Wildlife: The Real Test of Environmental Quality
Thomas L. Kimball
Given at Berkeley, California, May 19, 1981
When our astronauts first circled the earth, their words described the incredible beauty of the earth from space. As they walked on the moon, analyzed its soil and rock, and probed the outer reaches, the awesome conclusion came. There is no other life in our Solar System. Except for energy from the sun, residents on this globe can expect no help from space. This blue-green orb we call earth can be likened to a space ship, completely dependent on its delicately-balanced and closely-integrated life support systems. When we destroy these we destroy ourselves.
Only during the last two decades has the average American developed a towering environmental ethic - a recognition that man must learn to live in harmony with nature rather than exercise a professed inalienable right to misuse and waste finite resources, to poison and pollute our land, water, and air, impair the genetic diversity of our planet, and then hide from the consequences. Our nation, and indeed the world, must come to the conclusion that there is no place to hide. We must do with what we have. We must first come to understand the interrelationships and interdependence of our planet and animal ecological systems and then limit man's intrusions and manipulations to the extent that the ability of the system to sustain the good life is maintained.
The disturbing question before the world today is how do we know we cross the threshold of resource use and misuse that results in a degraded life-style at best, or at worst an inheritance only ants can enjoy? What is the litmus test for our civilization? I submit the thesis that wildlife forms probably are our best environmental indicators.
Currently our nation is preoccupied with runaway inflation, unemployment, and a stagnant economy. The cure appears simple to most of our national leaders: produce more by giving business tax incentives and reducing the amount of government regulation; then balance the Federal budget. Far too little thought is being given to maintaining the ecological integrity of the earth. If we go too far in snipping the red tape which regulates polluting industries, we cut the essential cord that binds our efforts to restore the cleanliness of our water, air, and land. Clearly it is in the national interest to have a robust economy and a healthy environment. It is not an "either-or" situation. Both goals can be achieved. Industry and government should not misrepresent the situation by contending we can achieve only one objective at the expense of the other. But ever-increasing production of commodities is not the total answer to our national economy over the long term. There are limits to growth. Finite resources will run out at some future date. The only variable is time. In order to avoid complete catastrophe, our scientific, academic, and political communities must develop alternative scenarios that do not completely depend upon a continually expanding gross national product for economic stability. Now is the time to perfect the technology of clean, renewable sources of energy: solar, geothermal, biomass, low-head hydro, wind, tides, ocean temperature differentials. One day these will be all that we have. Energy availability and price drives our national economy. Looking to the future, we must give as much priority to perfecting renewable, environmentally acceptable energy as we are currently giving to national defense and the space race. Instead, we now are putting most of our energy eggs in the coal and nuclear development basket. In the nuclear field, caution has once again been shunted aside in favor of the plutonium society. The breeder reactor is to be rapidly developed at the taxpayer's expense before the problems of safety, radioactive waste disposal, and proliferation have been resolved. If we must have nuclear energy, why not nuclear fusion rather than fission? To be able to duplicate the nuclear reaction taking place in the sun would be to have the best of both worlds. Nuclear fusion is relatively safe, is in unlimited supply, and much less of a radioactivity problem. Its use would conserve our hydrocarbons for other uses. If we must burn coal to satisfy our near term energy needs, why not an equally firm commitment to resolve the attendant environmental catastrophes that could result-significant changes in C02 levels in the atmosphere that could, when combined with a drastic reduction in the C02 absorption capacity of the world's tropical forests, alter the world's weather patterns. Acid rain that has already made thousands of lakes sterile in New England and Canada and increased movement towards the acidity end of the scale could seriously impair if not destroy the capacity of the land to produce herbaceous cover. Particulates and toxic substances in the air will accelerate the already-skyrocketing incidence of all types of respiratory diseases. Hydrocarbons are finite and one of our most valuable minerals. They can be transformed into food, fuel, plastics, fabrics, and pharmaceuticals (to name a few uses). Does it make sense to burn them all up in automobiles or under boilers without giving serious thought to all possible alternatives for meeting energy needs and without giving more than lip service to energy conservation? Conservation and maximum efforts to develop renewable energy programs offer the best chance of reducing our nations dependence on Middle East oil, reducing our balance of payments in foreign trade, reducing the inflationary spiral, and maintaining the integrity of the plant and animal ecological systems on our polluted planet.
