“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him.”
Economist F.A. Hayek called the efforts of central planners to create a more efficient economy than the free market could: “The Fatal Conceit.”
So perhaps the efforts of federal bureaucrats to better control nature than nature can should be called: “The Futile Conceit.” They are bound and determined to play God if it costs the last shekel of our money.
Nevada may well be the laboratory or the crucible in which the futility of this experiment is proven.
Federal agencies have spent untold millions in taxes and fees extorted from land developers trying to keep the desert tortoise from becoming extinct, only to recently announce a sterilization program because there are too many in backyards. And of course the 20-year-old, 220-acre Desert Tortoise Conservation Center will close at the end of the year, when its funding runs out.
Meanwhile, researchers admit they have no idea how many desert tortoises there were in the wild 20 years ago when they were declared “threatened” nor how many there are now or what the proper, sustainable population should be.
In 2008, when 770 desert tortoises from Fort Irwin were released into the open desert in California, the project was promptly suspended because 90 percent of the transplants were devoured by predators, mostly ravens.
Speaking of ravens, it should be noted that these same federal agencies are hell bent to preserve the greater sage grouse — by shutting down economic activity such as mining, drilling, farming and ranching — while at the same time its principle predator, the raven, is protected by a migratory bird treaty.
Then there was the plan to increase the population of wild turkeys in Great Basin National Park. The birds — with few natural predators and hunting disallowed in the park — have taken over the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, roosting in trees at the center’s entrance, befouling lawn and sidewalks with copious droppings.
As for wild horses, there are now more being held in holding pens around the country than in the wild, and those in the wild are so overpopulated that they are stressing the water and grazing availability.
Then there is the granddaddy of species preservation conceit, the champion of profligate expenditures: The Devil’s Hole pupfish preserve in Amargosa Valley, which were placed on the endangered species list in 1967.
Its pond is surrounded by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire, surrounded by cameras and alarms, linked by microwave to security 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
After spending millions of dollars in a futile attempt to preserve this iridescent minnow, the population has fallen to less than 100. So, sort of like the wild horses, the federal government built a $4.5 million, 100,000-gallon aquarium that mimics the temperature and all aspects of the tiny Devil’s Hole.
Like the horses, pupfish are being reserved by removal from their natural habitats.
They could more cheaply seine out a couple dozen minnows and ship them to an aquarium and let the remainder fend for themselves in what we like to call “nature,” where some species are fit enough to survive and others are not, through no fault of mankind.
Our representatives in Washington should turn off the spigot of our money being wasted on futile efforts by bureaucrats to play God.