Planet Earth News: Endangered Species Act, New Chief Justice and National Forests

Tom Turner's planet earth news briefs includes information on The Endangered Species Act, chief justice William Rehnquist's environmental record, and more roads for national forests.

| January/February 1987

Tom Turner shares the latest planet earth news that affects the environment and its overall well-being. 

Planet Earth News

Monkeying With Endangered Species

The Endangered Species Act is the most important law in the world if you happen to be a condor, say, or a Florida panther.

The statute protects rare animals, birds, and plants—from hunters, in some cases, but more often from developers who would so alter habitat that it can no longer support the species. For that reason, it's also very controversial: Every time the law comes up for renewal, it's opposed by powerful interests who don't want some little fish or flower to stand in the way of a new mine, highway, dam, or string of condos.

Their principal weapon is ridicule. A few years ago, the star of the drama was a tiny fish known as the snail darter. Its rarity delayed the construction of the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River—a dam that should never have been built, snail darter or no snail darter. But the fish got the blame. Before that, a flower called the furbish lousewort held up the building of a dam in Maine.

This year, Senator Lloyd Bentsen is picking on the Concho water snake, which, if officially "listed" by the Fish and Wildlife Service, could hinder the building of the Stacey Dam and Reservoir in the senator's home state of Texas. Construction of the dam and reservoir would probably lead to the snake's extinction, because the rest of its habitat has already been ruined by dams and reservoirs. Nonetheless, Senator Bentsen is holding renewal of the Endangered Species Act hostage at the behest of those pushing for the Stacey project.

Justice Rehnquist and the Land

Much has been made of the civil-rights record of William Rehnquist, the new chief justice of the United States, but his environmental record hasn't been examined in much detail. To those who dream of a Supreme Court sensitive to environmental concerns, the prospects aren't pretty.

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