Today the United States stands as a world power because of our superior development as a mechanized, industrialized, computerized society. The forward stance of our nation and retention of the title of superpower is dependent upon keeping ahead of other nations in science and technology and by using knowledge acquired to conserve and wisely use the nation's natural resources. We are embarking upon a technological era that boggles the mind. I am almost, but not quite, persuaded that technology can eventually do what the mind can conceive. At the touch of the atomic button, we already have the capacity to destroy civilization as we now know it. Yet with all that knowledge and much more, we are yet unable accurately to predict at what specific point man's manipulation, waste, and pollution of earth's life-perpetuating resources will destroy the quality of life we currently enjoy. At what point will it devastate the earth or parts thereof the same as if we had pushed the atomic exchange button? What the average citizen does observe is a gradually deteriorating quality of the natural environment, as that degradation relates to his own use or enjoyment of his surroundings. Water, around which over three-fourths of the Nation's outdoor recreation revolves, smells bad and the aquatic ecosystem no longer produces the variety and abundance of fish and shellfish it once did. The urban dweller chokes on air pollutants. Wind and water erosion is depleting the productivity of the soil. Prime farm land, wetlands, and forests are lost to housing, highways, shopping malls, and industrial development.
With all this adverse impact, how can we measure the quality of the environment? At what point do we raise our voice in protest? At what point do these voices become a uniform chorus loud and effective enough to be heard by our decision-makers? What will motivate the average American actively and aggressively to participate in the decisions that will affect the quality of living for everyone? Awareness is the prime motivator, and the two essential ingredients of awareness are caring and knowledge. An extended series of public opinion surveys have continually confirmed the American public cares about the environment. In 1980, the Council on Environmental Quality1 published a report of public opinion on environmental issues. Resources For The Future, a private research organization, reported after a nationwide poll that over 50 percent of our nation's citizenry believe that "the nation was spending too little on environmental problems." They said: "At the opposite extreme, only 15 percent of the people believe the nation is spending too much." Innumerable other public opinion surveys, past and present, confirm that the public remains concerned about environmental quality. During the early and mid-1970's, it became the number one public concern. Recently it has remained a primary concern behind the serious problems of inflation and national security. Knowledge, the other component of awareness, is the responsibility of all. The formal school systems, specifically our institutions of higher learning, currently make a significant but inadequate contribution to the dissemination of environmental knowledge. Private organizations, such as the National Wildlife Federation, contribute to the body of environmental knowledge by collecting and interpreting scientific and environmental data and presenting it to the public in popular, simple, and readily understood terminology. One of our first efforts was the NWF Index of Environmental Quality which appeared in NATIONAL WILDLIFE magazine in 1969.2 This was the first in a series of annual assessments of our Nation's environmental quality, a comprehensive effort to measure the progress of our civilization. We began by assessing the quality trend in critical resource areas - air, water, soil, minerals, forests, and wildlife - between the years 1965-1969. After analyzing mountains of, data, we concluded that our Nation's Environmental Quality Index was poor and the quality of life was on a downward trend. Much to our embarrassment, and after hearing from many of our readers, we realized we had left out the most important single index of all - human population trends. We quickly added this most important factor to our Index and have followed the reduction of human living space closely every year since. It is now a truism that human population increase is our most serious environmental problem. Each person added to the world census requires the consumption of additional resources already straining under a world population that may double in the next 30 years. When NWF published its World Environmental Quality Index in 1972 in cooperation with the United Nations, it was estimated that every minute added 120 additional humans to be fed, housed, clothed and educated.3 In 12 years, the world's population would grow by one billion people at the 1972 growth rate.
During the intervening years between 1969-198 1, this Nation's environmental index continued a downward trend in all critical resource categories except air and forests. Air quality improved during that period in many parts of the country, thanks to the Federal Clean Air Act and implementation of federal and state regulations. We continue to grow as much wood fibre as we cut, thanks to even-flow management of our national forests - a policy of not cutting more trees than we grow - and a depressed United States construction industry. Both of these desirable trends are likely to change as the current political climate postpones air cleanup deadlines, as industrial critics and economists try to pull the teeth of the Clean Air Act and attendant regulations, and as increased old growth timber cutting is foisted on the national forest system.
Several times I have stated that it is difficult to monitor environmental quality. This is because environmental quality is a subjective, infinitely changing term. Environmental quality means different strokes for different folks. Natural beauty is in the eye of the beholder when an attempt is made to specifically define quality air, water, and land. To some, the air is clean enough when you do not have to stay indoors with the air conditioner on to breathe. To others, air clean enough to see 100 miles of the Grand Canyon or a pasque flower is a Constitutional right as inalienable as free speech.
