. In May, the Interior Department announced that more than two dozen species would either be downgraded from their endangered and threatened statuses or removed from these lists altogether.
“Our new policy, to emphasize delisting, could alter the terms of the debate over the future of the landmark 1973 conservation law. For we can now finally prove one thing conclusively: The Endangered Species Act works. Period,” said Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, in making the announcement. “In the near future, many species will be flying, splashing and leaping off the list. They made it. They are graduating.”
Apparently, a number of these species will only be flying, splashing and leaping off the list with a little help from the Grim Reaper. According to the National Wilderness Institute, five of the species targeted by Interior for delisting are now extinct. Four of the species targeted for delisting never existed. At least eight other species were never threatened with extinction and shouldn’t have been listed.
It now appears that the Interior Department cited the proposed delistings as successes of the ESA by mistake. The Interior Department based its claim on an internal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service document that included a list of plants and animals that might be considered for downlisting or delisting. In their haste to demonstrate the worth of the Endangered Species Act, officials at the Interior Department did not stop to consider that species recovery is only one of several possible reasons for species delistings.
No Link Between Global Warming and WildfiresWildfires may be on the rise, but — with all due respect to the Vice President — this has nothing to do with global warming.
Since the 1920s, wildfires have been on a more or less steady decline. The average number of acres burned has fallen from 12.4 million per year in the 1920s to just 2 million acres in the 1980s. Improved fire suppression capabilities, forest fire prevention education programs such as “Smokey Bear” and the “Dixie Rangers” and other factors all played a part in the success.
But since the beginning of this decade, there has been an uptick in the number of fires nationwide. Neil Sampson, who served as chairman of the National Commission on Wildfire Disasters, explains why: “We’ve been living through a period when fire suppression capability grew faster than the fire hazard… In the late 1970s, something different started to happen. Any dry weather period began to be accompanied by a greatly increased amount of wildfire… [T]he natural resource conditions… had been made more fire-prone and dangerous… by our past success at stopping the fires that would have reduced fuel buildups.” In other words, the increased risk of fire is the result of excess timber and vegetation that provides fuel for fires. While advancements in fire suppression were able to keep pace with the increased fire risks of larger fuel loads for a while, they are no longer able to do so. Complicating matters further is the fact that environmentalists — including the Vice President — frequently stand in the way of forest management policies that could help reduce these fuel loads.
Could Vulnerable Democrats Benefit from President’s Heritage River Designations?President Clinton’s designation of 14 rivers as “American Heritage Rivers” may have been designed to help vulnerable House Democrats win elections this fall, rather than to protect the environment. Because American Heritage River (AHR) designation can mean millions of dollars in federal aid, AHR designations have been coveted by Members of Congress eager to show their constituents that they can bring home the pork. Included on the President’s list were: The Blackstone and Woonasquatucket Rivers, the Connecticut, the Cuyahoga, the Detroit, the Hanalei, the Hudson, the Upper Mississippi, the Lower Mississippi, the New River, the Potomac, the Rio Grande, the St. Johns River, the Upper Susquehanna and Lackawanna Rivers and the Willamette. A preliminary analysis of this list suggests that close to two-thirds of all congressional districts with AHRs are currently represented by Democrats. Of that number, nearly one-third are represented by Democrats who won less than 60% of the vote in their 1996 election contests. Among these Congressmen are Leonard Boswell (D-IA), Lane Evans (D-IL) and Sam Gejdenson (D-CT), who received 49%, 52% and 52% of the vote, respectively.
New Releases from The National Center for Public Policy Research
* Don’t Like the Weather? Don’t Blame it on Global Warming. National Policy Analysis #206 explains why the recent heat wave in the South and West, the Florida fires, the 1996 Northeastern blizzard and other extreme weather events have nothing to do with global warming.