Endangered “Species”

As has been mentioned on occasion in the past, the Endangered Species Act is essentially a venue in which environmental groups bring down big cash. The groups rely on private donations to “fight for the environment” – meaning, for the most part, that they pay lawyers $300 to $400 an hour to litigate against government agencies, then recoup lawyer fees, court costs, and other “damages”.

For most people, an hourly wage of $125 would be an awfully good deal, especially in this economy. But President Obama and environmental groups are warning that it is not nearly enough for one group: lawyers engaged in Endangered Species Act litigation. They would prefer that these attorneys continue to get the $300 to $450 an hour they are typically paid now.

Who is paying these fees? In many cases, it is the taxpayers. That’s because most ESA litigation is by private nonprofit groups against the federal government. By law, the government pays “reasonable” attorneys’ fees if the claims hold up in court.

In other words, the government literally pays people to sue it.

It’s particularly galling because the term “species” has never been actually defined. And the problem has only become more convoluted as scientists continue to sequence the genomes of various “species”: 

The results — from studies of crows, butterflies, mosquitoes, fish and other organisms — suggest that the concept of species is even more muddled than we thought, and that genetic changes don’t always align with more visible ones, such as appearance. “In some cases, species have big morphological and behavioral changes with only a few genetic changes, and in other cases, there is lots of genetic change with few visible results,” said Matthew Hahn, a biologist at Indiana University.

That being the case, then what, exactly, is the Endangered Species Act supposed to acomplish? By all reasonable measures, the Act is apparently designed to rein in differentiation; to halt adaptation and to preserve the status quo indefinitely. This is counterproductive, and itself unnatural; it’s not how the world works – change is the only constant.

Charles Darwin himself declined to define the concept in his landmark book “On the Origin of Species.” “Darwin, when he proved that species evolved, also proved there was no such thing as species,” said James Mallet, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University. If organisms are constantly evolving, then drawing a precise dividing line between two different species will necessarily be difficult.

Given that species, per se, do not actually exist, then entertaining considerations relating to ways of protecting them carries no more validity in relation to the natural world than did once-popular philosphical ruminations involving the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin. In a sane world, organisms would be permitted to adapt and evolve unimpeded.

But this is a world of bureaucrats and lawyers.

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About maxredlines

experience: biology, zoology, psychology. authored/co-authored papers appearing in peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as numerous professional proceedings. authored articles appearing in computer-oriented publications. featured in publications ranging from books to New Yorker magazine to television.
This entry was posted in Animals, Current Affairs, Government, Law and Order, Public Vegetation. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Endangered “Species”

  1. maxredlines says:

    And on the other hand, perhaps preservation isn’t as important as some folks think it is; maybe it’s actually counterproductive.

  2. lectorconstans says:

    Al they have to do is change the name to “Endangered Critter Act”.

    But it’s certainly going to gum up the taxonomic rank system (Life, Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species). Or maybe just the bottom level.

    On the other hand, all we have to do is define a species as “a bunch of critters that look different than the other bunch of critters”.

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