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Science Vitamine A
Science Vitamine A
PERSPECTIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP By Dennis M. Mitchell, CPA, QEP P. Muncelle Mitchell, J.D. INTRODUCTION Very few people have the luxury of time to become expert in more than a few areas. So, most of us rely on the general media for enough information to keep us tuned in to a variety of topics. Unfortunately, the media is a business and for practical reasons, may not always present fundamentals in a consistent and coherent manner. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just the way things ebb and flow and in the long run, at least so far, the media does eventually get around to the bigger picture, unfortunately later rather than sooner. However, in the interim, the population at large may be making, or at least supporting, a social direction that could be costly at best and down right dangerous at worst. The issues of the environment are one of those many areas. The environmental topics covered in this small collection are by no means complete. The purpose of these topics is to offer a view of what can be accomplished by having at least a platform from which to make an assessment. The issues of the environment are complicated because the science and the law that follows can be in conflict. That paradox occurs for both good and very poor reasons. Humanity is like that as we all learn in the lessons of life. So, we have a few environmentally related topics with some background as food for thought. We never have found the goal of people in general to be anything but protective of the planet and it’s marvelous resources. There has also never been a lack of diverse opinions on just how to be a good steward of the planet. The wise person quickly realizes that keeping the house of Earth in good order is the only way to live the good life. The problem arises in collectively deciding the difference between judicious and prudent use as opposed to destructive and wasteful use of the gifts of our little home. We have five chapters in this modest primer mostly taken from an earlier series with some updates and consolidated into one publication. The first three chapters all relate to the current squabble about climate. More than just the carbon dioxide and temperature story, we begin with a historical view of similarly earth shaking issues and how the science had to be reconciled before our species took the right direction. History does repeat itself and there are few new stories to tell, just some minor re-writes. The last two chapters are a bit different in that we cover the “ what’s and how’s” of the issue of wetlands and listed species which is usually mentioned as endangered species. These two chapters lend a peek at how the interaction of science and law has evolved in the USA . CHAPTER 1-GALILEO HAS A LOT TO TEACH US TODAY! It turns out Galileo just may have been right about the planets revolving around the sun and not the other way around as consensus of theory and policy of his day dictated. Tried and convicted as a heretic, he was forced to recant his views of the direct observations made with telescope and correct mathematical application of Copernicus’ and Kepler’s predictions. After four centuries, the current pope is following up to expunge the record and elevate Galileo (posthumously) from heretic to patron. Not to make light of this or be taken sarcastically, it is courageous for any institution to make such a gesture. The Vatican willingly wants to illuminate the Italian scientist’s contribution to mankind citing his dialogue between faith and reason. Very impressive indeed! Large institutions are a lot like blimps. Once they get going in one direction, it is a very long and slow process to change course by even a few degrees much less make an about-face. Can you imagine FEMA or the senate going back even 400 days, much less 400 years!) to air out some policy laundry for misguided or incompetent decisions? Just what were the facts and circumstances that led an otherwise intelligent and learned worldwide leadership of the 17th century to make such a colossal misjudgment about a fundamental issue? Surely the brain trust of the Vatican was smarter than a 5th grader! In all fairness, these leaders of that time period of the 1600’s were smart, knowledgeable, sincere and seriously dedicated- and that may have been their downfall! Consensus can become misaligned. Interestingly enough , Pope Benedict’s address for World Peace Day for 2008 included this item as reported in the media regarding the climate change issue: “It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions... it is essential to sense that the earth is our common home and... to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions.” He’s talking about stewardship of this third rock from the sun and the inherent danger of misalignment about global temperatures, both causes and solutions. The odd thing about the forgone conclusion that our planet is warming and the major direct cause is carbon dioxide from human activity, is that it lacks real consensus from the actual data. Since the early 1980’s the model predictions have consistently overestimated the temperature outcomes when matched with actual data. The majority of the computer models predictions have consistently indicated in the last decade there should have been a fairly constant rise in global temperatures because of continued increases in carbon dioxide. The model predictions are going up and the actual data is going down for temperature. The major failure of all climate models is the total lack of the ability (for anyone) to place the water and water vapor functions effectively into the algorithms. The water/water vapor data simply does not exist. It appears that over 90% of all heat load function is due to this water factor. This is not unlike trying to file a tax return with only 10% of your information…. The IRS would exhibit very little humor at such an attempt to