Editorial: You may not ruffle a single sage grouse feather

Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives. — Ronald Reagan

Let’s see what tips the scales for your typical federal bureaucrat. Ah, here is an open window into the mind of one now. Let us look in.

It is March, and for nearly a year the Baker Water and Sewer General Improvement District has been trying in vain to get permission to replace its leaking 250,000-gallon municipal water tank on a tiny 30-by-100-foot tract of Bureau of Land Management-controlled land. The leak poses a threat to fire safety as well the risk of bacterial contamination of the town’s sole water supply.

An editorial comment about the plight of Baker residents? (From Great Basin website)

But the safety and health of the 100 or so homes and businesses that use the water have been weighed and found wanting when compared to the potential perturbance of greater sage grouse, even though the Interior Department said the birds did not warrant being listed under the Endangered Species Act and are still legally hunted in Nevada.

The town of Baker must jump through hoops to assure the federal bureaucrats that anything they do to assure their own safety does not disturb a chicken-sized bird with a showy mating ritual.

This was on display at a recent meeting of the White Pine County Board of Commissioners, as recounted by The Ely Times.

The commissioners were attempting to referee between the tiny town and the mammoth and intractable federal agency.

BLM Ely District Manager Michael Herder was also present.

“We’re here to address any issues,” Herder told the commissioners and representatives of the water district.

Asked if the water district could begin construction to replace the tank by May 1, Herder’s reply revealed just where his agency’s priorities lie.

“If we meet the criteria,” he was quoted as saying. “Realistically speaking, biologically speaking, it’s in the best interest of the sage grouse if the new tank is completed and the old one removed in one season. If we can limit the time period that both tanks are in place, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Herder added under further questioning that, “Our attorneys are already looking at it. Completion in one year is very appealing. As long as there is a net conservation gain, it’s doable. We still have to do bird surveys before construction can happen, but Baker GID can qualify for exceptions to expedite the process, as long as there is a net conservation gain. We’re confident it’s not going to be an issue. After the end of the nesting season, there’s between a week and a month before construction can start.”

But in December officials said the BLM’s delays in approving the project could jeopardize its state loan under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, without which they could not afford the replacement. They also said the BLM is asking them to complete a 12-month project in only four months.

There you have it. People are an invasive species to the federal bureaucrats, encroaching on their pristine range. The health and safety of the citizenry is of no concern if it ruffles a single grouse feather.

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record. It ran as a column in the Elko Daily Free Press.

Befuddled bureaucrats trying to play God with our money

“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him.”

Proverbs 26:12

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.

Mulitmillion-dollar minnow being “preserved” in a $4.5 million aquarium. (R-J photo)

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.

“Wild” horses being preserved in pens. (Photo by Jo Mitchell)

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.