1 November 2009 - Endangered Species is EXPENSIVE

Ever since the 1970's, America's farmers and ranchers have had to deal with the Endangered Species Act and it hasn't been easy. At times it has been costly to farmers. During the three decades the Act has been enforced, we have shared stories of farmers who were fined and had farm equipment confiscated because they had innocently and unknowingly farmed in areas set aside for endangered species.

Something I hadn't thought about is the cost of the endangered species program; until recently, when The Scientific American published a new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 202-page report covered species protected under the Endangered Species Act and listed the money spent in fiscal year 2007. As I learned, protecting endangered species is an expensive proposition that takes a lot of our tax dollars.

According to the report..... "The U.S. federal and state governments spent $1,537,283,000 toward conserving threatened and endangered species in 2007, plus another $126,086,000 in land purchases for habitat preservation". The definition of ‘conservation' is interesting in this report. Conservation includes a wide variety of activities such as "research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live trapping and transplantation."

The species that required the most money in 2007 was the Chinook salmon. It appears on the list multiple times because it is endangered at multiple sites; $165-million were spent to protect it.. Then there was the western population of the endangered Steller Sea Lion; the cost there...$53-million. Gray Wolves, which lost much of their ESA protection this year received only $4.3-million. Receiving more than the Gray Wolf?...The Indiana Bat - $6.3-million and the Delta Smelt - $6.6-million.

The Scientific American story pointed out that the Fish & Wildlife Service is not a big spender on the ESA, accounting for only 7% of the total outlay. The Army Corps of Engineers spent $212-million and The Federal Highway Association spent $35-million.

In these days of severe federal and state budget problems, with unemployed parents and hurting children, I really question this amount of money being spent on the Endangered Species Act. As a taxpayer, I would much prefer to see many of those dollars spent on programs to help people.

That's my thought on Samuelson Sez.