For these reasons, and others, I believe that the status and trend of wildlife variety and numbers to be true test of environmental quality. Man, who some claim is nothing more than a naked ape with the brain and reasoning power to destroy the world, nonetheless, is an integral part of the animal kingdom, although at times as king he exercises unrighteous dominion over his subjects and their habitats. As our environment becomes less livable for the subjects of the kingdom, it also becomes less suitable for the king. The most sensitive barometer of environmental quality is the number and trends of rare, threatened, and endangered species of wildlife. I repeat again for emphasis, the condition of wildlife populations is the litmus test of a healthy human environment.
The National Wildlife Federation compiled a World Environmental Quality Index similar in format to the National Environmental Quality Index. The results appeared in the International Wildlife magazine in 1972.4 Since the year 1600, 359 species of wildlife have disappeared from earth and the rate of extinction is four times faster today. In the United States, the number of endangered species has risen from 89 in 1969 to 183 as of February 1981.4 There have been similar increases in the number of rare and threatened species of wildlife. The losses of these animals are directly related to man's manipulation and destruction of the natural ecosystems and those essential interrelationships and interreactions that sustain and perpetuate life. It was massive public concern over environmental degradation that led the Congress of the United States in the 1970's to pass the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Act, and other laws designed to improve the condition of the natural habitat of all living organisms. However, there is growing public resistance to government regulations to implement these Acts. Declining public support for environmental regulations is a result of both lack of knowledge and misinformation. The most misunderstood example of an endangered species issue and the environmental cause was the famous snail darter case within TVA's Tellico Dam Project on the Little Tennessee River. The purpose of the project was to provide hydro power, shoreline development, flood control, flatwater recreation, and other recreation benefits. Most of the publicity and information the public received, mainly through the news media, was how ridiculous those environmental extremists had become trying to stop a nearly-completed dam with all those societal benefits by dredging up an endangered fish, less than 3 inches long, nobody ever heard of. The real reasons for opposing the Tellico project were the best kept secrets in Washington. Congress first authorized the Tellico project in 1966 and appropriations began in 1967.5 Conservation organizations fought the project on its merits as a typical unjustified, boon-doggle water project. The costs far exceeded the so-called societal benefits. In 1971, a suit was filed in federal court to halt the project because TVA had not filed an adequate Environmental Impact Statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The court upheld that NEPA requirements applied to the project and TVA was enjoined from continuing construction until the Environmental Impact Statement was filed. In March of 1975, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had been petitioned under the Endangered Species Act to list the snail darter as endangered. The fish was officially listed as endangered in October 1975. On February 18, 1976, a suit was filed to enjoin the project as being in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The project was stopped again and withstood challenges in both the Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Congress, in the fall of 1978, aided and abetted by the congressional delegation from Tennessee, enraged over the shelving of their sacred-cow log-rolling project, amended the Endangered Species Act by setting up a committee of seven cabinet officers to review and exempt a project from the terms of the act if the public interest warranted the exception. Early in 1979, the committee reviewed the project. The economic advisor to the President made the motion that the Tellico project not be exempt from the act, not because of the snail darter but because the costs greatly exceeded the benefits. The majority of the committee agreed. That same year the Tennessee congressman, in whose district the project was located, in a midnight amendment to an appropriation bill with only a handful of members on the floor, exempted the Tellico Project from the Endangered Species Act. One can only conclude from such a scenario that pork barrel politics, rather than reason, prevailed. Knowledge of the public interest, the cost-benefit ratio, or an endangered species of wildlife was not responsible for the ultimate decision. Pork barrel politics decided the issue. The completed project will destroy snail darter habitat in the Little Tennessee River. It inundates and thereby eliminates 10 miles of exceptionally high quality trout fishery and 20 miles of warm water stream habitat. It permanently inundates 14,500 acres of terrestrial wildlife habitat and 7,700 acres of the best farmland in the area. It destroys the last remaining free flowing stretch of the Little Tennessee River. The entire other reaches of the river are already impounded and this project completes the inundation. It permanently inundates and renders inaccessible the majority of 280 archaeological sites which have been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the claimed economic benefits are highly questionable. Many of the values claimed were for flood control and recreation. The Little Tennessee River was already dammed from one end to the other, so how much additional flood control was needed? The recreation values were accredited to the creation of a 16,000-acre lake. There are already so many warm water lake recreation opportunities in the same area that one lake more or less would hardly be noticed.
I have recited this case not because of the importance of the snail darter but to illustrate the point that decisive actions are constantly being taken regardless of merit and in a cavalier fashion that bodes ill for our hopes of preserving the integrity of our Nation's ecological systems.
