Don’t blame BEC for feds’ rules

A Chico State University graduate student in public administration and long-time Butte County resident.

This is a response to the letter to the editor “Troubled weatherman” from Anthony Watts in the March 15 issue:

Blaming the Butte Environmental Council (BEC) and others who feel that environmental protection is important for the status of Butte County meadowfoam and the problems associated with development in the Chico area is not only misguided, but also erroneous.

First, Butte County meadowfoam is listed as endangered under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing of a plant or animal species is performed at the federal-government level. The agency that is responsible not only for the listing status, but also mitigation measures to ensure species survival, is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not BEC.

When a plant or animal species is listed as threatened or endangered, federal regulations take precedence over any local or state regulations. If Anthony Watts and other people are unhappy with the provisions of the ESA, then they should try to change the law. BEC and other environmental groups do not control government actions, especially at the federal level. This kind of argument only serves to inflame and polarize contending interests.

Seeking solutions to the problem of habitat destruction that bring together competing interests has much more potential for solving those problems than keeping issues in an inflamed and polarized state.

The Butte Environmental Council and other grassroots environmental-preservation organizations serve important functions as watchdog groups to ensure that laws are being enforced and also provide a voice for individuals who consider habitat preservation important. These groups also lobby government at the local, state and federal levels for enhanced environmental protection.

While Anthony Watts and others may not agree with the philosophy of such groups, there are many who serve as watchdogs and lobby government for their interests. It is important to our democracy that many interest groups with many points of view exist to exert pressure on our government. It is through this pressure from competing groups that our government can learn what kind of policies the public wants from government.

Also, I am not sure that the meadowfoam that is being grown in Oregon is the same species that grows in Butte County. Maybe the grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to try to propagate meadowfoam is for the purpose of mitigation. If the plant can be propagated and introduced into appropriate areas, this might relieve some of the pressure for preservation in other areas slated for development.

One last comment about your suggestion that homeowners use Roundup on meadowfoam: Anyone who knowingly kills a plant or animal that is listed as endangered is in violation of federal law. I don’t think this is a real solution to the problem. In fact, it might enhance the problem, because if it is shown that the protected species is not recovering, more restrictive protection measures may be deemed necessary.