Endangered species threaten Republican land

Animals are stealing land from the Republicans. Those heartless, selfish, greedy animals. Where are the conservatives supposed to build sprawling ranches and play golf? Hold on. Don't worry. Last week, the House of Representatives voted 229 to 193 to pass a bill that would effectively undo many of the 1973 Endangered Species Act's key provisions in order to give greater rights to land owners and property developers. Phew, I was concerned that we'd run out of parking lots for those precious Hummers.

Republican, California Congressman Richard Pombo is the primary sponsor of the bill, House Resource 3824, which would repeal, among others, the critical habitat provision that protects territory needed by a particular endangered species to survive. Other prongs of the bill include the elimination of the Endangered Species Committee, a cabinet-level group elected to mediate disputes between species conservationists and land developers. Pombo's bill also calls for a new economic analysis of threatened species before placement on the federally protected list.

The notion that Pombo favors building production to nature conservation is no surprise; his Web site provides a chronology of his political moves helping big-profit developers. Also on the site are links to a photo album and a killer BBQ recipe (click the picture with the cowboy in the moonlight). Don't forget to buy his book, This Land is Your Land, about how to assert your private property rights.

What is disturbing is that it passed the House vote. This means that not only Pombo's conservative party-mates voted against the preservation of threatened animals in favor of building condominiums and strip malls, but also enough moderates and liberals voted to push the bill to the Senate. I guess greed is as blind as justice.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh. The bill does include the "Pombo Measure," which provides "recovery teams" to save the animals living on desirable land by means of the best available scientific data, according to the bill.

Will the animals be "recovered" as well as the people were in New Orleans? God, let's hope not. I wonder if this "scientific data" will come from the same magic place that denies the global-warming phenomenon.

What is Pombo trying to get out of making grizzlies restless and eagles nest-less? It is simple: land and money. The Endangered Species Act can render land known as threatened species' habitat protected (read off-limits) by the federal government. That translates to premium property that Pombo and his cronies can't plunder yet.

California, in particular is a hotbed for land-endangered species tension. Since the beginning of the Endangered Species Act, ranchers, farmers and land developers have been hotly contesting land barred to them as a result of federal protection. Supporters of the bill say now there will be greater incentive for land developers to "negotiate" with wildlife protection agencies.

What, exactly, is there to negotiate? Look around for a moment. Did I miss an asphalt shortage? Have you tripped over a spotted owl lately?

Of the 1,823 species protected, 1,264 are now subject to Pombo's wrath. There is hope: The bill must still pass in the Senate, members of which will hopefully be more reluctant to strip the nation of its threatened-species legislation. The buck must stop there, however. If it is passed by the Senate, there is no doubt the Rancher-in-Chief home on the White House Range would dare veto a bill that may support his friends -- the haves and the have-mores.

Pombo has three children of his own: Richie, Rena and Rachel. What happens if one day Pombo's grandchildren wonder what a monarch butterfly looks like, or hear a rumor that there used to be mythical creatures called "sea turtles?" It is then that Grandpa Pombowill sit the kids on his lap and read them his favorite story: "This Land is Our Land," a tale of personal property rights.

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