My son Peter has been deeply interested in extinct and endangered species from a very early age. It has become one of my interests because it is one of his. So when I read news stories related to this topic, my reaction to it is tightly connected with how my son would feel about it. Sometimes we read these stories together; somethimes I find things I don't tell him about because I know how much they would upset him. Something I happened across today falls into the later category: The Pacific Legal Foundation's project entitled Putting the Endangered Species Act On Trial. This came to my attention because of news coverage generated by their press release PLF Launches Sweeping Lawsuit Challenging Critical Habitat for 48 Species in California:
Sacramento, CA; November 15, 2004: Pacific Legal Foundation today announced its intent to file a sweeping lawsuit against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service, challenging the critical habitat designations for 48 listed species of California plants and animals. The lawsuit will be a statewide challenge to the federal agencies broad failure to meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in designating critical habitats. PLF filed a 60-day notice of its intent to sue today.
PLF believes the lawsuit is necessary to fix four dozen critical habitat designations that are now invalid under recent federal court decisions. In particular, PLF says all 48 California designations contain the same fatal flaws identified by a federal judge last year in PLFs landmark court victory that invalidated the designation of thousands of acres of land as critical habitat for the Alameda whipsnake.
Specifically, PLF argues that critical habitat designations throughout California violate the ESA because the federal agencies did not adequately identify the areas that are essential to species conservation and routinely relied on inadequate economic analyses in evaluating the social impact of designations as required under the act.
In the old days, they would have argued as did the Chairman of the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company in 1943 right before he logged the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker into extinction:
We are just money grubbers. We are not concerned, as are you folks, with ethical considerations. (Philip Hoose, The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, p. 129.)
These days, such men at least bother to lie. The press release has an extremely silly fig leaf of an argument that the lawsuit is to the benefit of the species named. (Come to think if it, this explantaion reminds me intensely of the Grinch's explanation of why he's taking the Christmas tree.) But a quick look at the project overview reveals that they have no interest in preventing extinctions, only in dismantling legal protections for endangered species. Their several attacks on the Bush administration are particularly noteworthy. Apparently Bush is too much of an environmentalist for them: PLF Calls Speculation over Bush Administration Policy on Salmon Nothing But a Political Ploy in an Election Year: Environmental Activists Are Politicizing Issue after Losing in Court, PLF Says, and Bush Administration Salmon Policy Puts Politics Before Science, the Law and People. The Pacific Legal Foundation is after nothing less than having the Endangered Species Act declared unconstitutional.
Why? I wondered with rising horror. Do these people just not believe that species can go extinct? Or do they just not care? I looked at the names of the members of the PLF board of directors. I wanted to write to them and ask for some explanation. And if I asked nicely, I might even get one, but it would almost certainly be the same kind of doubletalk that goes into their press releases.
I looked up some of their directors on the web, examining their biographies as I would that of Ted Bundy, looking for clues as to what could have gone wrong with them to make them want to do this. Surely the answer mostly comes down to money, but just as not everyone motivated by money is a bank robber, neither does everyone motivated by money take on ecocide as a special project. What is wrong with these people? You tell me.