file. The four major global temperature data sets( NASA, GISS, RSS and UAH) have all shown a cooling trend since 2002. As far back as 1998, they showed either flattening or cooling. Yet, we are continuing to tilt policies toward a forgone “rising temperature” conclusion that fails to have supporting data but does have supporting predictions from models that continue to over estimate the temperatures. Even the most ardent anthropogenic( man-made) global warming advocates were well aware of these trends as far back as 2000 and the best guess as to where the heat was going was that the oceans were acting like a heat sponge. Actually, that was a very reasonable hypothesis. NOAA launched a massive project dubbed ARGO- using 1,800 diving robots( and now up to 3300 robots) to measure the world’s oceans from surface to great depths. However, the five year report from ARGO was described as “puzzling”. Why? Because there was no heat build up(actually a cooling trend that matches well with the four major atmospheric trend data sets!). Why would it be puzzling? It’s only puzzling because the forgone conclusion of rising temperatures was gored with hard data that clearly showed the opposite trend year after year. And that’s the point of this article, projections and policies are not data. Predictive models can be useful tools but we cannot afford to ignore facts and timely reassessments. Even reasonable hypotheses can turn out to be wrong if the scientific method is exercised and not avoided. Regardless of where you sit in the controversy of climate change, remember our goal is always good stewardship of the planet. That implies making good choices now about how, when, what and where we use our resources wisely. Jousting at windmills can be disastrous. Our big guns resources, to be effective, need to have real data -not policy and poorly constructed theory- adjusting the aim. CHAPTER 2-CARBON DIOXIDE MYTH VS ACTUAL DATA. There are two points that we want to make very clear about carbon dioxide. First, the atmospheric concentration has been going up overall and humans have had a hand in that at least in part. Secondly, carbon dioxide does have the molecular characteristic of capturing infra-red energy and thereby can exhibit a “ greenhouse gas “ quality. Case closed on anthropogenic global warming, right? So, what else is here to consider about carbon dioxide’s relation to global warming? As the late great Paul Harvey perhaps would have said “And now, the rest of the story”. In the first chapter we made a connection between Galileo’s heresy problems from reporting facts correctly when they failed to meet popular perceptions. Why wasn’t he able to convince his peers about planetary orbits? After all, he had direct observational evidence such that anyone else could have reproduced his results. For his telescopic observations, he had constructed a simple device roughly equivalent to the power of common modern binoculars. Most of his peers refused to even look through the glass eyepiece as they “ knew there was nothing to be seen”. Of the few who actually looked through the apparatus, most said they “saw nothing”. Ptolemy had laid out the orbital facts of the Earth-centered system 1400 years earlier and just about everybody accepted that was the way things were. Today, most anyone can look through binoculars and have no trouble describing , in good detail, objects in motion in the night sky. In regards to some of the global warming ideology, not much has changed in 400 years. Data is everywhere to be had but routinely ignored; however, the attraction to suspect science and theoretical models seems to be irresistible and, too often, profitable for a few. The previous chapter sited overwhelming evidence of a cooling trend for the past decade or so. Furthermore, it’s a proven fact that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have gone up every year during that same decade. So, if the presumed correlation of carbon dioxide concentrations being directly related to global temperatures were true, why was there no temperature increase as the models keep insisting should have happened? For one thing, there is no causative global correlation between increasing carbon dioxide and global temperatures. The inconvenient truth is that the popular explanation is exactly backwards. The well-known Vostok ice core data has been understood for quite some time and distinctly shows an average 800 year lag between the later carbon dioxide concentration increases that trail behind temperature increases. Yes, temperature goes up first and then carbon dioxide goes up. There’s a fundamental chemistry explanation about how gases function that should have allowed us to not fall for the unsupported predictive correlation. Further, there have been at least a dozen other glacier ice core analyses similarly performed and every single one shows the same correlation…temperatures rises BEFORE carbon dioxide increases. Carbon dioxide is at an all time low range if you look at the long view. Beginning back 600 millions years ago, carbon dioxide levels were 20 times greater than the concentrations of the last few millennia. At no time over that 600 million decreasing pattern of CO2 is there any hint of a correlation to global temperatures and the falling of CO2. Curiously, a fair question is why do we not see this incredibly low level of CO2 issue as running out of available carbon dioxide to support and ever increasing biomass! