News from the Front #58:

Is the Fix In?  Extreme Environmentalists To Provide "Scientific Peer Review" Justifying Klamath Abuses

Ex-President Clinton holds his personal copy of peer reviewer Dr. Jeffrey Mount's book.

On October 22, 2001, the National Academies of Science announced the makeup of a Committee established to evaluate the "science", such as it is, that has been invoked to justify the seizure of water from over 1,400 Klamath Basin farmers.  This "scientific review" appears to be the consensus approach to resolving protests by the Klamath farmers.  Rather than exercising their own judgment or common sense, as the law requires, the Bush bureaucrats, aided and abetted by such leaders as Congressman Walden, turn to the High Priests of the Conservation Biology Religion to interpret the entrails strewn about the Basin from their mismanagement.

Chief among the High Priests is Dr. Peter Moyle, who the wire services regard as a "prominent" member of the Committee.  The very model of a modern "conservation biologist", he exhibits both ignorance of his supposed area of expertise (California coho populations), and certainty as to the necessity for urgent action to prevent ecological catastrophe.  Dr. Moyle is sufficiently divorced from reality that he has written that we are about to "run out" of trees in the Pacific Northwest from excessive logging.  He also fulminates about a "Congress [that] . . . wants to nullify the existence of hundreds of species".  

Not surprisingly, Dr. Moyle is the recipient of funding from the Nature Conservancy, an outfit that profiteers when environmental regulation forces landowners to sell on the cheap.  (This is such a successful racket that the Nature Conservancy was recently able to spend $1 million on a New York City fundraiser.)  If the normal ethical rules applied to High Priests, Dr. Moyle might well be disqualified from the Committee on the grounds of conflict of interest.  But High Priests are under special ethical rules that allow NAS to appoint Committee members with conflicts of interest.  Thanks, Congress.

Another High Priest is Dr. Gene Helfman of the "Institute of Ecology" at the University of Georgia.  He and Dr. Moyle joined with other High Priests to lobby against a "no surprises" rule for Habitat Conservation Plans issued pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.  Nearly all the Committee members are affiliated with one sort of interdisciplinary ecology institute or another, reminiscent of the interdisciplinary research facilities that sprang up in the 1960s to suck down government money to "save the cities".  We all know how well that worked, so the next generation of do-gooders has all become biologists.  

Committee Member Dr. Robert Huggett rose beyond academia, serving the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Administrator for Research and Development for the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  Since the EPA developed a reputation as "junk science central" during the Clinton Administration, one wonders about him as well.

For legal guidance, the Committee has  one J.B. Ruhl, author of such light classics as "Farms, Their Environmental Harms, and Environmental Law".  Heralded by NAS as "a leading authority on endangered species law and one of the country's most prolific environmental law scholars", he is the very model of the modern environmental lawyer, whipping out such meaningless, jargon-laden conclusions as "sustainable development includes equity as a co-equal partner in the policy triad of environment, economy and equity . . .".  

Notice that water or property rights have no place in his Holy Trinity.  For Leftists, rights are an impediment to the "equity" they have been seeking since Marx and Engles.  Nor does "law" figure much into Mr. Ruhl's professional interests, insofar as law means objective rules that people can follow.  Rather, we must adopt the modern method of reaching "consensus" through processes in which only those on the government dole can afford to participate.

The Committee does have a few people on it without axes to grind, insofar as one can determine from the Internet.  For example, Dr. Richard Adams is a resource economist who appears to have made competent analyses of the effects of Klamath decisions on the farmers, but the Committee's purview does not include economic issues.

Indeed, the NAS's charge to the Committee is just as bad as the proposed appointments.  Seven Klamath residents recently stepped forward to fill the leadership void in the Basin by filing a petition to remove the Southern Oregon/Northern California coho salmon (including Klamath River coho) as well as Klamath Basin suckerfish from the list of "species" protected under Endangered Species Act.  (Ed. disclosure:  I drafted it; a copy in MS Word format may be viewed here.)  As detailed in the petition, scientific testimony in court cases and before Congress establishes that the listings are bogus.  

Thus the principal scientific question of interest is whether there is a snowball's chance that either the coho or the suckers are about to disappear off the face of the earth.  The Committee, however, is charged by the NAS to ignore that question.  Rather, the Committee is to "assess . . .  the biological opinions regarding the effects of Klamath Project operations on species in the Klamath River Basin listed under the Endangered Species Act", thus assuming the correctness of the listings.  Put another way, the "sky is falling" bias that warps biological policymaking will not be questioned. 

The Committee's principal task is to consider whether the biological opinions about the listed species are "consistent with the available scientific information".  Science is astoundingly ignorant of what makes sucker fish live or die, and cannot even predict whether sucker die-offs will occur in any given year.  And because hard data is lacking, nearly anything that envirocrats write in a biological opinion can be "consistent with the available scientific information".  Section 7(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act requires that agencies use "the best scientific and commercial data available" (emphasis added), but insofar as High Priests are concerned, we don't need data, only their opinions, which constitute "available scientific information".

The bottom line job for the Committee appears to be to justify the water seizures, or, in NAS jargon, to 

"consider hydrologic and other environmental parameters (including water quality and habitat availability) of those species at critical times in their life cycles, the probable consequences to them of not realizing those environmental parameters, and the inter-relationship of these environmental conditions necessary to recover and sustain the listed species."

Note that the language virtually compels a conclusion that the government must seize control of the "environment" and manage it to protect fish.  In fact, there is no evidence that any particular environmental conditions, beyond some minimal amount of water in the Klamath River or Upper Klamath Lake, are "necessary to recover and sustain" the fish.  But for a High Priest, poor water quality at "critical times" (all the time) will have the "probable consequences" (it might happen) of failure to "recover and sustain" (constantly reach historical peaks) the fish, even though the suckers are engineered to ride through droughts that kill nearly everything else in a lake.  

Their minds are made up.  In the words of Committee Member Dr. Jeffrey Mount, "[b]usiness-as-usual with our [sic] number one resource [water] will no longer be acceptable; major changes are in the offing and we have to alter the way we manage our rivers".  Instead of serving the needs of the people, we must serve the needs of the elite; in Dr. Mount's case, white water rafting.

Throughout the Northwest, the Bush Administration's natural resource policies raise the question:  are they not paying attention, incapable of understanding the truth, or just out to eliminate the farmers?  As time marches on, and the Klamath farmers continue to get shafted by every federal agency in sight, my suspicions move from the former to the latter.  But I'd still encourage everyone to give your feedback to NAS on the Committee appointments here.  They'll read whatever you post for the next two weeks.  

               James Buchal, October 27, 2001

You have permission to reprint this article, and are encouraged to do so. The sooner people figure out what's going on, the quicker we'll have more fish in the rivers.

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