The snail darter case also brings to the fore the relative importance and difficulty of maintaining genetic diversity. Those who would ridicule the importance of preserving the endangered snail darter, the pearly-shelled mussel, or the furbish lousewart, or any other of the myriad plants and animals they may have never heard of, should read The Sinking Ark by Norman Myers.6 This is the best overall look at the critical importance of preserving genetic diversity I have read. Mr. Myers cites the many animals and plants that have contributed much to the welfare of man: bee venom for arthritis and snake venom as non-addictive pain killers - blowfly larvae - they secrete a substance that promotes the healing of deep wounds, decaying tissue and osteomyelitis - the blister beetle to treat certain conditions of the uro-genital system - cotton topped marmosets - a monkey susceptible to cancer of the lymphatic system, to help produce a potent anti-cancer vaccine - the lung fish - to study a means to simulate a suspension of metabolic processes in humans who undergo long heart operations - the armadillo - the only other animal other than man capable of contacting leprosy, thereby holding the only hope for a cure - the chimpanzee - the only creature on which the safety of antihepatitis vaccines can be tested.
Plants, essential and integral parts of living systems, are equally utilitarian. The purple fox glove yields digitalis that corrects heart irregularities without which more than 3 million Americans would find their lives cut short within as little as 72 hours. Alkaloids that are found in 20 percent of all plant species include strychnine, cocaine, morphine, nicotine, mescalin, and a host of medicines used as pain killers, respiratory stimulants, blood pressure boosters, muscle relaxants, local anesthetics, rumor inhibitors and anti-leukemia drugs. To date, according to Myers, only 2 percent of the earth's 300,000 flowering species have been screened for alkaloids.
As our world moves into monoculture as the principle means of food production, maintaining genetic diversity is critical. A number of years ago a wilt plagued the corn crop in the United States. Almost 20 percent of the crop was lost one year, and had geneticists not been able to breed into a new hybrid corn the wilt resistant genes found in other species, the result would have been catastrophic. The same potential calamity is possible with the many and varied rusts that can devastate a wheat crop or the myriad viruses or other plant diseases that could all but eliminate singular plant species grown in great quantity upon which millions of people depend for food.
Time does not permit the recitation of known utilitarian values to mankind of innumerable plants and animals unfamiliar or unknown to most of us. Suffice it to say that were that knowledge and information made required reading by every citizen, they would be convinced that preserving the plant and animal ecosystems, thereby assuring genetic diversity, is synonymous with the survival of species Homo Sapiens.
It follows then that wildlife is the time tested indicator of environmental quality. The fate of the king of the animal kingdom, man, is linked inseparably to the fate of his subject animals. We have in the growing numbers of rare, threatened, and endangered species of wildlife the measuring tape of our own well being.
Robert Frost once said, "What makes a great nation in the beginning is a good chunk of real estate." The United States has the best chunk of real estate on earth. The quality of life of future generations will be in a direct ratio of how well we conserve and recycle the finite resources of our chunk of real estate. Some years ago a young resource scientist from Israel visited our country, and after a rather comprehensive review of our resource management programs and a cross-country tour, remarked, "You are a nation looking too old for a country so young." The implication was clear. We have squandered, wasted, and misused far too much of our resource bounty and have in place no overall land planning capability-nor the scientists, technicians, and funding to develop such a plan. Our Nation's best effort was the recent congressional action on allocating the land-based uses of our last frontier, Alaska. Here was the best and last chance to benefit from the 200 years of land resource management and experience, successes as well as mistakes of the lower 48 states, by forging a land use program that would provide the greatest good for the greatest number of U.S. citizens over the longest period of time. As with most significant national issues, none of the players were completely satisfied. Conservation forces were generally delighted with the outcome. Out of 375 million acres in Alaska, roughly 104 million acres to go the state.7 These are the lands with the highest potential for economic development, lands upon which are located the known deposits of minerals, the most productive stands of timber, and the greatest prospect for finding and developing oil and gas. Some 44 million acres and 1 billion dollars go to the native people, the Aleuts and Eskimos, to satisfy their claims to lands and resources. Finally, 104 million acres are reserved for a variety of public uses, as well as a resource reserve of 123 million acres that permits future generations a say in future land policy development. The magnitude of the Act coupled with the immenseness of Alaska, is difficult fully to comprehend. Federal lands include 24 1/2 million acres of new National Parks, 19 million acres of new Park Preserves, 53 acres of new National Wildlife Refuges, 3.2 million acres of National Forest Monuments, 3.3 million acres of new National Forests, 212 million acres of National Conservation and Recreation Areas, 56.6 million acres of wilderness, portions of 26 rivers added to the Wild and Scenic River System, with 12 designated for further study. There are still some shortcomings which it is hoped Congress will resolve in the future. There are active mines that could impair or destroy the wilderness character and salmon spawning in the Misty Fiords National Monument. Some 19,000 acres of Admiralty Island are mandated for logging in an area the local natives wanted protected as wilderness. The Act guarantees annual subsidies to cut a 4.5 billion board foot of timber per decade, a bad precedent for sound timber management. The Porcupine caribou herd calving ground within the William 0. Douglas Wildlife Refuge will be opened to private oil and gas exploration under the direction of the U.S. Geological Survey instead of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A transportation corridor through the Gates of the Arctic National Park is mandated for which there is no present need. A "no more provision" which severely restricts the President's executive withdrawal authority, which has saved so much of our public lands in the past, is included. One of the greatest deficiencies in the Act was the failure to prohibit developments within the flood plains of rivers. With all our experience of flood control dams, few of which have prevented floods, and the disaster relief of flood control victims, you would think that prohibiting a repetition of that mistake would have been the first order of business. Instead, do you know where a good share of the building in Alaska is taking place - you guessed it - in the flood plains of rivers.
