<HTML> <HEAD> <TITLE>96 Hate X?, Robert Stokes, Wheat Life</TITLE> </HEAD> <body bgcolor="FFFFFF" text="000000" link="0000FF" vlink="FF0000" alink="0000FF"> <basefont face="Arial, Tahoma, Times New Roman" size="3" color="#000033"> <TABLE border="0" width="100%" cellspacing="0"> <TR align="left" valign="top"> <td><small> <A href="https://sgi25.netservers.net/bluefish.org/thefilm.htm">the film</A><br> <A href="forum.htm">forum</A><br> <A href="library.htm">library</A><br> <A href="tutorial.htm">tutorial</A><br> <A href="contact.htm">contact</A> </small></td> <TD> Commentaries and editorials <TD> <CENTER><FONT FACE="Arial, Helvetica" COLOR="0000FF"> <strong><BIG><H2 align="center">Hate X?</H2> </BIG></STRONG></FONT><FONT COLOR="FF0000">by Robert Stokes, Natural Resource Economist <BR>Wheat Life, February 2007</FONT></CENTER> </TABLE> <HR> <P align="left"> I am writing during the first days of 2007. My radio crackles with talk about a "new political era." Democrats are organizing to lead the Congress. Their presidential candidates are laying plans to capture the White House in 2008.

I usually avoid partisan politics and intend to continue doing so. However, the interests of rural residents and natural-resource producers will be powerfully effected by currently unfolding national events. Let's look at those prospects by focusing on previously discussed topics. In doing so, I assume a Democratic presidential victory in 2008, not as a predicted or preferred outcome, but a possibility meriting consideration.

COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON AND DAMS: Clinton-era federal (NOAA Fisheries) bureaucrats converted ordinary salmon management problems into the so-called "Columbia River salmon crisis." Intentionally or otherwise, they used the Endangered Species Act's (ESA) listing process to describe salmon populations, extinction risks and permissible risk reduction strategies to the disadvantage of measures reconciling salmon and dams (barging, supplementation hatcheries, others) and the advantage of draconian, anti-hydro measures (spilling water over dams, modifying reservoir flows, dam removal).

Decades of involvement with the commercial fishing industry's congressional advocates, like Washington's Warren Magnuson and Alaska's Ted Stevens, has made Northwest federal fisheries bureaucrats masters of congressional politics. During the '70s and '80s, I watched them play their game from afar as an academic fisheries economist. I am sure the strategy has not changed, though the players have. Elevation of pro-environmentalist Democrats in Congress will enhance the power of pro-fish, pro-environmentalist NOAA-Fisheries civil servants (AKA "the scientists"). They know from career-long experience how to reach past their politically appointed superiors to congressional friends, officially or otherwise.

The same congressional power shift probably also killed possibilities for a "congressional fix" (meaning reversal of court action), in the very likely event that draconian, anti-hydro measures emerge from Judge James Redden's BiOp remand (ESA compliance) proceedings. That process could drag into the next administration. Implementation surely will. Think about former Interior Secretary Bruce (Dam-Buster-in-Chief) Babbitt helping a newly elected Democratic president's staff select fisheries political appointees to oversee completion and implementation of the Redden BiOp remand process.

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT (ESA) REFORM: Want more bad news? Give up (for the foreseeable future) on ESA reforms that would compensate landowners for property values diminished by ESA's critical habitat and takings provisions. Equally dead are provisions raising ESA's scientific standards. Both measures were included in last year's House passed ESA reform bill, but died in the Senate. Environmentalists make mistakes, but they don't often repeat them. They dithered and bickered among themselves during their last opportunity to reauthorize ESA without major change (19931994). Expect them to start immediately on a reauthorization bill in the now friendlier Congress, and be ready for quick passage and presidential signature should a pro-environmentalist Democrat succeed George Bush.

Status quo reauthorization would retain ESA's current dictum that "best available science" is adequate to justify regulation, even where little scientific information actually exists. Retaining the "best available science" standard will, in turn, permit continued application of what ESA advocates and administrators call the "precautionary principle." The precautionary principle says, "When in doubt, regulate." Every potential ESA application involves doubt--often much doubt. So every ESA-imposed economic burden is potentially justifiable.

