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USFWS creating enemies through empire building

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Dear HCN,

Re: your recent article, "Habitat protection takes a critical hit" (HCN, 4/15/02: Habitat protection takes a critical hit). What has happened here is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service performed a very poor and cursory economic analysis in establishing critical habitat for the southern willow flycatcher in New Mexico, and they got called on it, and federal court invalidated that analysis. Poor and cursory analysis is not an isolated happening for USFWS. It is deliberate policy. Unless someone takes them to task for it, they just roll over the individual landowner, who rarely has the financial ability to fight the designation.

It is interesting that the southern willow flycatcher is one of the species involved in the lawsuit. If you will go back to your Nov. 19, 2001 issue, you will find that USFWS is one of the agencies engaged in tearing out the Asian saltcedar, or tamarisk, trees in the Bosque Apache, just south of Socorro, N.M., in order to restore habitat for the southern willow flycatcher. Yet, on a road project in 2001, on the Santa Maria River north of Wickenberg, Ariz., USFWS required the contractor to take measures to save the tamarisk trees, in order to provide habitat for the - you guessed it - southern willow flycatcher.

USFWS's concern is not for endangered species but for building an empire, and it will lie and cheat and steal to do so. We have something of the same sort going on in Colorado right now, with regard to the Preble's meadow jumping mouse. There is not the slightest bit of evidence that the Preble's is endangered or threatened, and USFWS knows it, and yet USFWS is working on a plan to set aside 29,000 acres of both private and public land in the state, in perpetuity, to provide habitat for the Preble's. And, as soon as they adopt that plan and designate it as critical habitat, they will be sued and they will lose again.

I am not a hard-line right winger. I spend a substantial amount of time in the wilderness each year, both winter and summer. I believe in the environmental movement. I belong to the Sierra Club and the Colorado Mountain Club and The Nature Conservancy. I simply see that the entire movement loses credibility with the general public when USFWS adopts false and cynical tactics in order to expand its reach. And USFWS creates enemies to the movement when it takes the use and value of land from a private owner without just compensation.

Robert B. Hoff
Colorado Springs, Colorado

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