On balance, however, the Alaska Lands Act was a conservation victory if for only one reason: within the National Parks and Monuments, the Act sets aside in a protected status entire ecosystems. Scientists, for as long as these units remain protected, can obtain base line data that will allow them to better understand and prevent the adverse impacts of the heavy hand of man when necessary intrusions are made to develop and use the resources of similar systems.
The recent national election reflected a decided change in the nation's political philosophy. The electorate signaled a mandate for a more aggressive program to reverse runaway inflation and a stagnant economy, and for a military stance. However, the election was not a referendum on the environment, nor was its result a mandate to refute the nation's newly formed environmental ethic. There are many indicators, however, that our recently elected national leaders have taken it as a mandate to jettison our nation's environmental goals and objectives. Perhaps the best indicator is the resource philosophy of the new appointments to top leadership positions in the federal government's resource agencies. Programs can be no better than the beliefs and the commitment of the people in charge. We are not looking at whether these key leaders are people of honor and integrity, that is assumed, but what their resource management philosophy is - will they be dedicated to accomplishing or thwarting the mission of the agencies they will head? I leave that judgment to you.
As Secretary of the Interior, the agency that is the trustee of National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, we have James G. Watt, who comes fresh from the Mountain States Legal Foundation. Before being named Secretary, Watt initiated lawsuits opposing Interior programs to reclaim strip-mined lands, to restore the overgrazing of Federal rangelands, to conserve municipal water use, to restrict commercial use of wild and scenic rivers, and to limit mining in wilderness study areas. These actions were not taken on for an occasional client; the Secretary directed the program. Before that, he was a lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a body more often than not in opposition to environmental laws and regulations.
As his Executive Assistant at the Department of the Interior, Watt chose his chief corporate fund-raiser at the Mountain States Legal Foundation. This background raises the real question of whether he will strive to make the Secretary equally available to conservationists and former business contributors alike. Certainly to date he has not.
As Secretary of Agriculture, we have John R. Block, a farmer who sees no federal responsibility for keeping our nation's Class I farmlands in food production.
As Assistant Secretary for Conservation in the Department of Agriculture, in charge of among other things the United States Forest Service, we have John B. Cromwell, Jr., the former General Counsel of Louisiana Pacific Corporation, the single largest corporate harvester of U.S. timber, an outspoken opponent of USFS even-flow (that translates to mean you grow as much timber as you cut) management policy in the Pacific Northwest. He has been active in the forest-industry committee which opposed management efforts of the U.S. Forest Service to protect wildlife on the National Forests,
Nominated as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is Ann M. Gorsuch, a Colorado legislator who was instrumental on the side of the Mountain States Legal Foundation in its lawsuit with the state. Gorsuch and the Mountain States Legal Foundation opposed implementation of an air quality control plan for the city of Denver (one of the worst air areas in the nation, second only to Los Angeles). A check of her background failed to reveal that she has had any previous meaningful administrative experience. She will serve as the chief architect of the nation's environmental goals and the formulator and enforcer of Federal environmental regulations.
As Secretary of Energy, we have a former governor of South Carolina who seeks a several billion dollar federal subsidy for plutonium reprocessing in South Carolina, and who has stated that nuclear safety is "an emotional issue...it's like a boogy man."
Coming in as the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, custodian of three quarters of the Nation's public lands, is Robert F. Burford, the co-sponsor of the Sagebrush Rebellion legislation (eliminating BLM management) in the State of Colorado. He has now transferred his permit to graze livestock on 33,614 acres of public land to his son to avoid a conflict of interest charge.
