By William Perry Pendley, columnist
Mr. Pendley, a Wyoming attorney, led the Bureau of Land Management in the Trump administration.
As of last weekend, Wyoming ranked 39th in percentage of population to receive the COVID-19 vaccine developed by President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. Everyone has his reasons, but if there is one rationale, it may be that we have been down this road in the past.
When Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and other “experts” appeared on the national scene, it was the first time for most Americans to be ordered what to do, how to behave, and the way to live by government bureaucrats.
Thus, when Dr. Fauci said, early on, they should not wear masks and then weeks later said they had to wear masks, and even later recommended two or even three masks, if accompanied by goggles or eye shields, it made peoples’ heads spin.
They all longed for the day when they would be vaccinated and could throw away masks, but Fauci kept it up, saying—even after being vaccinated—they had to wear masks, including when outside exercising—alone! At some point, many concluded Fauci, et al. were making it all up and stopped listening.
We westerners got inoculated, if you will, to such nonsense from government “scientists” long ago, that is, when federal agencies and radical environmental groups started using the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to kill economic activity.
Those with long memories recall how the snail darter nearly derailed the Tellico Dam in Tennessee, but Congress stepped in, carved out an exemption, and the project went forward. Later, plenty of snail darters were found nearby and predicted ecological chaos was avoided. There were no further exemptions, however, and westerners, as usual, paid the price.
Radical environmental groups, admitting their desire to stop timber harvesting in California, Oregon, and Washington, alleged that logging threatened the northern spotted owl’s survival and sued to stop harvesting.
I faulted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) for its failure to use science for its policy recommendations. The highest-ranking agency official on the west coast responded he was using, not biological science, but political science.
In the end, the late Jack Ward Thomas—the Dr. Fauci of northern spotted owls—was put in charge. The question for those seeking to save jobs, local economies, and small towns was: “How many owls assured the species’ survival?” Dr. Thomas said there was no “magic number” so he made “moral judgments between the needs of owls and the needs of mankind.”
Long after tens of thousands of jobs were lost, communities all but abandoned, and services like local law enforcement ended throughout the region, the FWS admitted the northern spotted owl was at risk, not because of logging, but because of the barred owl, which preyed on its cousin. The agency then set about killing the barred owl to save the northern spotted owl.
Likewise, grazing was shut down in Clark County, Nevada to save the desert tortoise, despite that the FWS knew the greatest threat to the desert tortoise was not slow-moving cattle whose use of the land symbiotically served the needs of the tortoise, but instead ravens that were exterminating the tortoise. The agency had no stomach for killing ravens; therefore, cattle grazing had to go.
Meanwhile, in Wyoming, because of conservation efforts, the grizzly bear population expanded exponentially as did its range.
Despite that it has a 99 percent likelihood of surviving for at least another 100 years—better odds than a motorist on I-80 in a blizzard between Laramie and Rawlins—radical green groups fight its removal from the ESA list disregarding the harm imposed on stockmen, hunters, and an occasional unfortunate backpacker.
Despite abundant science to the contrary regarding the uniqueness and vulnerability of the so-called Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, which all but shut down the I-25 corridor from Casper to Colorado Springs, the rodent remains on the ESA list.
Furthermore, in Sublette County, notwithstanding robust conservation efforts and evidence of the greater sage-grouse’s resiliency, experts argued ongoing ranching and oil and gas operations had to stop to protect it. Lawyering on my part, aided by expert testimony, helped prevent that disastrous outcome.
Knowledgeable observers argue persuasively that the FWS’s greatest deficiency is conflict of interest. Its work is the product of “species cartels” afflicted with group think, confirmation bias, and a common desire to preserve the prestige, power, and appropriations of the agency that pays or employs them.
For example, in one sage-grouse monograph, 41 percent of the authors were federal workers and the editor—a federal bureaucrat—authored one-third of the papers.
Finally, too often the peer-reviewed, published “science” the FWS uses to make decisions has neither data nor computer codes available to the public. When its data is available publicly but the agency’s results are not reproducible, at least the FWS and activist scientists can maintain the study was “peer reviewed” even though peer reviewers never saw the data either!
Although we pray the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be behind us and we can get back to normal—vaccinated or unvaccinated—Wyoming will continue to suffer at the hands of Dr. Fauci’s ilk in the FWS who try to tell us how to live our lives.