The upshot is that environmentalists will be able to continue using ESA as in the past. ESA has had little real effect on genuinely endangered species, either preventing their extinction or achieving their recovery. Many, if not most, ESA listings are only definitional gimmicks, where a few animals in a particular location are separately classified from their biologically indistinguishable brethren elsewhere, to justify invoking ESA. The Columbia River "salmon crisis" (see above) has its origin in such trickery, as do many other Northwest ESA listings.

From its first major application (the snail darter-Tellico Dam case), ESA's real contribution to environmental advocacy has been the law's use as a general purpose bargaining lever and "club in the closet." ESA has been repeatedly invoked, or threatened, to advance any and all environmentalist purposes, whether or not relevant to genuinely endangered species, or any other legally sanctioned or widely accepted environmental goal.

Hate logging? Stop it, ostensibly in defense of endangered spotted owls. Hate irrigated farming? Fight it, ostensibly in defense of Lake Klamath suckerfish. Hate dams? Remove them, ostensibly in defense of endangered salmon. Hate snowmobiles? Restrict them, ostensibly in defense of endangered caribou and Canadian lynx.

Hate X? Cook up a junk science story saying Y is at risk of extinction and could be harmed by X. Then attack X (in court and the media), ostensibly to save Y. So it has long been. So, evidently, it will remain.

THE HEALTHY FOREST INITIATIVE: good news for a change. The Healthy Forest Restoration Act was signed into law by President Bush in 2003. That law was part of the Bush administration's Healthy Forest Initiative, a broad administration effort to reverse decades of environmentalist attacks on the logging of federal land. The Sierra Club flatly opposes all of what it calls "commodity production" from National Forests. Readers may recall when Washington's Colville National Forest became a showpiece in the Bush pro-logging campaign. The event was a January, 2003 visit to Republic, Washington by Mark Rey, Undersecretary of Agriculture, political overseer of the Forest Service, and administration point man for the Healthy Forest Initiative.

I would have preferred a law proudly reaffirming logging as a valued use of public lands. There is absolutely no reason why Americans should have to offer excuses, like forest disease or fire hazard, to justify earning honest livings by converting natural resources (standing trees of any age or size) into useful products (lumber and paper products). The law should treat logging as the legal and moral equal of wilderness hiking; or of sipping wine in San Francisco fern bars while fawning about majestic forests. But that's verbal nit picking. Given the advantage of defense in the Congress, environmentalists will have a hard time reversing the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, even with help from their newly empowered Democratic friends.

Some businessmen prosper in the worst times, others languish in the best. The same prevails in natural-resource and environmental politics. Groups and industries whose members and leaders work hard, smart and consistently to defend their interests survive in all political climates. Farmers, loggers or miners who think they have environmentalist troubles should talk to fur trappers. Trappers have been on the environmental movement's death list for over a century. Yet they survive. In fact, rising Asian and Russian markets have recently brought them prosperity.

An old Chinese curse runs, "May you live in interesting times." So the next years will be for Americans who make their living from the land. Keep your head down, your powder dry, and stay tuned here for future developments.

<HR> <strong>Robert Stokes</strong> is a retired natural-resource economist who lives in Spokane. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington, where he taught in the Institute for Marine Studies from 1974 to 1994.<br> <A href="http://www.wheatlifemagazine.com/0207/pg16_0207.pdf"> <I>Hate X?</I></a><BR> <strong>Wheat Life</STRONG>, February 2007 <HR> <P align="center"><CENTER> <BIG><strong>See what you can learn</STRONG></BIG><P> <A href="topic.htm">learn more on topics covered in the film</A><BR> <A href="https://sgi25.netservers.net/bluefish.org/video.htm">see the video</A><BR> <A href="script.htm">read the script</A><BR> <A href="songs.htm">learn the songs</A><BR> <A href="forum.htm">discussion forum</A><BR> <IMG src="salmon_swimming_md_wht.gif" width=150 height=70 alt="salmon animation"> </CENTER> </basefont> </body> </HTML>