As Director of the office of Surface Mining, we have James R. Harris, a member of the Indiana Legislature who was instrumental in Indiana's pending lawsuit to invalidate the Federal Surface Mine Restoration Act. According to an article in the Wall Street journal, while he was chairman of a State Senate Committee on Natural Resources, he acquired at bargain prices, some 1,500 acres of strip-mined land from two large coal companies.
Let me emphasize that these are legitimate points of view and able people. But for the foreseeable future, they will make the decisions that will determine whether or not we achieve our national environmental objectives.
To be completely fair we should not make predictions for wildlife and conservation on the basis of what people have done in the past but what, in the early months of this year, is being done right now. There are no secrets here. It remains simply to collect these actions as reported in the news and to see if there is a pattern.
Well, in the first few months we've seen a freeze placed on the
implementation of quite a few programs, including the following:
Regulations curbing the dredge and fill of wetlands;
Regulations providing for the mitigation of fish and wildlife losses from federal water projects;
Water discharge standards for timber and pulp indus-tries;
Enforcement of acreage limitations for the beneficiaries of western water projects;
Protection of prime farmland from strip mining;
Clean air plans for such states as Indiana, Ohio, and California;
Air quality and energy use regulations for transportation planning;
EPA public participation materials and projects. (In fact, we've recently been told that 11,000 copies of a citizen's handbook on toxic substances, authorized by the National Wildlife Federation for the EPA, may be destroyed.)
We can look beyond freezing to some more definitive recent actions for guides to the future:
The repeal of a Presidential Executive Order curbing the export
of hazardous materials which are banned for use in the United States;
The announced leasing of oil off the coasts of Oregon and California, in areas previously designated "least acceptable" by the Department of the Interior due to the scope and likelihood of environmental risks;
An announced moratorium on acquiring additional public lands;
An announced policy to open all public lands to more rights of way, roads and transmission lines;
An announced intention of transferring (some) National Parks from federal ownership;
The elimination of federal controls over development around Lake Tahoe;
The proposed elimination, now scaled down to a 70 percent reduction, of the President's Council on Environmental Quality;
Rejection of the Law of the Sea Treaty, negotiated by three previous administrations;
Elimination of appliance efficiency standards and energy performance standards for new buildings;
The announced relaxation of the federal strip mine restoration program to "provide more flexible standards;"
The announced termination of AID's overseas population information and assistance programs;
The proposed elimination of independent review for water project justifications;
The repeal of regulations promoting energy conservation in federal facilities, and providing assistance to states for energy conservation programs.
We all are for cutting unessential regulatory red tape and there is certainly nothing wrong with constant review of the process. But beneath the simple act of snipping tape is there another agenda here?
Suppose this is the tape that is providing public access to federal lands, across a grazing allotment, around a mining operation. Suppose this is the tape that's requiring a mining company to restore the lands it's mining, to replace its divots, open pits in some cases several miles wide and a half mile deep into the earth, miles which may have traditionally supported wintering herds of antelope, or deer, or grouse. That's when the tape becomes important, isn't it? Ask yourselves this: Is this just a tape-cutting exercise or is something else getting cut, too? Is it the tape that binds together essential regulations without which it would be impossible to achieve our nation's environmental goals?
The truest test of what's in store for conservation and wildlife will be the money they receive. Like the man said - he's saying it a lot these days - "Money talks." Those two words say it all. Unless you put money where your mouth is, there is no chance of achieving environmental objectives.
So what's happening to the money? For an overview, we can turn to the fiscal year 1982 budget revisions, revisions to the previous administration's budget which was uncommonly short to begin with in money for the natural resources and environmental programs.
I'll not bore you with all the numbers or the percentages. I'll simply list for you some of the resource programs which are proposed for cutting by more than half, or eliminated altogether:
The Land and Water Conservation Fund. This is the earmarked acquisition
fund for federal parks, wildlife refuges, and for state outdoor
recreation programs. Authorized areas like the Big Cypress of Florida
and the Big Thicket of Texas now are in a holding pattern while
the land prices escalate and developers do their thing. This is
also the major funding source for state public land planning and
acquisition programs. Ninety percent gone.
The Office of Surface Mining lost $66.6 million or 27 percent of its budget - who is to enforce the regulations?
The Coastal Zone Management Program - essentially a state-aid program to conserve coastal resources and marshes, and to assist in proper planning for economic development. This one is eliminated completely.
Sikes Act funding, for the development of fish and wildlife programs on military lands and with state wildlife agencies.
