“Invertebrates aren’t sexy megafauna”: Your tax dollars at work for you

Fish tale.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit highlights a Powerline piece from Sunday by Steven Hayward on “demosclerosis,” which Hayward sees evidence of in the twin tales of the Keystone XL pipeline and a fallen Sequoia redwood tree in California.

For a slightly different tale of demosclerosis, see the Wall Street Journal today on “Flies and their lawyers,” which are keeping the Paiute Cutthroat Trout from “going home.”  The drama unfolds in the Sierra Nevada wilderness of California, southeast of Tahoe near the Nevada border.  In brief, the Paiute cutthroat trout (not to be confused with other varieties of cutthroat trout, like the Lahontan, for which there are also restoration projects underway) has been absent for decades from the 9-mile-long lower-creek area from which it is believed to have sprung some 10,000 years ago.  State fish and game officials introduced different varieties of trout into the lower-creek area some time back, and those trout did away with the Paiute cutthroat.

Happily, however, in 1912 a guy toted some Paiute cutthroats to the upper-creek area, above the waterfall, and the Paiute cutthroat trout survives to this day.  California Fish and Game and the federal authorities want to reintroduce the Paiute cutthroat to the lower creek.  They’ve been working on it since 1990.  The process itself isn’t expected to take long – get rid of the “non-native” fish by killing them off, put the Paiute cutthroat back in – but the regulatory requirements and the lawsuits have kept the restoration waiting on the shelf for 21 years.

Lawsuits?  Who could object to restoration of the Paiute cutthroat trout in its ancestral home?  That would be the legal defenders of invertebrates, of course.  Defenders of “flies,” to put it in WSJ’s generic terms.  Well, and people who just don’t like the use of chemicals.  To eliminate the unwanted fish, the state authorities want to use rotenone, a chemical whose naturally occurring base, found in the roots of common plants, was once used by indigenous tribes to kill fish for easier harvesting.  Rotenone would be tough on the flies (although they would be back in force pretty quickly).

Now, it turns out that the EPA has already been pleased (literally, that’s their word) to note that the project managers plan to use forms of rotenone that do not contain the synergist piperonyl butoxide (PBO).  They would prefer that the project use a rotenone compound with less naphthalene wherever possible, of course, and they recommend that Tamarack Lake receive physical treatment only (that is, have the unwanted fish removed physically rather than by chemical extermination).  They note that the lake is already deemed to be fishless, but the project managers reserve the authority to treat it chemically if the need arises.  The EPA wants them to commit to physical removal as their method of prior choice.

EPA also shoehorns the following into the agency’s May 2010 comment on the Final Environmental Impact Statement regarding the restoration project:

Finally, we wish to comment on the statement in “Master Response I” regarding climate change (p. F-16, last paragraph). The response states that the evaluation of cumulative impacts of the project and climate change are not required under NEPA since NEPA only requires consideration of project impacts in combination with other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable projects, and that climate change is not a project under this definition. We strongly disagree with this interpretation. In fact, the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) cumulative effects handbook1 identifies global climate change as an example of cumulative effects (CEQ, p. 9) and identifies indirect effects, such as climate change, as important in improving the analysis of cumulative effects (CEQ, p. 7).

In case you were wondering.

We could focus on the sensation of swimming in tar that one gets from tracing one of these bureaucracy-lawsuit-regulation-fests.  But there are two other important perspectives on this, one of which is that this is what your tax dollars are doing for you.  Some questions to consider:

1.  Do you care if the Paiute cutthroat trout, which is already surviving elsewhere, is reintroduced to the 9 miles of lower creek where, over the millennia, it developed its unique markings?

2.  Do you care enough to pay for the restoration?

3.  Do you care enough to spend all the money spent by the US federal government and the states of California and Nevada to overcome years’ worth of regulatory bureaucracy and lawsuits?

4.  Do you think this is a high-priority topic for the US federal courts?

5.  Would you care even if the Paiute cutthroat trout had not survived?

6.  Since this whole issue has arisen because of fish management activities undertaken by government officials in the past, should we not think twice about continuing to bustle around relocating fish, for abstract, sometimes fanciful reasons that end up competing with each other down the road?

The other important perspective on this is that a burdensome, demosclerotic process of this kind can only be sustained by government.  Government doesn’t have to worry about a bottom line – at least not in the short run.  You’ve got government’s back.

You certainly can’t institute processes like this in the administration of your own life.  (Imagine telling your mortgage-holder that your payment is being held up by the environmental impact statement.)  Businesses can’t tolerate them.  These processes are extremely inefficient and dysfunctional: they actively prevent the objective from being reached, in favor of endless deliberations from which more and more people come to derive their livelihoods.

