Spotted: Owl Hypocrisy as Government Chooses Winners and Losers


Endangered Northern Spotted Owl
Endangered Northern Spotted Owl

By Benita M. Dodd

Benita Dodd,  Vice President, Georgia Public  Policy Foundation
Benita Dodd,
Vice President, Georgia Public
Policy Foundation

Remember the notorious spotted owl? Listed in 1990 on the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Northern Spotted Owl tied up timber-rich areas in knots as these 1-pound wood owls took precedence in management decisions.

Despite the federal intervention, spotted owls have declined 40 percent over 25 years, jobs and timber sales dropped precipitously and, as a consequence, so did the tax proceeds from timber harvests in the Pacific Northwest.

But Nature once again won’t be allowed to take its course. Now, according to Teresa Platts of the Property and Environment Research Council, the feds have their eye on another owl – the barred owl.  They’re moving forward with a million-dollar-a-year plan to shoot 9,000 of these larger, barred owls that are encroaching from the East on the spotted owl territory. These are the consequences when government picks winners and losers – and not just in Detroit or on Wall Street! I can think of one other program where you’re not allowed to cry uncle, as the saying goes. As we criticize the inefficient application of rail – light, heavy or streetcar – I’m often asked to point out even one “failed” rail system. Of course, there are no “failed” systems or programs: The caveat with crying uncle is that transportation agencies must return the taxpayer dollars to the federal government. So, with their hand in your pocketbooks and wallets already, they just dig a little deeper. Meanwhile, as Platts writes, “Today, with cutbacks in Federal budgets and sequestration, the States are arguing about how much of your tax dollars the Federal government should give them to keep impoverished County governments afloat in timber-rich areas.”

Barred Owl
Barred Owl

Far more preferable is the respect for private property rights than the imposition of government’s so-called science-based solution. As Adam Smith said, “It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense. … They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in society. Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs.”

« Previous Next »