Endangered Species Act Is Destroying Farmers' and Man's Rights in Klamath Basin
Oregon farmers in the Klamath Basin are being forced into extinction. This summer the federal government orchestrated a massive drought that destroyed their crops, necessitated a sell-off of livestock, converted fertile soil into blowing dust, and drove many farmers into bankruptcy and states of depression. To date about $400 million in damages has been inflicted on what was once a productive farming community with roughly 1,400 farmers and 240,000 acres of land.
Why? It seems that environmentalists want the land restored to its original, desiccated, "natural" state. So, this spring, they "persuaded" the Bureau of Reclamation to use the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) to cut off the water that these farmers normally receive--and desperately need--from the Klamath Irrigation Project (near the Oregon-California border), in the name of protecting "endangered" sucker fish and salmon.
The endangered farmers requested an injunction to restore irrigation flows; but U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken effectively fed them to the fish: "Threats to the continued existence of endangered and threatened species constitute ultimate harm."
Recently, the desperate farmers engaged in "civil disobedience" by running a makeshift pipeline to the reservoir, but the feds halted their efforts even though the reservoir now has more water than needed to "protect" the fish. The Bush Administration has the authority to grant exemptions to the ESA and restore irrigation immediately, but declined, apparently because of fear of reprisal from the powerful environmentalist legal machine.
This vicious government assault on Oregon farmers is but one of countless examples of the ESA being used to block productive activities--i.e., activities beneficial to people--such as farming, mining, forestry, and hydroelectric power. The Northern Spotted Owl became famous when timber production was virtually halted in the Northwest to protect the species. Near Bakersfield, California, a farmer was arrested in 1994 by Fish and Wildlife officers for inadvertently killing five Tipton kangaroo rats while plowing his own field. His tractor and plow were seized as "murder weapons." Under the ESA, he faced heavy fines and three years in prison. Most recently, the ESA was used by environmentalists to block power generation in the Northwest, thereby contributing to the costly blackouts wreaking havoc on Californians.
What motivates environmentalists to protect "endangered" species with so much zeal that they are oblivious to the harm inflicted on people?
Some environmentalists assert that "species diversity" is extremely beneficial to man. But environmentalists are the staunchest opponents of genetic engineering--which has vast potential for creating new species. Some environmentalists assert that an endangered species could possess medical secrets beneficial to man. But, in 1991, when taxol--processed from the Pacific yew tree--was discovered to be highly effective in treating certain forms of cancer, environmentalists blocked harvesting of the yew tree. Whenever man's needs conflict with the "interests of nature," environmentalists take the side of nature.
The real motive behind environmentalism is stated by David Graber (a biologist with the U.S. National Park Service): "We are not interested in the utility of a particular species, or free-flowing river, or ecosystem to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value--to me--than another human body, or a billion of them."
This "intrinsic value" ethic means that man must value nature--not for any benefit to man, but because nature is somehow a value in and of itself. Hence, nature must be kept pristine despite the harm this causes man. We must halt activities beneficial to us, such as farming, forestry, and the treatment of cancer, in order to safeguard fish, birds, trees, and rats.
Throughout history, people were told to sacrifice their lives to God, the community, the state, or the Fuhrer--all with deadly consequences. Now we are being told to sacrifice our lives to nature. And current environmental legislation, such as the ESA, provides government with massive powers to enforce such sacrifices. What disasters could such power lead to?
Some environmentalists have expressed their wish. "Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature," writes biologist Graber, "some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along." City University of New York philosophy professor Paul Taylor adds: "[T]he ending of the human epoch on Earth would most likely be greeted with a hearty 'Good Riddance.'"
While extreme, these anti-human sentiments are logically consistent with environmentalism's "intrinsic value" philosophy: Since man survives only by conquering nature, man is an inherent threat to the "intrinsic value" of nature and must therefore be eliminated. Environmentalism makes man the endangered species.
The only antidote to these haters of mankind and their anti-human philosophy is to uphold man's right to pursue his own life by means of his productive activities. Congress should begin the process of rescinding the ESA and any environmental legislation that allows government to sacrifice people to nature.
As for the Klamath farmers, we should urge the Bush Administration to stand up to environmentalists and use its authority to restore irrigation immediately, and do so in the name of man's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Otherwise, today it's the Klamath farmers--tomorrow it's the rest of us.
Glenn Woiceshyn is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.