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Kintigh is wrong about Endangered Species Act

Jay Lininger

State Rep. Dennis Kintigh’s Oct. 9 opinion piece criticizing the Endangered Species Act demonstrates an unyielding loyalty to the oil and gas industry, a dubious commitment to science and environmental protection, and a clear misunderstanding of the facts.

Mr. Kintigh complained that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – the agency in charge of enforcing the act – proposes to follow the law by protecting the rare and imperiled dunes sagebrush lizard. He repeated the fear-mongering of U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who maintains despite facts that “most” of New Mexico’s oil and gas jobs would be put at risk if the lizards are protected.

Kintigh’s outlandish claim that lizard protection could “endanger the economic life” of New Mexicans is wrong. The reptile’s habitat makes up less than 1 percent of the Permian Basin oil patch. Moreover, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management withheld less than 1 percent of the acreage it planned to lease to oil and gas companies in the past two years to protect the lizard’s habitat.

In that period, the BLM Pecos District leased more than 58,000 acres of public land in southeast New Mexico without any lizard restriction. The agency also delivered nearly $21 million in royalty payments to the state government.

Peer review by independent scientists


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Mr. Kintigh’s assertion that Fish and Wildlife lacks accountability also ignores the facts. Listing decisions are subject to peer review by independent scientists – the same process scientific journals use to scrutinize studies before publication. In a recent report to Congress, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said Fish and Wildlife uses the best available science in decisions to list endangered species, and its use of external peer review is consistent and reliable.

In contrast, Mr. Kintigh organized a farce “science review” of lizard protection by people who lack expertise on the lizard and who had already voiced opposition to the lizard’s listing. The hand-picked “science” panel included a cowboy museum curator, a livestock rancher and two petroleum geologists who work for the oil and gas industry.

Mr. Kintigh’s statement that decisions about endangered species are made without oversight is also incorrect. In addition to undergoing scientific peer review, those decisions are reviewable under federal law that requires judges to set aside actions that are “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” These standards apply to Endangered Species Act listings, and federal judges routinely enforce them.

Alarmist tales

Alarmist tales of economic catastrophe if the lizard is saved from extinction have no basis in reality. They are nothing but talking points in an ideological campaign to undermine federal agencies responsible for protecting the species and ecosystems upon which we all ultimately depend.

While the oil and gas industry – whose financial largesse has handsomely benefited politicians like Mr. Pearce and his acolytes – has a responsibility to maximize profits, it has no such responsibility to the American people or our environment.

Jay Lininger is an ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Albuquerque.

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9 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Durablebrad,

    I think you mistake my position as one that supports the lizard’s protection – I do not. I heard one presentation on the issue and was not going to make a lot of assumptrions based upon one presentation.

    My post was intended to invite those who support the lizard to prove to the rest of us that the government is really doing their job (by conducting their own analysis) instead of solely relying on the environmentalists’ “work.” I am very interested if that accusation can be rebutted by the environmentalists.

    BTW, I have not worked for the government for more than six years.

  2. Join now before it is too late for our children.
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  3. The economic catastrophe is already in progress. It has nothing to do with the EPA, or with any endangered lizard species. It results from ongoing efforts to protect another endangered species entirely. A kind of parasite which has been artificially bred to be too big to fail, and kept alive by extraordinary means for far too long.

  4. While in grad school, I spent a fair amount of time working for the US Forest Service attempting to establish “economic value” for proposed wilderness areas. Things may have changed over the years, but I spent alot of time in wilderness areas asking individuals (if I could find any) how much money they would pay not to see another person….This is know as “willingness to pay” scenarios. I propose that we establish a bid process on these properties, and that individuals bid for either development or non development. If you get a higher bid for non development then take them out of production. But pay a rental fee just like you would for holding leases for grazing or other natural resource development. If you do develop establish reasonable remediatio plans. Doesn’t this sound fair? I mean both environmentalists and resource developers have all kinds of $. This would allow them to bid for the prime sites for development or non development.

  5. Nelson Spear,

    It is curious that you would seek to put the weight of evidence wholly upon the shoulders of a third party rather than the government itself, but as a self-proclaimed “government bureaucrat” perhaps this particular subject is completely self-explanatory. (SEE: The Peter Principle)

  6. Interesting counterpoint.

    Listing decisions are subject to peer review by independent scientists – the same process scientific journals use to scrutinize studies before publication. In a recent report to Congress, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said Fish and Wildlife uses the best available science in decisions to list endangered species, and its use of external peer review is consistent and reliable.

    I heard a presentation about the dune sagebrush lizard about a week ago and it was stated in the presentation that the government relied upon the petitioners data in the implementation of the lizard’s protection. I cannot remember the entire presenter’s remarks, but I do recall the comment that the lizard and several other species were treated in the manner – i.e., the government simply relied upon the petitioner’s data instead of using their own data. It was also stated during the presentation that the “value” of the species to the area was not even a contributing consideration to a decision whether or not the lizard should be listed.

    I think that I know how things are supposed to work as a government bureaucrat, but it seems to me that if the presenter’s claims are accurate, then the Rep. Kintigh and Cong. Pearce have a legitimate gripe. Does the author of the article have any information regarding the claim that the government did not do any of its own research before listing the species?

  7. My headline would be: “Lininger is wrong about Endangered Species Act”. I mean really, he is just as biased, partisan, and with a paid, aligned agenda about this issue as “…the oil and gas industry – whose financial largesse has handsomely benefited politicians”, as if the environmental lobbysist, pressure groups, and liberal, left wing trust-babies have not done anything for politicians. Why do we always have to have these polarizing, political opinions that demonize the other side all the time?

  8. Jon Huntsman Jr., a Republican presidential candidate, accurately described the G.O.P. — it is the “anti-science party.” Tthe opinions of far right extremist Pearce and now sadly Mr. Kintigh should terrify us. The anti-intellectualism of the political right extends far beyond the issue of endangered species.

  9. In contrast, Mr. Kintigh organized a farce “science review” of lizard protection by people who lack expertise on the lizard and who had already voiced opposition to the lizard’s listing.

    This, right here, is why I took everything that group published with multiple grains of salt. If Rep. Pearce and State Rep. Kintigh had wanted to produce an actual independent and objective scientific review of the lizard’s listing, they could have assembled a team of people who had voiced opinions on both sides of the issue, both pro and con. Both sides could have presented the best evidence and data that they had and then either have come to a consensus that everyone was happy with, or presented conclusions for both sides. The Representatives failed to do anything of this caliber, instead hand-picking a jury who, unsurprisingly, came to the verdict they themselves favoured.

    Science has a place in the politics of the 21st century, but the Representatives both failed at understanding what that place is.

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