November 30, 2012
The Sportsman’s Act, Wetlands Protection, and Economic Ruin
By Hal Herring
I’m not going to write today about the U.S. Senators responsible for the recent stalling of the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012. What is most important in the blocking of the Sportsmen’s Act is the unpardonable ignorance it reveals. Included in the Sportsmen’s Act is the path to the reauthorization of NAWCA (North American Wetlands and Conservation Act), a program that provides matching funds to groups working to preserve and restore wetlands across North America.
Yes, in 1989, when NAWCA was created by an act of Congress, it was intended primarily to boost populations of waterfowl and other wildlife. But since then, as the Federal Flood Insurance Program has sucked away and squandered billions of taxpayer dollars, and as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the 2011 floods have proved, wetlands and floodplains are NOT about ducks and geese. Ruined wetlands and floodplains are about economics and deficits and man-made disasters. Wildlife and the hunting heritage, and wild, beautiful days on the marsh or in the blind with friends and family and abundant waterfowl above us are the interest on the principle of protected and restored wetlands. Destroying wetlands, channelizing creeks, draining swamps to plant more corn for ethanol, or to feed the earth’s insatiable billions of people, destroys the principle. Just as you can take an inheritance or a windfall stack of money and, instead of investing it, blow it on lottery tickets and cigarettes and groceries (new guns are excluded), you can destroy the economic principle of the planet.
The floods come, and with them the human tragedies and the cry for “more public money, more public money!” The ducks are gone, and with them the beautiful days afield that we so cherish. The fertilizer-laden pollution kills your fisheries. Water treatment plants must be upgraded, so taxes must rise. The debts mount. There’s no way to keep up with them. Stupidity and squandering have consequences. Real ones. The key for some of our elected leaders is simply to put those consequences off, as long as possible.
Here is a story from the Associated Press in Iowa that describes how the agriculture industry will be asked to “voluntarily” find ways to limit the vast amounts of pollution pouring off from channelized creeks and former pollution absorbing wetlands now drained for new cornfields while city-owned wastewater treatment plants will be forced to install costly upgrades (since taxpayers will pay for them, and since, as more wetlands are filled for new cornfields and more pollution runs into the waters, the need for the upgrades will expand, forever, this seems to be a good plan, right?)
Now, the hue and cry for the abandonment of the astoundingly wasteful and destructive Federal Flood Insurance Program rises to a crescendo from economists and non-governmental policy makers. Out there, away from the public money hog trough, independent thinkers know that encouraging people to destroy the principle of our natural resource base—to fill and drain wetlands, to levees river, to rebuild, over and over on floodplains—is abhorrent. But way up there, in the ivory towers of Congress, insulated from the reality that any hunter or fisherman could easily describe to them, willfully ignorant of consequences, some would rather play games, and fiddle in the evenings, while the floods ravage, the public money spews, the Dead Zone grows, the water supplies shrink, and our wildlife and sporting heritage recedes into the rearview mirror. Heck, who cares really? These are mostly people who wouldn’t know a widgeon from a hummingbird. When the consequences become clear, they can always raise taxes on us to pay for them.
It’s not a plan that any American should accept, much less Americans who spend their lives and leisure time outside, where reality is uninsulated, and the profound beauty of what we have accomplished so far is so evident.
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