Can California's Endangered Species Survive U.S. Fish & Wildlife Policy?

When the population of a tiny fish called the Delta smelt started to dwindle, U.S. Fish & Wildlife kicked into high gear to save them from going to extinct. They used their authority to divert federal water from the smelt’s habitat in California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta — away from farming and other habitats in the San Joaquin Valley. Endangered species have no way to communicate to the regulators charged with keeping them alive, but if they could, they might echo Ronald Reagan in saying:

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

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The more fresh water retained in the Delta region, the thinking went, the more smelt there would be. Unfortunately, “preserving” freshwater (and essentially flushing it into the ocean) seems to have done nothing to revive smelt stocks. They are still dying. Making matters worse, other endangered species in the Valley are now being deprived of water from the San Joaquin.

Tony Francois is an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation — a public interest law firm that litigates on behalf of vulnerable individuals and small businesses whose rights are threatened by overreaching legislative and executive power. Francois notes that property owners (farmers, etc.) are not the only ones with a stake in this issue, but also people who value biodiversity and sanity in government. He frames this as a moral issue, with the regulators to blame. However, he also puts some responsibility on citizens of various stripes to assert our power against an unaccountable agency run amok.

Tony joins the show to explain the disastrous unintended consequences of federal bureaucratic management of state resources and discuss other pending Supreme Court cases in which endangered species regulations are threatening people’s liberties (and often the environment). Finally, Bob and Tony discuss Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and his track record on cases involving the environment.


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