Earth Diary: Political Update

The proposed names for the Bush presidential administration appointments for environmental executives are not good news, the Endangered Species Report is released, and the founder of Earth First! is arrested.

| September/October 1989

  • 119-024-02
    Dave Foreman of Earth First! Was his arrest a frame-up, and is it a foretaste of things to come?

  • 119-024-02

The Bush administration been very slow to appoint deputies and assistant secretaries in the Departments of Interior, Agriculture and several others. And, by and large, the names that have been put forward are not particularly good news. James Cason, tapped to oversee the affairs of the Forest Service, is a protégé of James Watt. Cy Jamison, nominated to head the Bureau of Land Management, earned his spurs at the knee of Ron Marlenee, the Montana congressman who persuaded President Reagan to veto the Montana wilderness bill last year. Constance Harriman, the choice for assistant interior secretary to oversee the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, is a right-wing lawyer, one of whose qualifications is said to be the size of the contribution her daddy made to the Bush-for-president campaign. New director of the National Park Service is James Ridenour, who spent his recent career fighting conservationists back home in Indiana. The one bright spot is Michael Deland, headed for chairmanship of the Council on Environmental Quality. He was the EPA's regional administrator in Boston and is well thought of by many environmentalists. Nominations of all but Ridenour will be considered by senatorial committees in early fall.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives the news is similarly deja vu. Jim Wright, congressman from Big Oil, is gone. Tony Coelho, congressman from Big Water Projects, is also gone. Wright is replaced by Tom Foley, a decent guy who unfortunately is the congressman from Big Lumber. We'll have to wait on Coelho's replacement. So it goes.

A Gloomy Endangered Species Report

Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts recently asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to see just how well the government is doing in its effort to protect and recover threatened and endangered species. The answer is, not very well.

The Endangered Species List numbers nearly a thousand, of which about half are indigenous to the United States. Hundreds if not thousands more species should be on the list; they don't figure at all in this GAO report. Of the 482 listed native species, only 60% are covered by approved recovery plans. Of those recovery plans, at least half the steps outlined remain untrod. Despite listing and recovery plans, GAO found that populations of 34% of the listed species are still in decline, while 37% are stable and 16% are improving. The remainder are either "condition unknown" or assumed extinct.

The GAO opined that the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service spend too much effort on glamorous species like the gray wolf and the peregrine falcon and not enough on the lowly spotfin chub and socorro isopod. GAO recommended that the agencies develop a system—a new data base—so it will be easier to find out which species are on the way up and which are on the way out.

All in all, it seems to your correspondent like quibbling over minutiae. The endangered species program is so pitifully underfunded that no one could make a success of it by rearranging emphases. The only way to assure the survival of most of these species is to buy and protect their necessary habitats, and that will be very expensive.

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