Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Endangered Species Act Endangers Species

Everything the government tries to help, it harms. They try to help poor people, and they trap them into a pit of government dependency. They try to increase access to healthcare and education, which drives the costs so high they are unaffordable. They try to stop the scourge of hard drugs on America, and they create a violent a & dangerous black market underworld. I struggle to find examples where this isn't the case, where the federal government actually makes things better.

And so with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which is nightmare legislation in a democracy full of well-meaning people who think with their hearts rather than their heads. This one is really too easy. All they have to do is start some television ads or facebook memes with sad looking animals and anyone opposed to the ESA is worse than Hitler. And even more so if that person is Trump.

The reality is that in many ways the ESA harms the recuperation of endangered species because it makes hosting them a nightmare for landowners. Let's look at an example. Ben Cone inherited 8,000 acres in South Carolina. His family had purchased the land in the 1930s when it was in poor condition and had been heavily deforested for timber harvest. Over the decades the family reforested the land and put in food plots to entice game animals. In 1991 he was informed that an endangered species - the red-cockaded woodpecker - had taken up residence in his forest and that over 1,000 acres of his land would be off-limits for most uses. He was not reimbursed for the loss of economic activity on his land, nor was reprieved of expenses such as paying taxes on it. 

In their effort to help the bird, the government had made hosting endangered species a financially crippling effort for landowners. Cone now had 1,000 acres contaminated by the nuisance, and 7,000 still free to use. What do you think he did? What would you do? Naturally, he began to deforest the remaining land to make it less hospitable to the woodpecker. What other choice did he have? If the woodpecker had taken over all 8,000 acres his land would be worthless. The effect would be no different than if the government had simply confiscated his land to begin with. The net effect of government action was to deny 7,000 acres of habitat to an endangered species, and harm the landowner who had provided them a habitat to begin with. Why would anyone support such a program? 

Because of this.

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