Virtually all of the money that has changed hands so far has gone to lawyers, advocacy “experts,” and government employees, none of whom gets anything done that generates food, shelter, commerce, production jobs, and revenue.  Every single speck of this whole tale is self-imposed overhead.  It’s as if the clerical and janitorial staff, Human Resources and the legal department and the electric power company, all combined forces to prevent the sales staff from selling anything, or the logistics staff from getting the product delivered, or the production line from rolling anything off of it, finished and ready for the customer.

A business could never run this way.  It would be bankrupt by the third day of operation.  But there’s one more perspective worth taking a look at here, and that is the modernist perspective:  that we know enough, and government agencies are smart and well-appointed enough, to cruise the landscape with perfect foresight, resettling the fish for what are basically sentimental purposes.  It’s an odd marriage of irredentism and technological self-satisfaction, as if we can now use technology and the majestic powers of government to enforce mythical beliefs.

The most important question of all – whether this project is something worth having the taxpayer-funded government do – doesn’t get a serious debate.  The important question never gets posed to the people footing the bill.  Instead, with a government now run largely through its bureaucracies, and a court system attuned to arcane environmentalism, the process is extended for years, costing more and more money, over ancillary questions like how much naphthalene ought to be present in the rotenone compound, and whether fish are sexier than flies, environmental-advocacy-wise.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

25 thoughts on ““Invertebrates aren’t sexy megafauna”: Your tax dollars at work for you”

  1. In the unintended consequences department: If the guy in 1912 hadn’t transported the trout to the upper stream, we wouldn’t have this problem now. Moral–If you have any rare species around your place, make sure not to give it a chance to spread or go somewhere else; get rid of it completely as soon as you can if you want to avoid trouble downstream so to speak.

  2. I suppose its a small enough waste of our money when you compare it to the zillions of our tax-dollars blown on unnecessary and counterproductive foreign wars, unnecessary or obsolete weapons-systems, and on dole to ungrateful foreign countries.

    If you want to discuss monumental profligate waste of our money by government you need only consider two words: The Military.

    Hands off the Paiute trout!

    1. Gloria Allred will represent the flies pro bono. Press conference very soon.
      Okay, trout or self defense? Let the super commitee decide.
      Hail to the snail darter.

  3. Of course, the Paiute trout are not a separate species from other forms of Oncorhynchus clarkii, the Cutthroat trout species. They are merely a breeding population. They can mate with other cutthroats and produce fertile offspring, just like a Norwegian lad and an Eskimo lass can.

    This isn’t the only wacky government/animal/lawyer production being staged at taxpayer expense. One of my favorites is the following:


    and further: http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2011/08/alaska-wood-bison-update.html

  4. Who do the Amish call when somebody steals their beards?
    Hint: It’s not a Paulbot. Pacifists and airheads require someone else to look after them; they couldn’t survive on their own.

  5. Those who disparage the necessity for a robust military are always the first and most vocal in condemning the emasculated military to which their advocacy of shortsighted ‘policies’ inevitably lead.

    The appeasement minded never accept responsibility for the predictable consequences of their moral cowardice, nor ever reevaluate their denial that aggression only retreats in the face of a willingness to meet force with force.

    Cowardice is, first and foremost, a moral failing and, unless cornered, flight is always the only option considered. The ‘Fight’ response presupposes a willingness to, if necessary, die for principal. Whereas the coward only seeks self-preservation.

    “War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse.  A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing that is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” — John Stuart Mill

    1. Amen.

      Kagan’s book on the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace should be required reading of all the Paulettes in the world.

      Prepare for war, and you shall have peace. Wishing for peace will give you only heartache.

    2. Absolutely, German re-armament in the 1930s illustrates amply how loads of guns made the world a better place for everyone.

      1. Nice try Paulite.

        It’s *because* countries like 1930s Germany were arming up that make it absolutely necessary that the liberal democracies arm themselves as well. What would have happened if France and Britain and others were armed to the gills in the 1930s? It’s entirely conceivable that we could have avoided WWII. Or at least possibly have been able to smack Germany down right at the beginning.

      2. I believe the folks that led the rearming, in Germany, had a small effect on the eventual military confrontation.
        Those folks were led by a loner,street organizer,no management experience,vague early childhood,smooth talker, personally charming. Had a view of the country that was quite different than the majority of the population.
        His small minority was focused and quite violent. The silent majority followed like sheep.

          1. Well, that would be important. I don’t know that we can correctly assess the German arms build-up in the 1930s in the absence of that information.

            It might turn out that the whole messy interlude with a rearmed Germany could have been avoided, if Germans had devoted their national assets not to relocating trout — that would have been precipitate — but to paying people to argue over it.

            1. The early German/socialist/nazi movement framed and energized a Back To Nature Movement for younger folks. Mother Nature/True Germany. Weekend retreats away from the entrenched bourgeoisie of the old order.
              Lots of beer/schniztels etc. Lots of free sex of course to populate the armed forces.
              We all thought uniqeness was our shield in the 60’s. Hitler thought of it 1st. Bit of a bummer.
              I think trout with the head on and quickly blazed with skin is the way to go. Pardon me for Carping on that point.
              I understand Hitler was not charming at the table. Had your basic prison manners.
              I am ready for the football blog. Suppose you have to start off with Penn State.

