Thursday, October 11, 2007

Environmentalists say 'baa' to cutting habitat acreage

How would you like 1,056 acres of government land? Well, if you are a Big Horn Sheep you can enjoy traipsing around this large acreage all by yourself except that you would be part of a 800-sheep herd sharing 844,897 acres of ‘critical habitat’; land set aside in 1966 during the Clinton administration for so-called ‘threatened species’. There are about 30 Big Horn Sheep in the Coachella Valley, a small number of the total. It’s not clear how much of the 800,000 plus acres of ‘Critical Habitat’ is included in this acreage for the 30 sheep in the valley but you can bet it is at least over 1,000 acres per sheep.

The powerful U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (if you don’t think they are ‘powerful’, you try to restrict use of 800,000 acres) has proposed cutting the total set-aside acreage by about 300,000 acres or so and the environmentalists are in an uproar. In a classic example of hyperbole, Joan Taylor of the Sierra Club said upon hearing of the suggested cut, "They’re dooming them to be land locked". It seems Joan is concerned that 30 sheep in the Coachella Valley, of the 800 total, would lose their migratory passage way to go "live in the wild in Mexico".

Now being an environmental dunce, I didn’t know our very own valley sheep who live in the ‘wild’ in the valley want to go to Mexico to live in the wild there. Perhaps they want to get away from the valley heat in the summer, but no, that can’t be the case because it is probably hotter in the Mexican summer unless they go to the Mexican coast. How about that, our valley's Big Horn Sheep are a version of ‘Snow Birds’.

The Aqua Caliente tribe sued to exclude 4,512 acres of their land from the set aside acreage. Perhaps this law suit is what prompted the powerful Fish and Wildlife Service to revisit the amount of acreage set aside although the reason given by the Fish and Wildlife Service for the cut is "new information" received. I wonder if the new information is that since 1,000 sheep were released ‘into the wild’ in the 70’s, and another 100 in 1985, other wild animals like mountain lions, and/or disease, has whittled the herd down to 30 sheep in the valley. In any case, the government officials say the Big Horn Sheep aren’t using all the land they have now, but that doesn’t persuade the environmentalists.

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