Cooperative Wildlife Research Programs - they have helped train most of the wildlife professors employed today. Completely eliminated in the Administration's proposed budget.
Turning to energy conservation, the alternative to so many energy problems, let me just list the budget titles themselves:
"Elimination of Excessive Federal Investment in Solar Energy
"Reductions of Energy Conservation Programs;"
"Elimination of Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Banks. "
Overall, 80 percent of the energy conservation program is gone; 70 percent of the solar energy program is gone.
Turning to transportation, the single largest consumer of gasoline energy, source of the greatest amount of air pollution and drain on U. S. currency abroad, we see the virtual elimination of federal assistance to mass transit and rail passenger transport.
But how about water projects, the federal program which has brought us such proposals as the (Soil Conservation Service) recreation lake in South Carolina with its own wave machine for surfers and the (Corps) $50 million dam in Oklahoma for the catfish industry? There ought to be some broad running room for the budget cutter here. Well, the first cuts here were a whopping three percent.
But that's not the best part. The best part is where the three percent comes from: from recreation and fish and wildlife plans. The access points and the boat docks (...you, us...) are eliminated. The rest of these on-going projects go forward, every bit of them. One project alone, Tennessee Tombigbee, in the water project-heavy southeast, will get almost as much federal money ($204 million) this year alone, as the entire United States Fish and Wildlife Service ($243 million). However, a recent preliminary action by the Senate Committee on Public Works and the Environment recommended the TermTom not be funded.
Since then, the "second-round" cuts have targeted, at last, a handful of on-going projects. Here again, however, the largest cut was in the big South Fork of the Cumberland, a Recreation River proposal in Kentucky and Tennessee.
For the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget, here's the story at the moment. A $66 million reduction has been proposed for the Service's budget, over 25 percent of the total program. In it the predator control, migratory waterfowl and game animal programs remain as originally proposed; the habitat protection, permit review, endangered species and cooperative research programs take major cuts.
Work has been halted on wilderness surveys in Alaska.
Oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Game Range is now handled by the U. S. Geological Survey instead of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sewage Construction Grants are one third down this year - there will be none next year. Here again the Congressional Committee's preliminary vote indicated a possible restoration of this money.
Do these budget items give you a pattern? Do they give you any sense for what the priorities are for conservation and the resources on which fish and wildlife depend?
Lest the picture I'm painting appears too rosy, let me add some news from the seat of federal legislation, the news from Capitol Hill. Here's what's on this year's agenda, and coming rapidly:
Revision of the Clean Air Act, for which the conventional wisdom
is that if we can't meet air standards, even for human health, let's
fudge the standards because it might interfere with business resurgence.
Revision of the Clean Water Act, for which the wisdom is cost/benefit analysis. If the benefits can't be put into dollars, they don't exist. Evidently, the benefits for clean water, fish, recreation, and aesthetic values do not exist.
The Sagebrush Rebellion - with more heads than the Hydra. While everyone girds for the battle on the legislative front, the store, with nobody minding it, may get quietly given away in federal regulations which simply open these lands back up to the abuses you have seen for 50 years - overgrazing, indiscriminate mining with no regulation, no consideration for watershed qualities, little consideration for wildlife or any form of outdoor recreation by the public. That may be the "good neighbor" policy referred to by the Secretary of Interior as a condition for avoiding a legislative initiative to transfer federal lands to the states and eventually to private ownership.
To say nothing of the money issues: appropriations for range management, for reforestation, for water quality, fisheries research, and wildlife refuge management. The amounts of money requested by the Administration are already a disaster, and the amounts finally appropriated are going to be one of the final tests of the federal government's commitment to conservation in the years ahead.
In spite of all this, no picture is without its bright side, and that includes the Washington scene for wildlife.
Let's face it, government spending curbs and regulatory reform are long overdue. These approaches bring with them some new opportunities for us, if they are executed with a mind for the long range future of all our renewable resources, such as the following:
Greater opportunity for state participation in decision making.
The states will play a greater role in all resource actions, and
that's to the good. Where there is a proven track record, they can
do a credible job. This will be a particular plus if, with that
responsibility, come some of the monies formerly in the federal
programs with which to do the job. Without the funding, money is
going to talk - elsewhere - and wildlife is going to walk. There
is an excellent opportunity to settle the long standing controversy
over the authority of the state to manage resident wildlife, a job
they have already proven they can do well.
Deregulation of energy prices provides the opportunity, at last, for the market to go to work for conservation. A particular plus, again, if it can be done without looting the American pocketbook, and with equity for those who can at least afford to pay.
