Re: Passthis on to Bob Goldstien PHD

In a message dated 97-01-14 11:36:03 EST, you write:

             by John Bondhus, Monticello, Minnesota
I finally read this excellent report, and would like to share my own
experiences and opinions.

On the infrequent occasion when USF&WS has announced that it is seeking input
to a recovery plan, I have submitted proposals for captive breeding and
reintroductions of the offspring. In every case, I have been told there is no
money available, the person(s) is/are no longer in charge of that program,
there is no program, or USF&WS is already working with someone else on
related/unrelated projects. In short, a flat-out dead end. In most instances,
USFWS either has no recovery program in any stage of development or divides
the responsibilities for recovery plan development among the in-house people,
often at different locations, with expertise or interest in the subject
critter. Their track record is not something we should all emulate. With
regard to redcockaded woodpecker which are protected and presumed present and
requiring acreage if certain conditions are met, the agency went through an
educational process. The offensiveness or some Napoleonic agent caused at
least one large landowner, who had been managing his land for hunting and at
the same time benefitting the bird, to stick it to the agency and cut his
trees before they became large enough to trigger federal protective status
and he could no longer do with his land what he planned (periodic thinning).
He would have cooperated had he been given the chance (thinning while
maintaining habitat trees).  Since then, the agency has changed its nefarious
ways and now goes out of its way to be cooperative. It has learned that honey
gets the job done. Still the agency is hampered by divided responsibilities,
with some people having authority to develop management plans and others the
authority to develop recovery plans. And they are in different locations. And
you need to leave messages on their answering machines to get them (they have
other things to do and no staffs to do them). 

    The USF&WS track record with fish is much worse than with birds or
plants. It gives little effort, little funding, and still works with
anachronistic state agencies who think that the way to protect a species is
to prohibit collection or possession, when it is clear today that the
greatest threats to species are habitat loss and introduction of competing,
usually baitfish, species. In North Carolina, for example, it is illegal to
collect state protected species, but there are no laws against bulldozing
habitat. The fines for violation are a pittance, well within the budget of
 even an amateur collector or developer.

     USF&WS and some enlightened state agency people now must manage
protection of dwindling species - but only those with some formal protection
(rare isn't good enough) - by withholding concurrence of approvals for
construction projects or approvals/concurrences with environmental
assessments and findings of no significant impact (EA/FONSI). These refusals
to concur typically force those with the wherewithall to change their
construction plans to avoid or minimize damage to protected populations. It's
not perfect, but it's pretty much all we have going in species protection.

     In my view, that's not only inadequate, little more than a Maginot Line,
but criminal. USF&WS is not doing what needs to be done. The agency is too
small, with too little funding, and virtually no clout. Would you hire a
school crossing guard to investigate burglaries? That's about what we are
doing in this country which, sad to say, is better than almost all other
major countries except Australia.

     I believe the solution is to take authority for enforcement and planning
under the Endangered and Threatened Species Act away from USF&WS and turn it
over  to the EPA. The former agency is under the jurisdiction of the Dept of
the Interior, an agency that appears to be doing as much good for protected
species as it has done for the American Indian. It was the latter agency that
enforced a ban on DDT that led to the recovery of the brown pelican, bald
eagle, and other fish-eating birds. EPA  has a track record of getting things
done, working with the public, holding meetings, forming agency-professional
society working groups, and - let's face it - hiring highly educated people
with advanced degrees for almost every position. EPA is in Congress' face at
all times, knows how to get money, knows how to develop, advertise,
negotiate, implement, and enforce regulations that win over the public and in
many cases the regulated community. And they do all this without silly
paramilitary uniforms and badges. 

     USF&WS has a lot of good people. They work for a decrepit agency. If
protected species management were given over to EPA, I'm sure most of them
would opt for a transfer to that agency. And EPA is good enough to pick the
cream while rejecting those current USFWS employees who, like us PhDs (vs
MDs) "don't do anybody any good." - Bob Goldstein