Saturday, January 29, 2005

More “Sound Science”

Saint Simon's island waterway Newhouse: Bush Drive to Shift Species Protection to States May Begin in Oregon:

Contrary to findings by federal scientists, Oregon officials have concluded that Oregon coast coho salmon are not at risk and thus no longer need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

If U.S. officials accept Oregon's conclusion -- outlined in a draft report -- the state probably would take over management of the prized fish and become the first step in a drive by the Bush administration to emphasize local control over wildlife issues.

Such a shift would reshape national policy on endangered species.

Conservationists say Oregon's analysis ignores the loss of habitat that once supported annual runs of a million or more coastal coho. About a third of the coastal wetlands once used by coho have been drained for farms, towns and roads; logging has altered about 95 percent of streams in Oregon's coastal forests.

And, revisiting an early post , Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse has been declared not distinct (here too) from a conspecific, the Bear Lodge Meadow Jumping Mouse. This is a case where an endangered habitat law would be of real value. I know some of the people doing the genetic work that resulted in this decision, and while some Colorado homebuilder's group helped fund their work, I think they're pretty confident in their results, and I see no reason to doubt them.

Some people are confused , claiming that this is about the difference between a species and a subspecies. The ESA, recognizing the inherent vagueness of the species boundary, talks about distinct populations, or distinct evolutionary units (the exact language escapes me.) This determination lumps two subspecies, it doesn't eradicate a species.

The researchers at the Denver Museum found that these two named subspecies are not sufficiently genetically divergent to justify the belief that they are on different evolutionary paths, and that there is significant gene flow. If their results are good, and I don't question them, the decision to delist is legitimate. It would be nice to wait for the research to be published, but still.

It remains the case that the valleys these mice live in are pretty rare, and there's a compelling public interest in balancing development with public use . The mice were a convenient path to that protection, and without their listing it will be harder to protect these areas in their natural state for future generations.

Make Everyone Happy/Mechanical Birds” by Modest Mouse from the album This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About (1996, 6:04).