NANFA-- Bush and the ESA

Jeffrey Fullerton (
Fri, 20 Apr 2001 20:44:23 -0400

> Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 20:24:35 EDT
> From:
> Man, I hate to get into one of these....:)
> Jeff, I'm hoping you're not suggesting that building refugia is acceptable
> over protecting or restoring the habitat the fish (should) live in.

Why can't we do all of the above? Why does it have to be a choice
of either / or rather than allowing lots of people to try lots of
different strategies? The more groups and individuals working on a
problem - the more likely someone is going to come up with a better
strategy - plus the redundancy. Do we have to live dangerously by
keeping all our eggs into a single basket?

> My organization (private citizens, mind you) maintains several refuge
> populations of some very rare fishes. I'd much rather see those fish back in
> the wild! On top of this, the number of endangered fish living in small,
> self-contained, non-riverine waters is very small.
So why not do what we can for the ones that we can make secure. Why
leave some easy to handle livebearer or fish that spawns as easily as
goldfish at greater risk for extinction when you could establish them in
ponds or artificial wetlands? I know this sounds sacreligious to some -
but part of something is better than all of nothing.

The universe is pretty much indifferent to what we want or do. The fish
themselves could care less whether the pond they're in was scooped out
by us or created by beavers damming a stream. As long as conditions in
that pond are conducive for them to survive, they will do just that-
until the pond or marsh is overtaken by successional change or an
environmental catastrophe - ie a shift in local hydrology . volcanic
eruption, meteor strike or man made changes.

Most, if not all species populations are transient features anyway. They
eventually do become extinct from some kind of catastrophe sooner or
later with or without our help or hindrence. If a habitat is denuded of
a species and recovers, it may be repopulated by recruitment from a
neighboring population. A good part of the problem these days is that
some species have been reduced to fragmented populations and the natural
process of recruitment is difficult or impossible. As for the issue of
artificial habitats - there are numerous instances where species readily
exploit man made features. I've seen quite a few instances where human
activities have altered the hydrology and unintentionally created
artificial wetlands to the benefit of rare species- these arrived on
their own accord and prospered.

As for migratory species that depend on riverine habitats- the problem
is much more complicated. Ironically the same government that is trying
to save them is largely responsible for their endangerment to begin
with. Who else had all the resources to underwrite the dams and levees
and channelization that block the migration routes of many
species? And then you have all the shady deals involving politicians,
responsible agencies and the special interests who use public lands.
It's the tragedy of the commons all over again - like the Colorado River
which has more people entitiled to use the water than there there is
water- mainly because the user fee or in that case alotments of water
are not based on fair market value - there is a similar situation in
southern California where farmers are discouraged from conserving water
by subsidies- to grow rice in the desert and the rest of the population
has to pay for it thru higher water bills and taxes. Plus the impact on
sensitive aquatic and riverbank ecosystems.

Maybe I should recommend Dr Mary Ruwart's "Healing our World: The Other
Peice of the Puzzle" to the list- which has some great insights on
environmental issues as they relate to property rights and the use of
federal lands by private individuals and corporations. She does an
excellent job of highlighting how bureaucrats inevitably sell out to
special interests- be they environmental groups wanting to lock up
resources so no one can use them - or give away timber, mineral
resources and grazing rights to well connected cronies as you can surely
bet goes on in any administration.

> Our work is funded in a large part from Federal Endangered Species
> monies.....and, I promise you, we ain't gettin rich! I sat down and figured
> out our cost of maintaining and propagating Barrens topminnows (one of the
> species we maintain a refuge population of) last year. We're spending about
> four times what we're being funded for, for that fish!