Friday, March 10, 2017

A Presidential Bird Story

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush, and nephew of former President George W. Bush, is pushing to remove the Golden-cheeked Warbler — a species of bird that only breeds in Central Texas — from the Endangered Species List.

Robert Henneke, general counsel for Texas Public Policy Foundation, notes that:

The Warbler population is 19 times greater than when the species was listed. As the purpose for listing the species—recovery—has been accomplished, respect for private property rights and limited government demand that the language of the ESA be followed in delisting the Warbler from further regulation.

Not said: George W. Bush got elected Governor of Texas (and by extension, President of the United States) by ginning up hysteria based on a lie; that Golden-cheeked Warbler Protection would kill home construction in all of East Texas.

I told the tale a few years back:

In June of 1994, a memo from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was leaked. The memo outlined a tentative plan to declare hundreds of thousands of acres across 33 counties in Texas hill country as being "critical habitat" for the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler.

It was feared that, if implemented, "the plan" would have made it virtually impossible to bulldoze Ashe Juniper off of the surrounding hills -- a necessity if those hills were to be turned into nice new housing developments with grass lawns and underground sprinkler systems.

Massive opposition to the informal Fish & Wildlife Service proposal sprang up overnight, with school auditoriums quickly filled to capacity by ranchers, developers, and property owners who were led to believe that the draft proposal was soon going to be made into law overnight, and that it would impact almost all private property.

In fact, the proposal was a mere internal memo within the agency (no rules or regulations had been written or circulated, and no draft Environmental Impact Statement had been initiated), and the designation of critical habitat directly affected only actions that were to be federally funded or authorized, not privately-held lands.

George W. Bush was not a stickler for the facts (then or now) and he jumped on the wave of misinformation circulating through Texas in order to fan the flames of discontent. Positioning himself as a champion of the property rights movement, Bush hammered on the "federal land grab" even after Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt had disavowed the leaked memo and Texas Governor Ann Richards also voiced her strong opposition.

Richards, of course, was too late. Bush campaign operatives -- including Karl Rove -- had already framed the issue and associated Ann Richards with it -- never mind the facts, or her true position.

Texas being Texas, and modern political discourse being what it is, people believed the Bush Campaign's spin.

In the end, due in no small part to the warbler controversy, George W. Bush was elected Governor of Texas, which he later used as a stepping-stone to the White House.

And the rest, as they say, is history, written in debt, blood, and destruction.

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