The budget cutting, after trimming a considerable bit of muscle as we've already seen, may indeed reach the major fat in the public works pork barrel, billions of federal tax dollars spent annually in states like Louisiana leading to the destruction of more fish and wildlife resources in a year than some states have remaining in their inventory. This will be possible if the administration has the courage of its convictions to take this one on, which to date it has not.
User fees for the private beneficiaries of federal water projects should receive more attention, and should lead to proposals which are more realistic and less damaging. It is heartening to see that comprehensive inland waterway user-fees are now proposed in the 1982 budget, and deepdraft harbor user-fees in fiscal year 1983. Each will require legislation, however, and faces rough handling on the hill.
In summary, the current Administration and industry should not try to fool us by contending we can only achieve our nation's economic goals at the expense of the environment. If America becomes a second-rate nation with a despoiled quality of life, it will be because our people have, by default, permitted our leaders, both in government and business, to misuse and waste our nation's incomparable natural resources and foul our own nest in the process. We will have only ourselves to blame if we allow the environment to be degraded to the point where life is a bare existence rather than a joy. We live in the greatest country in the world, where the voice of the individual, when raised in unison with other voices, can determine the course of action in our nation.
I conclude with a pleading for the individual citizen to become aware and involved, to be aware of the happenings; to care about preserving the quality of life; to develop a thirst for knowledge so that when that knowledge is acquired it will be sufficient to motivate action - action that can make a difference in the quality of life style you and future generations will enjoy. Remember, a viable and healthy habitat is the key to variety and optimum numbers of wildlife. A quality life style for wildlife means a quality life style for you.
1 Council on Environmental Quality, 1980. Public Opinion on Environmental Issues. Washington, D.C.
2 National Wildlife Federation, 1969. N.W.F. Index of Environmental Quality. National Wildlife 7, No. 5 (Aug./Sept. 1969) 2-13.
3 National Wildlife Federation, 1972. World Environmental Quality Index. International Wildlife 2, No. 4 (July/Aug. 1972) 21-36.
4 U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Science 1981. Endangered Special Technical Bulletin. Washington, D.C.
5 Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, 1979. Report of the Secretary of the Interior: Views and Recommendations to the Endangered Species Committee-Tellico Dam and Reservoir Project, Washington, D.C., January 8, 1979.
6 Norman Myers, The Sinking Ark (Elmsford, N.Y.: Pergamon Press, 1979)
7 Alaska Lands Act signed by President Carter Dec. 2, 1980 (P.L. 96-487).
Introducing: Thomas L. Kimball
Born in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Thomas L. Kimball studied soil conservation and agronomy at Brigham Young University, where he received the B.S. degree in 1939. He immediately began his career as a spokesman for wildlife, joining the Arizona Department of Game and Fish as a Wildlife Technician. That beginning of his career was interrupted by service in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1941-45, but he returned in 1946 and became Director in 1947, Five years later, in 1952, he moved to Colorado to become Director of that state's Department of Game and Fish. Then, in 1960, he became Executive Vice President of the National Wildlife Federation with headquarters in Washington, D.C. Dr. Kimball will retire from that position in September, 1981.
For the past 21 years, Dr. Kimball has lead the Federation through a period of rapid growth from a small, neophyte organization to the biggest wildlife conservation organization in the country. The Federation's magazines - Ranger Rick, National Wildlife, and International Wildlife, were initiated by him and are effective approaches to educating people everywhere and in all walks of life on the values and status of wildlife populations.
Conservationists rarely devote all their energies to a single cause, and Dr. Kimball is no exception. He has worked professionally in an amazingly diverse range of activities over the past 42 years. He has served as a consultant to fish and game departments in nine states, and twice as President of the Western Association of Game and Fish Commissioners. He served on wildlife advisory boards to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior; the President's National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere; the National Petroleum Council; the President's Air Quality Advisory Board; the Department of Commerce Weather Modification Advisory Board; the President's Global 200 study; the Natural Resources Council of America, which he chaired; the Board of Directors of the American League of Anglers; and the Boy Scouts of America Conservation Committee.
He is a member of eleven professional or civic organizations, including the Wildlife Society, the Society of American Foresters, Society of Range Management, American Fisheries Society, and is a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Dr. Kimball has received numerous awards in recognition of his
work in wildlife conservation. These include the Outstanding Service
Award from the Izaak Walton League of America; the U.S. Department
of Interior's Conservation Service Award; and the Distinguished
Citizen Award from the University of Arizona. In 1975, Colorado
State University awarded him the honorary Doctor of Laws degree