New rules, guys. No bank robbing — unless you really need the money. No beating people up — unless you’re really mad. No running red lights — unless you’re in a big hurry.
Put another way — how come the federal government only obeys the laws it finds convenient? That’s one question that emerges from the convoluted struggle to get the Verde trout listed as an endangered species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has spent a quarter century using twisted science and bureaucratic flim-flammery to keep the foot-long native fish off the list.
From the start, no one could really deny the swift decline of the Verde trout, also known as the Roundtail chub, thanks to dams, water diversions, cattle grazing and the introduction of non-native fish like bass, trout and catfish. Already, the fish has disappeared from 82 percent of its range and Fossil Creek harbors the only remaining stable population.
Congress adopted the Endangered Species Act to prevent the loss of such species. Obviously, the first step lies in documenting the danger and putting the critter on the list.
But when it comes to the Verde trout and many other species, the Fish and Wildlife Service has for decades ignored the clear provisions of federal law.
Finally this month, the bureaucratic protector of the nation’s precious inheritance of living species finally conceded the obvious — the fish in the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin qualify as separate populations and the fish in the Lower Basin merit protection.
Now here’s where it gets truly bizarre.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t have the money to finish the studies and officially list the fish. So the Verde trout will join 120 other species on the “warranted but precluded” list. That’s because 40 even worse off species waiting for a spot on the list will use up the paltry $8.8 million annual budget.
The moral of the story appears to be if you’re going to break the law, best to be the federal government. There does appear to be just a wee bit of a double standard at work.
If you doubt us, just tell the IRS that you would have mailed in your taxes this year, but couldn’t afford the stamps.