Keeping our wildlife safe
September was a good-news-bad-news month for our wildlife heritage. The Federal Register announced restoration of protection for migratory birds, severely weakened under the Trump administration through rollback of legal liability under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but more than 20 animal species and one flowering plant were officially declared extinct. Among the lost birds, freshwater mussels and other animal species was our largest, the ivory-billed woodpecker.
In his message to the two houses of Congress, in 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt urged the benefits of healthy bird populations, in particular, to our agriculture, horticulture and forestry enterprises. Nearly five dozen species of birds feed upon scale insects, he noted, the dreaded enemies of the fruit grower. Some birds are the natural enemies of the leaf-eating caterpillars that destroy our shade and fruit trees, others consume hundreds of tons of seeds of noxious weeds and yet others are spending their lives in catching grasshoppers, mice, and other pests that prey upon the products of husbandry. And “the woodpeckers as a class, by destroying the larvae of wood-boring insects,” he held “so essential to tree life that it is doubtful if our forests could exist without them.”
The great legacy of public lands this president left to the nation includes dozens of wildlife refuges, the “sanctuaries and nurseries for wild creatures,” but it would also be among purposes of the national forests and other public holdings that they provide “perpetual protection to the native fauna and flora.”
We can be grateful as well for the Endangered Species Act, in existence since President Nixon. Despite the recent sad announcement of some losses, it has kept alive almost all the imperiled species under its protection and assured full recovery of dozens of these, including the bald eagle and our state’s Tennessee coneflower.
America should be an energy leader
Not too long ago, we were creating more than enough energy to run our country and were able to sell energy to other nations. All this brought in billions of dollars in corporate earnings which paid employees (who then paid taxes), bolstered the Social Security and Medicare income, and paid taxes to the federal and state government.
However, we are no longer doing this, but importing energy from halfway around the world, bringing it here in massive ships that spew tons of carbon as they transport oil and other products formerly produced here. We are increasing the carbon footprint of producing oil, losing tax revenue and jobs, and needlessly spending money to do it.
This week we were advised that a worldwide energy shortage is arising and we are asking Saudi Arabia to provide more oil, and paying dearly for it. We are trucking Canadian energy products to different destinations because we didn’t want to complete a pipeline that was truly paid for.
In the meantime, reportedly, China, who in 2019 was hailed as the windmill leader in power generation, has started buying coal — dirty coal or any coal available — because they can’t produce enough energy with windmills to meet demands for energy to warm homes during winter or for manufacturing products. Yet we have coal reserves that would provide cleaner coal and help reduce pollution on a more global scale. But coal mining is restricted as is our ability to sell this cleaner product to China and other countries trying to keep the lights on.
On top of all this, our leaders are arguing about increasing spending by trillions of dollars, adding unknown trillions of dollars to our debt, which almost everyone realizes will never be paid off and telling us “It’s paid for.”
It’s an amazing time.
JACK VAN ZANDT
For the latest breaking news and updates, download the Johnson City Press app.