      3. Yes, as the appeasing of evil demonstrates once again that millions of people end up dying prematurely. I can still see the photo of Chamberlain, paper in hand. Yep, being focused on peace sure helped all those central and eastern Europeans of the time – especially the Jews as I vaguely remember.

        I live in the world I was born in, and deal with the people who inhabit it. Paulette I would really enjoy your fairy tale world – really I would. However, it is just that, a fairy tale world. Removed from reality. And blinding you to the danger that exists.

        1. And I do apologize – I missed the name, Paulite t. I did not deliberately intend to use a different spelling.

  6. Doesn’t the Paiute Cutthroat Trout have religious significance to Native Americans? I am told a perfectly grilled specimen is a religious experience.

  7. There seems to be an endless supply of these kinds of stories. And if you present them, maybe even with a few facts about their enormous costs, and ask the average American for their response, I think it’s fair to say that nearly all would be repulsed. But then, if you, in the next breath, suggest doing away with the EPA or something similar, to keep this kind of thing from happening in the future, a common response might be “but don’t they protect our air or something?”

    Then a pragmatist might suggest, “Well, lets just cut their budget in half. Then they will only have enough money to do the important things like protecting our air.” But we all know that is not what would happen. What would happen is determined by the bureaucracy’s primal need to protect itself. They would cut the activities that would hurt the people the most in order to prompt the return of their full funding. Same principle as what always happens when someone proposes cutting funding – “hands off my budget or the firefighter gets it!”

    I don’t see a solution other than cutting whole agencies like the EPA and starting from scratch. But that won’t happen, will it?

  8. A few years back, Florida tried to institute a special deer season to cull the herd of Everglades deer. This was needed because a busy rainy season had pretty much covered/flooded the food source that had sustained the deer in the Everglades. The same area had expanded after a few years of cyclical draught which opened up vast portions of new deer sustaining land hitherto covered by water. As the rains poured down on the area (with Al Gore’s permission, of course), the dry land receded back to its original demarcation and the only food available was from whatever traditionally dry areas remained above water.

    The idiot crybabies and self-determined “environmentalists” and “animal rights activists” opposed something as cruel as hunting the excess deer (culling the herd) and, so, the eternal sniffleres complained and sued to protect the deer. They demanded that the excess deer be relocated from the Everglades to Northern Florida instead (tax payer cost). While this showed their total and complete incompetence on these matters political pressure prevailed and the transfer of deer was eventually attempted. Deer were caught, slung in transport nets under helicopters, and taken out of the swamps to be transported to Northern Florida. All seventeen of them…

    The cost of that, as you can imagine, was astronomical but, who cared…? It’s not as if any of the silly bickering fools had to work for any of it.

    In the end, the major part of the herd starved to death because not enough members could be caught and transferred and, when the food ran out, it ran out for every deer in the area. That particular element of nature works pretty much like our national economy, by the way. When the goodies run out, they run out for EVERYBODY. A few short weeks after this environmental and animal rights fiasco, the photos of starving, parasite-infested deer began to appear in the papers and were sad indeed to see. Nature is inexorable. It is also unforgiving and does not stand for stupid, feel good actions that go against nature’s laws.

    So, what about the transported deer and their helicopter rides? Predictably, most of them died too. They could not withstand the stress of capture and transport so they went into shock and died.

    Yep. Our system of mis-governance is working as well for us as it is for the Everglades deer and the trout of Opticon’s post. We seem to be headed in the exact direction that we deserve.



    1. This is a good example of how Liberals are NEVER satisfied. There will *always* be something that Liberals need to fix. You could give them utopia, and they would *still* find something about it that needs govt intervention to rectify. Perhaps the spelling of the word “utopia” is offensive to the indigenous paiute cutthroat trout and therefore would have to be changed. Someone fire up the lawyers! There’s a metaphorical tiny dirt spot in Utopia!!

      1. Ritchie: Remember this: To liberals, socialists and leftists (but I repeat myself…) Utopia IS government ruling over everything.


    1. No, sooner or later nature will apply to mankind… the same natural corrective action that nature applied in the case of the FL deer. True, it will be extremely painful, tragic and lots of innocent, hard working and undeserving people will be caught up in the ‘re-balancing’ but historical perspective and mankind’s stupidity ensures that such will come to pass.

      Weapons of mass destruction, fanaticism, liberal appeasement, conservative resistance to needed change, western nations refusal to live within their economic means, the global, internationally connected financial monetary system and the susceptibility of modern civilization’s to pandemics guarantee that ‘corrective action’ in some form or another will eventually prevail.

      We aren’t doomed but the 21st century may well surpass the 20th in pain, suffering and death.

      Ugly is only skin deep but stupidity is bone deep.

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