Sunday, January 16, 2011
The Job--the true endangered species
by Marita K. Noon
The Obama administration wants us to believe that they will really focus on jobs and the economy. The announcements and “pro-business” staff members are just window dressing. While no one is looking, they’re continuing the job-killing policies.
On December 14, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard “faces immediate and significant threats due to oil and gas activities and herbicide treatments.” As a result, they propose it be listed as “endangered”—under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—which starts the clock for a 60-day public comment period. Hoping no one would notice, the proposal was announced during the throes of the holiday season. We, the public, need to take notice.
Ranchers, farmers and oil and gas producers who will be impacted by the potential listing have been working with the FWS on a brand new program called a Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA). Some had already signed a contract agreeing to conservation measures above and beyond what is currently required—and more were about to. The CCA was seen as an effective way to avoid more government regulations by voluntarily preserving the species. In addition to protecting the lizard, they committed to reclaiming abandoned oil wells and paying additional fees that would go into special funds for habitat restoration. The CCA was thought to be a pilot project for industry/agency cooperation. But that cooperation went out the window with the surprise land-grab-action on December 14. The lizard and man’s land use could have co-existed. But, this is not about the critter. It is about control—as most endangered species issues are.
The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard lives in the Permian Basin’s prime ranching/farming and oil/gas country—encompassing Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. Both private landowners and industries are “threatened” as working the land might “take” a lizard. Instead they take jobs. If listed, ranching, farming, and drilling will be severely restricted in the region. Funds will not be available for protection or restoration. A line will be drawn in the sand and the lizard will be left as he is.
If the lizard receives the ESA listing, oil and gas development will be virtually stopped for those that have not yet signed the CCA and no new exploration will be allowed—which means even higher prices at the pump. As we’ve seen with the closing of the Alaska pipeline, the less supply we have, the higher the price. If the economy’s really important, wouldn’t Washington want to keep prices low for the consumer and to help recovery?
An ESA listing will also block potential wind farms and solar installations. The news release states that “Habitat loss and fragmentation” is due to the “creation of roads and pads, pipelines and transmission lines.” Transmission lines are needed to get the renewable energy from “out there” where the land is to “in here” where the people are.
The endangered species we should all be concerned about is “the job.” The economy of this entire portion of the country is dependent on ranching/farming and the extractive industries. Take them away and you take jobs away. The region will become the victim of policy-induced poverty.
The proposed listing of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, and the Lesser Prairie Chicken expected to be proposed next, are premiers for the job-killing regulatory action being taken nationwide. The lizard may be located in small part of the country that few know or care about, but the Lesser Prairie Chicken listing will impact five states: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado—all important ranching/farming and oil/gas lands. The impact of both will be felt throughout America.
Where will it end? Is their goal to stop all new wealth creation?
The public must take notice! We must demand that the economic impact be considered before they shut down all mining and farming. The listing of the Spotted Owl has killed logging and created ghost towns—and the owls are still in decline after twenty years of protection. The ESA protection of the Delta Smelt created unemployment in the San Joaquin Valley of more than 40%--until two Congressmen’s vote for healthcare turned the water back on. (Suddenly the smelt wasn’t so important.)
We are in an economic war. If America is to win, we must put pressure on Washington to listen. At the very least, they must extend the public comment period for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard—and then we must comment: “Don’t lock up more lands!”
Marita Noon is the Executive Director at Energy Makes America Great Inc. the advocacy arm of the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy--working to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life. Find out more at www.EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.