MEMBERS OF CONGRESS are zeroing in on the Endangered Species
Act as if it were a troublesome varmint. But people who work with
the act every day say it has caused few problems with landowners.
Politics, not endangered animals vs. property rights, is the
real problem, they say.
"Most of these potential conflicts exist on the phone or on
paper," says Dennis Figg, the endangered species coordinator for
the Missouri Department of Conservation.
"I have personally investigated the cases that have made the
most headlines nationally and found they are all largely
misinformation and hype."
Figg often works with landowners to protect endangered plants
like the Missouri bladderpod or animals like endangered Indiana and
gray bats. Cooperation - not confrontation - is the norm, he said.
Figg is on a national committee examining the conflicts blamed on
the act. The committee will make recommendations to Congress on it.
He sent out questionnaires to officials in all 50 states,
asking for examples of conflicts in their areas. He found most had
the same experience as Missouri. Typical, he said, is the response
from Texas. A state biologist there said she had been met at
gunpoint when she approached a rancher with an endangered plant on
his land. They talked, worked out a conservation plan, and are now
friendly, if not friends.
The majority of conflicts end the same way, with the landowner
and conservation agent agreeing on what's best for the rare plant
or animal, Figg said.
Figures from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which
administers the act, confirm Figg's claim. The service says it
reviewed 2,719 cases involving a landowner and an endangered
species between 1988 and 1992 and found that 98 percent of the
cases resulted in amicable agreement with the service. "People are
scared by what they think the government will do or can do," said
Figg. "The solution to most of these problems wasn't anything more
Bats - Nature's Insecticides
A crescent moon moved into place over the Osage River near
Saint Elizabeth in central Missouri recently as the first dark
streaks flew out of a cave high on a limestone bluff.
The twilight sky soon filled with thousands of bats. Four
biologists below watched silently, listening to the whirring sound
of the bats on their feeding run.
"Wonder if they'll take a lightning bug?" one spectator
pondered as an insect blinked amid the black blurs. Thwack! The
light went out.
The state acquired the property years ago, to protect the site.
Gray bats, a federally endangered species, use the cave to raise
Below the cave, voices could be heard over the river as a
motorboat headed in for the night. Its passengers did not know the
bat colony had made their cruise more enjoyable. A hungry bat eats
up to 600 mosquitoes an hour. …