Summit Metro Parks letter spot-on about endangered species protection

Folks, as a professional old-school journalist for more than 50 years, much of it spent as a daily newspaper columnist and commentator, I have not run across a conservation message so well done and so on-point that I could not summarize, paraphrase, tweak, or make it “better.” Until now.

A recent comment letter by northeast Ohio’s Summit Metro Parks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, critical of the Trump administration’s ongoing war on the land, this time through its planned trashing of provisions in the federal Endangered Species Act, needs to be read and disseminated widely.

So I quote it here, in total, because it speaks to truth in ways that cannot be improved. It is an act of courage in a world of gutless, fawning bureaucracies. I wish I would have written the comments myself, word for word. I stand foursquare behind them:

“To Whom it may concern:

“Please accept this letter as comment to the recently proposed revision of regulations for prohibitions to threatened wildlife and plants as noted in docket number FWS-HQ-ES-2018-007.

“Summit Metro Parks is a local government agency formed under Chapter 1545 of the Ohio Revised Code. We are a conservation district and are devoted to the protection of natural and cultural resources. We are the stewards of hundreds of state-listed endangered species and three federally listed species including the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), the federally threatened northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) and the federally threatened northern monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense).

“We are often asked why we would spend valuable resources (including taxpayer dollars) protecting ‘obscure’ species.

“There are both selfish and altruistic reasons to protect endangered species. Every living species on earth is a chemical factory that is the result of millions of years of experimentation and biological perfection. Most of our medicines are derived from chemicals and compounds that were first produced by plants and animals. We do not invent new medicines and products as much as we mimic what nature has already accomplished. Thus, it is in our self-interest to preserve all living species on earth. This is a perfectly legitimate view and one that is favored by those with a more corporate, pragmatic (although often short-sighted) view of the world and the purpose and value of conservation.

“But there is another side to the conservation of species – a view that is more altruistic. The conservation of biodiversity is similar to the conservation of art. Every species is a masterpiece. Plants and wildlife have value because we, as Americans, have decided they have value. We collect and curate and spend millions of dollars to preserve species because we want them. They have intrinsic value that transcends monetary value. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is unambiguous in this regard. The American people value every species on earth and extinction within our borders is not acceptable.

“There are several aspects of the proposed rule changes that are not acceptable. The proposed rule changes strip protections for future listings of species that may be classified as threatened. Species listed as threatened should be granted protections that are based on sound science and conservation practices to ensure that they do not move onto endangered status.

“The proposed rule changes would also require the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to consider the costs (to industry) associated with the possible future listing of additional species. This proposed change is in direct opposition to the sprit, intent, and word of the ESA. Science, and only science, should be considered when making a determination to list a species. It is not possible to place a price on the conservation of an entire form of life. There is no pipeline, coal mine, or highway development that is worth the extinction of even a single species. When the Endangered Species Act was signed in 1973, President Richard Nixon (a Republican –ed.) issued the following statement:

“‘Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.’”

“These words are every bit as true today as they were in 1973. The value of our natural resources, especially the rich array of species, is priceless.

“Summit Metro Parks urges the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to continue with existing rules that provide protective measures for future species listed as threatened and that only sound science be considered when making future listing/delisting determinations.”

The commentary was signed by Lisa King, executive director, and Michael D. Johnson, chief of conservation for Summit Metro Parks. They make me wish I lived in Summit County. I hope their commentary goes viral.

Categories: Ohio – Steve Pollick

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