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change( IPCC) stirred things a few years ago when they released their model ( theory only) of how the greenhouse mechanism works. In this interesting model, it seems that we keep more energy than was delivered due to re- radiation of infra-red energy. If that were true, then any power company would simply build a huge greenhouse and capture heat at fantastic rates to drive steam turbines generating very, very cheap electricity. The only problem with this plan is their legal departments would demand the process be patented ;however, the US Patent office refuses to accept patents that violate the first and second law of thermodynamics- which in case it’s been a while since high school physics, these are two immutable laws that, in a highly simplified manner, say energy can neither be created nor destroyed( with the single possible exception of the Creator) and that keeping a system in a steady state requires more energy to be applied. The warmer temperature you feel in a nurseryman’s greenhouse is certainly not due to carbon dioxide….. it’s far more likely to be related to water vapor trapping some solar generated radiant heat transmitted through glass and is directly dependent upon the varying strength of sunlight, not magic. One other major problem with the pop-culture view of carbon dioxide concentrations is the portrayal of a smooth and steady increase for the last 200 years presumable due (only)to the dawn of the industrial revolution. Remember, planet Earth is at an all time low on atmospheric CO2 during the past few thousand years. First, levels of carbon dioxide fluctuate considerably ( plus and minus 25% is not unusual over than past few millennia)and the actual recorded data is overwhelming in support of that statement . Second, the so-called baseline of 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv) is a suspicious number derived by IPCC(United Nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) by excluding considerable data( Actually, very high quality direct scientific measurements begin about 1812). If the data was higher than the presumed 280ppmv, it was excluded because they said so and not for scientific reasons! It is the IPCC’s questionable behavior in excluding pertinent data that have caused scientists we know personally to leave or not accept appointment to that committee . The IPCC data choices are also entirely inconsistent with substantial biological data-lots of it! Far more likely is a normal range from about 250 to 400 ppmv . No wonder those models have been wrong every year for the last 20 years. Remember, the climate models are all consistently guessing much higher temperatures than actual measurements show for the last 20 years! If this were a stockbroker telling you the prices are rising while your portfolio report continuously headed south, how long would it take you to lose faith in his model? Twenty years is more than enough for these authors. Stewardship of this planet is paramount and carelessly spewing carbon dioxide ( or anything else) around the globe is not is our best interest. But putting our limited resources into fighting a molecule that is factually a micro-miniscule player in controlling the earth’s temperature while so many real and present environmental dangers are fixable, clearly is poor stewardship. The March 10, 2009 proposed mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule(Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0508) is now a reality as of January 1, 2010 and you and I are paying for it daily. A perfect example of wasting valuable resources based on political policy and seriously flawed projections. Our planet’s ecology is imperiled by this cavalier approach. CHAPTER 3-RELEVANT RANGE AND LINEAR FALLACY A LA MODE. The first two chapters in this collection( global warming and carbon dioxides issues) strongly relate to this chapters rather odd title of “Relevant Range and Linear Fallacy”. Most of us have heard a similar phrase “ logical fallacy” and , yes, it’s just another way to express it but there is an important point to make about emphasizing the linear aspect. We humans are generally quite smart and the urge to project into time and relationship is something we excel at intellectually. Just as a good magician can coax you to looking in the wrong place at the right time, there is much mischief to be made by leading you and I into these projected conclusions especially if the launch pad is a small point that SEEMS to be right. In the arena of climate, too often base data is regional( or very short span of time) in nature but projected to be global and/or long term. Rising sea level is a constant threat on the news but not in real life. Why? Because sea levels go up and down both temporarily and /or regionally for a number of reasons…… but melting ice over the last 50 years is certainly NOT a significant component. On a grander scale, sea level can be directly related to the last ice age, which began a warming trend about 18,000 years ago and slowed to the modern era about 10-12,000 years ago. If 12,000 years ago, you standing where Pensacola Beach is today, you’d be at roughly 300 feet elevation above the Gulf of Mexico! Back then, water was tied up in a permanent ice mass that had stretched as far south as present day Birmingham. Now that’s global and a far cry from the miniscule regional variances in sea level over much shorter periods of time . There are no islands being inundated by rising seas. In spite of almost daily crisis reporting of another example, the hard data evidence of the world wide ice mass has been just about the same over the last 50 years even as carbon dioxide has increased by small , but measurable, amounts. That does not mean the ice was exactly the same in all places at all times for 50 years . Ice formation is dynamic and transient. True, there are regions of the world where glaciers or sea ice are retreating but almost never reported is there are simultaneously areas where glaciers and sea ice are growing. Reporting only one side of the story, a rational intelligent person is likely to project that only melting is occurring and a crisis is at hand. When melting in one place is true but projecting that same melting everywhere would appear to be less than an ethical effort by the media and self-serving politicos. Is this a case of coaxing you to look in the wrong place at just the right time? These overextended conclusions (linear fallacies) are much easier to detect when you run them out to the extreme. Here’s