Published June 1, 2001

Moratorium angers environmentalists

Last November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a moratorium on new listings of alleged endangered species, saying their resources were being drained fighting lawsuits from environmental groups. The Washington Post reported “the move has inflamed disputes over tactics within the environmental movement. It also spotlighted a serious budget quandary for Congress and the Bush administration, and reopened long-running debates about the costs and benefits of the Endangered Species Act.”

Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who now oversees USFWS, once argued in a brief before the Supreme Court that the law is an unconstitutional infringement of private property rights. In her new position, Norton says she will enforce the law but will not use the heavy-handed enforcement of past administrations, because doing so alienates landowners.

USFWS claims much of its budget and time is being spent responding to and complying with the barrage of litigation filed by green groups trying to force the designation of critical habitat for species. The agency contends resources are better spent protecting species already listed.

The green groups are suing to overturn November’s moratorium on new listings.

Eco-terrorists strike again

The Earth Liberation Front has promised to step up its activities to free Mother Earth from the chains of civilization. The shadowy group has claimed responsibility for a fire in Tulare County, California, that burned a warehouse containing large quantities of genetically engineered cottonseeds.

The ELF email message taking responsibility for the arson reads in part, “. . . this seed will no longer exist to contaminate the environment, enrich a sick corporation, or contribute to its warped research programs.”

Local authorities have not yet determined if the group is really responsible; ELF spokesmen say the group’s involvement in terrorist acts is often discounted, and later found to be true.

ELF also announced it has spiked trees in the Umpqua National Forest’s Judie Timber Sale, near Eugene, Oregon. Officials have been unable to confirm the boast because crews have not been able to reach the area due to heavy snow cover.

Tree spiking is a particularly heinous act of terrorism. It puts forest loggers cutting the trees, as well as those working in sawmills, in extreme danger. Spikes and nails can seriously harm both workers and equipment.

Drop that frog

The frog police always get their man, as John J. Zentner will attest.

Zentner, a California environmental consultant, pleaded guilty to relocating 60 red-legged frogs and 500 tadpoles from a development site to a safe pond, where they are thriving. The federal Department of Justice demanded Zentner spend 10 days in jail and pay a $10,000 personal fine, in addition to a $65,000 fine levied on his company. A local judge reduced Zentner’s penalty to 200 hours community service.

The feds charged Zentner moved the frogs to save his clients the huge expense involved in construction delay. Zentner’s attorney disagreed, noting that if his client merely wanted to expedite construction, “There was obviously a blatantly wrong alternative, which was to allow the frogs to be bulldozed into oblivion.”

On March 6, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated a staggering 4.1 million acres of the state of California as critical habitat for the frog, made famous by Mark Twain in an 1865 short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” A new layer of regulations now exist across 4 percent of the state, including 2.8 million acres of private land where the frogs don’t even live–it’s “potential” habitat.

Homebuilders plan to challenge the federal government in court, claiming there is a critical need for more housing and projecting the habitat designation will reduce housing construction by 5 percent and take a $2.2 billion bite out of the Bay Area economy.

Reprinted with permission from the Science & Environmental Policy Project, on the Internet at

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