January 7, 2007

Endangered Species Act

Charles C. Mann wrote a article many years ago in the Atlantic Monthly pointing out that landowners have an incentive to quietly exterminate any endangered species they find on their land. A flock of sheep are particularly good for eradicating plant species.

Of course, it’s also true that many endangered species aren’t really endangered. It’s just that nobody bothered looking for them until a development was announced. At that point, opponents of the real estate development hire naturalists to find little known species on the property.

It’s often easier to find some supposedly rare species on a piece of land than for the developers to find that particular species in enough places elsewhere to show it isn’t rare. Although the public tends to visualize every endangered species as panda bears or whooping cranes, weeds are particularly useful to anti-developers, since their geographic spread is often poorly known because who cares about weeds?

Thus it’s easier to portray them as endangered. For example, the discovery of the San Fernando Spineflower, a tiny weed almost indistinguisable from the San Gabriel Spineflower, helped derail development of the billion dollar Ahmanson Ranch project outside of Los Angeles.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Lysander Spooner said...

For every prickly spot of obscure vegetation supposededly harmed by private ownership, there's a majestic beast being saved by the forces of the market.

Wild Success: Saving elephants, crocodiles, and othr endangered wildlife once meant trampled crops and violent death to the villagers of Southern Africa. Now community-based capitalism is turning once-fearsome pests into valuable sources of wealth--with lessons for America

Of course, the resurgence of elephant populations isn't nearly as interesting a fact as the fate of the truly electrifying San Fernando Spineflower.

Lysander Spooner said...


Anonymous said...

It's called "shoot, shovel, and shut up". It's likely why the ivory-billed woodpecker really went extinct, or will: any farmer seeing one would be far better to kill it and burn or bury it.

Anonymous said...

This sort of perverse disincentive is similar to how civil rights laws encourage discrimination against the minorities they purport to help.

For instance, any employer is aware of how many lawsuits he's opening himself up to if he hires a black guy that turns out to be a lousy employee. A white employee who wasn't working out could just be fired, but a black guy brings the real risk of an expensive or troublesome lawsuit. The rational thing for the employer is to just try to minimize hiring blacks.