SunSpecial: Give and Take   Leave a comment

At Thanksgiving, we all give thanks for our families, our friends, and our turkey dinner (unless you’re a turkey. Then you just try to make it though the day). And as we take another serving of mashed potatoes and gravy, we probably aren’t thinking that ‘take’ has different meanings than just helping ourselves to seconds – and for wildlife and the environment, one definition of ‘take’ could prove to be more far more misleading and destructive than reaching for another piece of pumpkin pie.

The Federal Endangered Species Act – first passed in 1973 – states that every member of a species classified as ‘in danger of becoming extinct’ – those living in the wild as well as zoos and even private collections – must be carefully monitored, protected from harm, and every precaution taken to maintain areas where the species can live and thrive; hopefully that one day, the species is numerous and strong enough to be taken off the list. But there’s a “small print” provision to the Endangered Species act – added in 1982 amendments – that allows for ‘Incidental take permits’: A permit which allows, under certain requirements, “private parties undertaking otherwise lawful projects that might result in the take if an endangered or threatened species.” In other words, if a private organization – like a business – can justify their work within the environment of a protected species; and if one (or more) individuals of that species happens to get in the way of the work; it’s OK if that plant or animal is harmed or killed. So the ‘protection’ doesn’t mean much if, say, an oil company or mining corporation decides they need to develop a certain area; they convince the authorities to grant permission; and by doing their work they happen to destroy a field of rare plants, or dig up some burrows where endangered animals are living. As far as we know, in these 1982 amendments there wasn’t an option for the animals to petition against the corporations and construction from coming into their areas. The ’80’s were a crazy time.

Historically (at least since 1982!), this ‘Take Permit’ hasn’t been granted often; but recently, more and more companies are trying to find ways to develop, dig, cut, move, build, and otherwise disturb environments where endangered species are living, and the plants and animals themselves. Just last week a permit was granted to a company that allows them to “ take 10 federally listed species over a 50-year period”. Among the ‘accepted’ species are the Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis) – listed as endangered since 1967; and eight different species of invertebrates including the endangered American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), who at one time could be found throughout the continental United States, but is now limited to areas in only six states.  No one has defined how, with a total of 10 ‘acceptable’ losses, anyone is going to keep track of how many insects, snails and crayfish might get in the way within the next 50 years.

And in a similar, but different project, last week a request to devote more study and research into a ‘Take Permit’ for a proposed wind farm in the California desert was denied, allowing the development corporation to engineer and displace approximately 3,962 acres of currently-protected Sonoran Desert land. This habitat is home to the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep (Ovis Canadensis nelson), a distinct population of only a few hundred individuals. It’s argued these permits are acceptable because the energy development work and construction these companies are engaged in, is in everyones’ best interest. Everyone, that is, except the endangered species who could suffer.

This time, hiding might not help.

This time, hiding might not help.

Considering the significant impact humans already have on the environment, including building and moving further into previously undeveloped lands and wilderness areas; ever-increasing use of natural resources and effects of the by-products and waste that come from that use; and the growing human population (throughout the world, approximately 800 people are born every hour!); already many plant and animal species are struggling. It’s estimated up to 10% of all species could become extinct in the next 100 years. In this time of thanks, maybe we all should look at the other plants and animals sharing the Earth with us and take steps to do a little more give, and a little less take.

Posted December 1, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SunSpecial

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