Yesterday’s Washington Post carried a story critical of one Pentagon program in Texas designed to both protect endangered species and allow the military to fully use its various facilities without running afoul of the Endangered Species Act.
Over the past two decades dozens of different approaches to mitigation for impacts to endangered species have been tried throughout the U.S. The Texas A&M-Fort Hood program profiled at Fort Hood is just one of those approaches, and shouldn’t be dismissed because of anonymous criticisms from government staffers who would prefer a more stringent approach. In the complicated world of species and habitat protection, innovation is usually very difficult, and anything other than complete preservation of all potential habitat is usually denounced by environmental activists, even though the property involved is often either privately held or vitally necessary for some other use –in this instance, the Pentagon’s. Property rights and effective governance require balance against the demands from the extreme that species protection trump everything else.
One of President Obama’s most interesting appointments is Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who as a former Attorney General of Colorado, is familiar with the legal issues surrounding the ESA. If the new secretary pushes innovation in this area, landowners, industry and responsible activists exhausted by 20 years of legal battles will cheer his every step. A good place to start would be with a review of the Fort Hood program, endorsing what works and fixing what doesn’t.