Changes proposed in early August include no longer listing species and designating critical habitat “without reference to possible economic or other impacts”.[ii] This sounds innocuous but if it goes into effect it will constitute a violation of the duty to understand in clear terms what forms of life need. Looking at things through the lens of money distorts our view. The consideration of monetary impacts may help us know how best to address the problem, but should never affect the decision of whether we need to.
The full story of our most famous ESA case, when the Supreme Court stopped the final touches on the nearly-completed Tellico Dam (TVA v Hill, 437 U.S. 153 (1978)) to save a small fish, illustrates the distorting effect of money and the idea of money. As The Snail Darter and the Dam (2013, by Zygmunt Plater, the law professor who won the case) makes clear, the dam was a bad idea, damaging private lives and having no overall public benefit. Mansion luxury homes replaced farms that had been held for generations, traditional Cherokee lands, and the last free-running river in Tennessee, whose recreational value alone should have prevented the project. An unexamined presumption in the public mind - that something that had cost so much must have had economic justification – abetted what Plater terms “a Congressional Pork Barrel” push for the development.
When Congress then created a “God Committee” with the usurped divine power to allow species to become extinct because of costs, it was a turning point in the history of arrogance. It was cause for hope when the committee unanimously refused to approve the dam and condemn the fish, but then Congress overrode this decision in an appropriations bill, an example of democracy degraded so that nature could be degraded. Such policy determinations do not belong in appropriations bills. The proposals to weaken the ESA are the same slow dance of death. Citizens wishing to get off this terrible ride and form a leg of humanity striding towards life should note the comment period will be open until September 24th. Go to https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/07/25/2018-15810/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-revision-of-the-regulations-for-listing-species-and#addresses