Terry Jeffrey

One can see through the environmentalist movement as clearly as if it were a mountain stream by reading the opinion U.S. District Judge John Coughenour issued last month in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) suit brought by Trout Unlimited and other groups against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

The judge sided with the environmentalists, arguing that the human race is endangering the steelhead species of salmon by breeding too many of them.

The problem, as the environmentalists see it, is not that man, through ill-considered and wanton acts, is driving a poor fish from the face of the Earth. The problem is that man, through imagination, careful planning and industry, is on his way to making this fish so abundant and readily reproducible that it more resembles a domesticated animal than a "wild" creature.

The key term in the judge's decision is "human interference."

"If the statute did not aspire to naturally self-sustaining populations of endangered or threatened species," he says, for example, "it would be permissible under the ESA to capture and permanently raise such species in zoos or other environments where they are dependent on human interference for survival."

Now, non-environmentalists understand that "human interference" in the environment can be either good or bad. When a farmer clears a forest, plants a crop and brings it to harvest, most of us would consider that a good thing. We recognize that the farmer's interaction with the environment is quite different from the interaction of an arson who sets a forest ablaze simply to see it burn.

In environmentalist ideology, however, human acts are never good. All are ultimately destructive acts of "interference."

This ideology runs throughout Coughenour's decision on the steelhead, which orders NMFS to stop its practice of counting steelhead bred in fish hatcheries as part of the steelhead population for purposes of determining whether steelhead ought to be listed as endangered. To the judge, it does not matter if a river-born and a hatchery-born steelhead are genetically identical, born along the same river, migrate to the same ocean, and return to breed with one another in the same gravel bed and share the same offspring. The river-born steelhead, the judge says, counts. Its hatchery-born mate, the product of "human interference," does not.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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