By Baxter Black: QCS columnist
That huge gasp, clutching at the chest, and cracking of a big smile that was heard across the US of A this fall was farmers and ranchers reading the headline, “U.S. House of Representatives Pass Bill to Restrict Endangered Species Act!”
Even though we know the Senate may not sign on, it’s a step in the right direction. For some of us it is too late. It’s a little bit like wanting a bicycle when you were 10 years old and now, 30 years later, it’s under the Christmas tree, but it’s not the same.
What offended most was the injustice of the law and then its blatant misuse by the Antis to inflict economic injury on those they seek to destroy. Because of the strictness of the law, its politically correct intentions and our subsequent unimagined technology, judges seemed impotent to inject common sense or moderation into their decisions.
The change in the Act does not limit the frivolous lawsuits and endless obstructive tactics of the Antis but it now would require livestock and property owners to be compensated if their production was affected. There is a two-edged sword to the new law if passed: Developers wishing to convert desert, farm ground or mountain valleys into condos, trailer parks or gated communities will also benefit.
Any developer wishing to speculate in a piece of ground is required to fight his way through a blizzard of environmental regulations and can be stopped in their tracks by a spotted owl, Tasmanian tansy wort or short-nosed sucker. The revised law would make it easier for them to build.
When I called it a two-edged sword, I meant the most active ranchers in Missoula or corn farmers in Fort Dodge or citrus growers in Orlando look with a heavy heart at the encroachment of suburbia. Now, farmland prices are at record highs, a lot of retiring farmers can sell out and it’s the developers who are paying the millions!
However, we who run cows or work the land can’t have it both ways. So, I’m philosophical about it. The developers are coming no matter what — just like Wal-Mart. It is the inexorable roll of civilization.
However, the new bill will bring us relief and great joy not to be the whipping boy for well-intentioned but unjust laws that fell into the hands of the sheriff of Nottingham. It was like arming orangutans and turning them loose in a Farm Bureau meeting. A lot of people got hurt.
Thanks, House of Representatives. You give us hope.