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.

Nothing so efficient as government agencies working at cross purposes

Ravens nest atop a power pole in Idaho. (Photo by Kristy Howe)

Never are the agencies of the federal government more efficient, more capable than when they are working at diametric cross purposes — canceling out one objective with another.

Agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management, which are under the Interior Department, have been doubling down on efforts to save the greater sage grouse habitat across 11 Western states, including Nevada, by shutting down ranching, farming, mining and oil and gas exploration.

At the same time the Interior Department has a policy of encouraging and expediting development of renewable energy production on public lands — solar, wind, biomass, geothermal — and providing rights-of-way to link those usually remote sites to the grid.

Greater sage grouse (BLM photo)

For example, the One Nevada Transmission Line Project buzzed to life shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, according to the Lincoln County Record. The 235-mile, 500-kilovolt transmission line built by NV Energy links Apex to Ely and is intended to carry wind, solar and geothermal energy to market. It cost $550 million with $350 million of that coming from federal tax money.

Those distinctive, especially designed power poles with the “helical strakes” to cut wind vibration now dot the landscape of eastern Nevada, stretching across what has been dubbed “essential” sage grouse habitat.

Now, along comes a study in the January issue of The Condor: Ornithological Applications. Authors Kristy Howe of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Idaho State University, Peter Coates of the U.S. Geological Survey, and David Delehanty of Idaho State University that found that in southeastern Idaho the number of ravens has increased eleven-fold between 1985 and 2009.

Ravens are one of the primary sage grouse predators. The sage grouse are too big for ravens to prey on but they attack the nests and eat the eggs and hatchlings. Ravens also prey on the endangered desert tortoise.

Therefore, it was interesting to discover that 58 percent of raven nests in that part of Idaho are located on power line transmission poles, 14 percent were on other human-made towers and only 19 percent in trees.

The report noted that transmission poles afford the ravens a wider range of vision, greater attack speed and easier take-off.

The raven population in the West has increased 300 percent in 40 years. “Such an increase likely poses an increased threat to sagebrush steppe species subject to raven depredation, including sage-grouse for which eggs and young are consumed by ravens,” the report said.

But the Interior does not list predators as high on the list of threats to sage grouse, of course, just human activity, except transmission lines.

Future resting place for ravens?

Editorial praises common sense approach to saving sage grouse

Sage grouse

The Review-Journal had a very good, common sense editorial in today’s paper about how to prevent the sage grouse from being listed as threatened or endangered by the feds.

Elko County has given the go-ahead to a pilot project at a 15,000-acre ranch in which wildfire fuel will be reduced by using cattle to graze the range and ravens will be killed with poisoned eggs, the editorial recounts, though it doesn’t appear the news columns of the paper even carried a mention of this project.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, though I’ve tried, as you can read here, here, here, here and here.