Only a sage grouse in the game

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

When I wrote about Scott Pruitt's attempts to undermine environmental protection at the EPA, I was blissfully unaware that he had a partner at the Department of the Interior – Ryan Zinke.

The Lexington column in last week's Economist – the parable of the sage grouse.  This is how it starts:

"ANYBODY worried about America’s ability to settle political arguments should consider the greater sage grouse.  Better still, as the May sun warms the western plains where it lives, go and watch it dance, as Lexington recently did in Wyoming.  There are few stranger sights in nature.  After spending the winter huddled in sage brush, a twiggy shrub that carpets the plains and is the backdrop to a thousand Westerns, male grouse gather on patches of open ground known as leks.  There, for several hours a day, starting at sunrise, they fan their tail-feathers into a speckled halo and emit a peculiar warbling sound by dilating air-sacks in their feathery breasts.  The unearthly chorus this makes—think of a mobile orchestra of chicken-sized didgeridoos—rises up from the vast and glorious Wyoming steppe.  In the lee of the snow-covered Wind River Mountains, it is a New World Eden, an expanse of yellow and green dotted with distant herds of pronghorn and wild horses. ..."

Zinke seems set on allowing drilling on grouse habitat.  But, as Lexington notes, his actions are a threat to tried and tested "collaborative, locally grounded approach to land management".  These are now common in the western USA, especially in areas threatened by wildfire and drought.  These don't, of course, happen by accident but "require regulatory certainty ... and a degree of mutual trust".  Lexington concludes that Zinke’s cynical stewardship of America’s public lands is eroding those conditions.

 Meanwhile, we have our own problems with land and wildlife, and there is much uncertainty arising from Brexit.  The Times quotes Emma Howard Boyd, the Chair of the Environment Agency as saying:
"Farmers should lose their subsidies if they pollute rivers or cause other damage to the countryside."
She is calling for food labels informing shoppers about the environmental impact of the farm on which it was produced which sounds like overreach if every beetroot or carrot is to carry such info.  Howard Boyd would seem to have been reading the OfScoff handbook.
The government is proposing “public money for public goods” – payments linked to specific environmental benefits.  Howard Boyd wants to penalise farmers who pollute.  She is quoted saying:
“Farmers who harm the environment should lose their government grants.  There should be tougher penalties, including higher fines, for serious pollution or repeat offenders."
What's wrong with prison, people will think.
Here's a link to Howard Boyd, if you can access it.  It seems that
"... she has spent her 25-year career working in financial services, initially in corporate finance, and then in fund management, specialising in sustainable investment and corporate governance."
Here's another if you can't.
Ideal qualifications for a Chair of the EA you might think.  Not Pruitt – Zinke territory, of course, but ...

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response