Op-Ed: How the U.S. came to protect the natural world — and exploit it at the same time
In the past few days, I have been on the phone with a number of readers and activists who have called me to ask about their reactions to the recent announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that four more imperiled species are now added to its endangered list. (More on the list here.)
The decision comes after nearly two decades of action by the FWS to restore and protect species that threatened natural communities and ecosystems. After the listing in 1983, the last four species — the white-backed woodrat, Florida pine, western diamondback rattlesnake, and Mojave Desert tortoise — went from listed as endangered to critically endangered.
In the course of the past 25 years, the FWS has designated more than 50,000 acres of land as critical or endangered in response to these four species or other protected wildlife populations, restoring habitat — and saving wildlife — over 100,000 acres and making thousands of people re-establish their livelihoods.
“We’ve seen the FWS protect the environment,” said David Schultheis, president and co-founder of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, a nonprofit whose mission to conserve the unique ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains. “They are doing what they set out to do.”
Schultheis is one of the co-founders of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, an organization that represents ranchers and rural communities in Colorado. The CCA is also one of the national organizations that is fighting to preserve the last of the federal wild and scenic rivers.
But I did not ask them if they were pleased that the FWS was now adding the four species to the list of endangered species, since their membership may differ from their opinions on the issues they have raised.
“It’s not about the list itself —