Government Work: $205,000 to Move a Shrubbery

Posted: Apr 15, 2012 12:01 AM

We in the true American West often wonder why people leave sunny and star-decked California for places like Utah and Colorado which are much heavier in the snow and wind department. Now I know why. Forget the Buffett Rule becoming the Buffett Law. If you are really interested in people with too much money that they are not sharing for the public good, have I got a story for you. For the latest example of Your Tax Dollars with Jerks, read on.

With Mother’s Day coming up you may want to consider getting the woman in your life a nice plant. And besides, potted plants support the greenhouse industry and of course your local florist. An economic stimulus, if you will. But there is such a thing as being over stimulated.

In 2010 $205,075 was spent to “translocate{ (that’s govspeak for “move”) a single bush that was apparently in the way a highway renovation project that was partially funded by stimulus money.

No, I’m not kidding. $205,075 to move a bush. That’s one bush. Not a stand of plants, not a small forest, not even a mighty California Redwood. A bush. The plant in question is called a Franciscan manzanita and is extinct. Except where it is found growing in people’s yards in California. And nurseries where they retail for about 16 bucks.

Shortly after its discovery, the California Department of Transportation, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Department of Fish and Game, showing the fiscal sense of two drunken frat boys at a buy-one-get one free sale at a tattoo parlor came together and in what I am sure was a lengthy skull session, drafted a Memorandum of Agreement to move the plant from a median strip to the Presidio to safety.

You readers in the Golden State should be proud. The California Department of Transportation  moved just under 80 grand to the Presidio Trust Fund to water and watch the thing for the next ten years.

Actually digging it up and carting it to its new home came in at about one hundred grand. Keep in mind that this is something two civic-minded boy scouts could have done for free on Arbor Day. And since nothing is done in any government without paperwork, the nice folks at Caltrans forked over $25,605 to cover the reporting requirements over that 10 year period. Just over 7 grand went to test its chromosomes. Guess you can’t have too many undocumented manzanitas in these United States.

But as they used to say in the Ronco commercials “But wait, there’s more!” $5,000 was allocated to 3 botanical gardens (apiece) to nurture and monitor “salvaged root layers and 15 hundred dollars was set for to store seeds. In other words, $65 hundred dollars to make more plants. Again, these things sell for $16. The plant is currently being held in a secret location somewhere in California, presumably to keep it safe from paparazzi and autograph-seekers.

The punch line? In 2011 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed naming it to endangered species list.

On the upside, the plants should make lovely corsages and boutonnières for the next GSA staff party.