"First it was necessary to civilize man in relation to man. Now it is necessary to civilize man in relation to nature and the animals."

-Victor Hugo

If you’ve never read this quote before, you’ve been missing one of the most concise and eloquent historical analyses of the global environmental movement. My favorite word in this snippet? “Necessary.”

Yet we don’t all agree on Mr. Hugo’s fine point.

Apparently our country’s current Presidential administration is numbered among its dissenters. (What the hell is she talking about now?) I’m referring to the recent leak of a draft of new changes to the Endangered Species Act planned by the executive branch of our government.

Now you may not deem this a worthy or particularly relevant topic for a pet blog but it’s also a vet blog (and it happens to be a tree-hugger’s blog, too) so you’ll occasionally be subjected to the occasional opinionated rant on the wider subject of stewardship for animals in general. So jcat, this one’s for you and your ilk…

If you read the New York Times, the LA Times or even Salon.com (they get extra kudos for breaking the story) you’ll read about the endangerment of the Endangered Species Act.

Now, Nixon may have been a tad rough around the edges but his administration achieved some very fine things, which include the ESA. Before the turn of the ‘seventies, threatened and endangered species only got special attention if the individual states where the species resided got together and decided it was a good idea. Nixon and his then-cronies thought states were too personally invested to make rational decisions on whether a black-footed ferret gets precedence over a highway (for instance).

It made a lot of sense then and still does today. The thinking was, an individual state (comprised disproportionately of citizens hankering for a highway, powerful property owners looking for the bucks and a collapsing construction industry looking to employ simple folk) might not make the best decision for the “freakin’ ferret.” Imagine that!

And “next thing you know we’ll be up to here with spotted owls!”  (add gesticulations for emotional impact)

Remember that gem? I guess you can say Bush-the-former had no special sensitivity for bird-life—not  when pitted against the Northwest’s powerful logging lobbyists. To be fair, the loggers had been losing for a long time. Their industry was (and still is) imperiled. They [understandably] sought the right to continue to log in the face of a dwindling owl population, whose niche was tied to the very trees they expected to cut to put food on their children’s tables. Damn owl! Damn Endangered Species Act! The owl won.

Since then, the Republican administration has been seeking to blunt the effects of the ESA. After all, they want to feed the children of farmers and loggers nationwide. Their approach? Allow dams to crowd out the habitats of endangered fish so farmers can have their water. Allow loggers to fell the owls’ trees so they can have their lumber. Allow miners to blast the mountains so they can have their ore. Shall I go on?

All politics is local. And that’s why the ESA will be emasculated if Bush-the-latter has his say. His solution? Let the states have more control. Let those affected make the decisions. Add new measures to the Act so it doesn’t endanger the livelihoods of our little people and doesn’t infringe on the rights of property owners.

Hearing the administration make its plea (as was attempted two years ago with a Republican legislature—for the record, it failed) you’d think the most vital afectees made sub-minimum wages and lacked for F-350’s and funds for college tuitions. Not so.

The most effective constituents? The property owners of large expanses ripe for highways. The wealthy land owners and contractors poised, tractors-a-ready, for that new dam to get built. The logging companies, flush with land-cash, if only they could continue to rape it as often as they’d like to.

No, we’re not really talking about the dispossessed, the destitute or the depressed. Sure, some of these will suffer. They’ll have to move. They’ll lose income over the spotted owl or some invisible “freakin’ frog.” I’m not insensitive. I understand what they might suffer.

But consider the alternative: a long, relentless trend towards destruction of the continent. Where would it end?

As one prominent attorney for property owners in California said, (and I paraphrase) extinction of a species will be limited to situations where power or water to a population becomes necessary. He means human populations, of course. He means when his clients might lose out if they can’t sell their hundred-acre plots of three-bedroom homes to the highest bidders because there’s no power or water to be had if his other clients can’t build dams and plants on their otherwise-“worthless” land.

I think Dante imagined a particular layer of Hell for people like this.

If you care about our animal populations, insignificantly flighty, froggy or fishy as they might seem, consider writing a letter to your congress-person. Consider posting a comment on an environmental blog. Consider sending ten bucks a month to your local (state) environmental group. Consider how your next favorite presidential candidate thinks on this and vote accordingly.