Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Fighting for Our Right to Irrigate Our Farms and Caretake Our Natural Resources

         Endangered Species Act Destroying Farmers' and Man's Rights

republished with permission of the author
see http://www.aynrand.org/medialink/manendangeredspecies.shtml 

Released: May 2, 2001

Man: The Endangered Species
By Glenn Woiceshyn

Imagine you are a farmer whose livelihood depends on water from a nearby reservoir. The government knows this but cuts off your regular supply to save some fish. You suffer crippling damages to crops and livestock-but are told that the fishes' "interests" supersede yours.

A tall fish tale? No, it actually happened on April 6, 2001, in the Klamath Basin to about 1,400 Oregon farmers who produce hay, potatoes and cattle on roughly 200,000 acres of land. Enforcing the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Bureau of Reclamation cut off the water that these farmers normally receive-and desperately need-from the Klamath Irrigation Project (near the Oregon-California border) to protect "endangered" Sucker fish and salmon.

According to state representative Bill Garrard, this single government action "sacrifices more than $65 million in farm income and risks more than $45 million in secondary income to the local community."

The endangered Oregon farmers had requested an injunction to restore irrigation flows; but on May 1 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."

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 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.

Meanwhile, Oregon farmers desperately need water to save their crops and cattle, and will stage a peaceful, "last hope" protest on May 7, in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The Bush Administration has the authority to grant exemptions to the ESA and should do so unequivocally in the name of man's right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Glenn Woiceshyn is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina del Rey, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Send Feedback



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