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NFC: why do frogs have 5 legs

Harold Rice - Olathe Kansas

Business has an old saying that if you fail to plan you have a plan to fail. These are my thoughts on a plan to increase the membership of our organization from hundreds to thousands and maybe into the millions and to work toward uniting all American conservation organizations into a conservation alliance which would more effectively operate in today's public, scientific and political arena.

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall hang separately". Ben Franklin, July 4, 1776

When Benjamin Franklin made that statement at the signing of the Declaration of Independence it was a warning to the participants concerning the political risk they were taking and sound advice on how they could best assure the successful launching of a new nation. Today, for all wildlife conservation organizations, that quote is just as relevant today as it was over two hundred years ago. It is especially important and apprepeau for the current ecopolitical arena of today. By 1890, the end of the American frontier was proclaimed by the United States government. In that same year, modern business management was born. In 1900, the Lacey Act led to the birth of modern wildlife management. From the beginning, wildlife management faced a choice of funding either propagation of the species programs or habitat preservation programs. Many agencies chose to fund species propagation programs. Today, agencies and conservation organizations are dealing with endangered species and endangered habitat problems and often both at the same time with the same species. In today's political environment, an old military strategy, divide and conquer, is used effectively in putting wildlife in a continuos trend of diminishing habitat. This strategy is very effective in keeping issues out of the public eye, minimizing the scope and depth of the problems, protecting the offenders from bad publicity and in the more severe cases from prosecution. Nationwide, new development is also a major factor in the loss of habitat. If on a nationwide basis, wildlife habitat is lost at the rate of 12 square miles per day, that would amount to a habitat loss of 4,380 square miles a year. That rate of habitat loss equates to losing an area of habitat equal in size to the state of Arkansas about every twelve years. Some of the other issues and habitat problem areas across the country that I am aware of are: stream pollution and fish kills from commercial hog farms, also known as factory farms. These farms are the hog version of a commercial chicken farm. Thousands of hogs are raised inside several buildings. The annual solid waste produced by a single hog farm exceeds the annual solid wastes produced by a human population of a city the size of Denver, Colorado. This waste is stored in lagoons near the hog farm buildings. When the lagoon leaks large fish kills occur for miles down stream. In the summer of 1992, the Seattle, Washington area was experiencing a drought and all streams were very low. The salmon spawning run was about to begin and was in danger of not having enough water in the streams for the salmon to go upstream and spawn at their birth site. The city had an aggressive water conservation program going and each day they released figures for the TV, radio and newspapers to publish or broadcast to the local area about the previous days water conservation. The size of the run they were trying to save, less than 3,000 salmon. In the not too distant past, prior to all the dams being built on the river system, the number of salmon in a spawning run numbered in the millions. Chesapeake Bay's shell fish industry is all but gone because of pollution. Communities in the Kansas City, Missouri area are dealing with localized flood control problems. And, the 1993 Midwest floods were among the worst of the century. Also in the Midwest, we have been encountering deformed frogs. Children are finding five legged frogs, frogs with two heads, frog with legs growing out of various parts of their bodies. The area that I am familiar with extends from Minnesota to Missouri. No cause has yet been identified. You can probably add to this list from your own knowledge and awareness of issues in your area.

At all levels of government, you don't get you issues addressed without being a representative or a member of a group with a large membership. Despite what you learned in Government 101, the system does not work that way most of the time. Try this. You call up a local government office, you tell the person who answers the telephone, I am John Doe and I propose that we clean up the Beautiful River that flows through our city, verses You call up your local government office, you tell the person who answers the telephone, I am John Doe President of the Save the Beautiful River Foundation. I represent ninety percent of the citizens of this city. I propose that we clean up the Beautiful River that flows through our city. Put yourself in the politician's shoes and who would you bet gets a call back.

If all stakeholders and conservation organizations would join together to speak as one voice, how effective do you think that voice would be? If there was a single list of stakeholders and all environmental problems were known, how effective do you think that voice would be? If fish are dying in a stream because of some unknown reason, does that mean that no other aquatic or land species are affected? If the fish kill is not reported for weeks think about the impact of that on a once healthy stream. Half of the American population had an outdoor experience last year. In this country there are over 60 million anglers. Those anglers are mom's, dad's, grandpa's, grandma's, aunt's, uncles' and children of all ages. Often many anglers have developed a life long interest in fish and fishing from those experiences with their adult relatives. As most adults know and especially the older generation, children see and hear things that we adults often overlook many times. I propose that we initiate a program to increase our membership by asking the millions of anglers to join our organization. While they may not keep aquariums or have a scientific background, they have a common interest in healthy streams and a healthy fish population. They would provide the eyes and ears for early detection of habitat problems on a scale that would virtually cover every creek, river, bayou, swamp, lake or pond in the United States. I also propose that we begin to formulate a plan which establishes a conservation alliance to pool our issues, information, resources and ideas with other alliance members so that we can increase the value of our resources, increase our organization effectiveness, speak with a more authoritative voice as a part of a larger body for addressing conservation issues in the public, scientific and political arena.

Remember that it takes a healthy habitat for you to obtain fish for your aquarium and if you want to help with the restoration of the species there can be no restoration without suitable habitat. I can't do it alone, our organization president and board of directors can't do it alone, you can't do it alone and the anglers and other conservation organizations can't do it alone, but all of us together can do it. Maybe someday, we may never have to worry about hearing that child's all important question "Grandpa, Why does this frog have five legs?"
Robert Rice
Native Fish Conservancy President
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