an every day example that is easy to spot of how size matters( relevant range). Take a drop of water and place it on your finger. Turn your finger so that the drop points toward the ground. The drop seems to defy gravity as, not surprisingly, it stays on your finger. This is due to the molecular forces of cohesion and adhesion that, at the drop size, easily overpower gravity. But if you try to put a gallon of water on your finger, you’ll just get your feet wet! Further, even three drops will not stick to your finger. The relevant range of those factors is quite small. Linear projection would lead us to believe even the gallon would stay put when you know very well it won’t. Or perhaps think of vitamin A. Using clinically prescribed dose per day is likely to have some health benefits. Taking twice the recommended amount is unlikely to provide any more benefit and, taking a hundred pills at a time could be lethal. Throughout your life your learn , sooner or later, that everything has a set of limits where relationship hold up and some point where they fall apart. Environmental science is no different. The linear fallacy reported about ice supposedly disappearing assumes direct temperature is the only factor of why ice does or does not form. Reporting first has to ignore the actual global temperatures( which have been falling for about the last 11 years!) and rely on the consistently incorrect model projections that global warming is marching ahead at an ever increasing rate. Starting with a false premise is always convenient for the political types. However, wind is a major factor ( even in freezing temperatures )of whether ice is found in a given place and time or not. In 2006-7 , the sea ice in the infamous Northwest passage became noticeably less and the cries for global warming were shrill even as air and water temperatures were continuing to drop . However, a funny thing happen when a major arctic wind pattern began shifting about in the fall of 2007. By Christmas of 2007, the sea ice was back at max levels. By Christmas, media reports were always listing earlier dates as reporting the ice pack demise….virtually nothing was reported about rapid sea ice replenishment. This has happened before-more than once! Frantic reports of the ice disappearance in the Northwest passage was sent by the President of the Royal Society, London, to the British Admiralty, 20th November 1817 ( yes 1817 is not a misprint!). No new shipping lanes for Britain or anyone else once the wind patterns shifted back then as now! The US Weather Bureau issued similar shocking news of the disappearance of major ice to the top of Greenland in 1922. Major newspapers in the 1920’s and early 30’s reported long and often about the melting ice and how Alaska would soon become like the lower 48. History, if actually read, exposes the often repeated weather warming misdiagnoses. The last century of increase in carbon dioxide is real, but is very, very small considering the history of the planet. Further, is not a material factor in temperatures going up or down or ice caps rearranging themselves. In temperature upswings, carbon dioxide is a passenger , not the pilot. The carbon dioxide panic is a classic example of projecting relationships from a small relevant range to a “forever and ever” conclusion- linear fallacy. Heat issues for carbon dioxide do not behave the same at the lab bench with extremely narrow ranges as they do in the massive and complex global and solar environment no more than a gallon of water sticks to your finger. If you’re looking for something to correlate to global temperatures, we suggest solar activity should be at the top of the list. Why? First, the sun and it’s flaring patterns are the overwhelming source of heat for earth. Second, the history of warming and cooling does correlate exceptionally well with sun spot( flaring) activity. Could it be there’s no money or power involved in passing regulations to control the sun spots? CHAPTER 4- WETLANDS The first three chapters in this series all dealt with climate related issues but were actually written to give readers a sense of how data is handled( and occasionally mishandled) when it comes to environmental issues. Now we’ll visit the concept and scope of a wetland. . There’s been a substantial change in mankind’s attitude toward the wetlands . During the course of the last 3000 years, draining the swamp was held in high esteem as a public service. The literal meaning of the term malaria comes from the Romans’ efforts to eliminate nearby wetlands in order control very serious public health issues from mosquitoes. However, in more modern times and throughout most of the developed world, draining a swamp is more likely to get you into public service making license plates. We protect the wetland resources with laws that have real teeth. Un- authorized use of wetlands, even the wetlands you own and pay taxes on, can be very serious business. There has developed a sense of public ownership for all wetlands, public and private, and therefore landowners must comply with the law. As it turns out, wetlands can be very advantageous for the landowners in ways not available just a few decades ago. On the 2nd of February, 1971, representatives from 18 nations adopted an agreement, which represented, for the first time in history, a global convention on nature protection – the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The reversal of attitude is dramatic even within the history of these United States. Just in the last 50 years or so, governmental agencies ( federal, state, and local) have gone from being the leaders in wetlands destruction to being tough advocates for the preservation of wetlands. Our country’s history literally began with Pierre Charles L’Enfant, in 1791 when chosen by George Washington to be the chief architect for the capital city. L’Enfant included swamp drainage to begin building our nation’s capitol due to some Potomac River wetlands located where they were not very convenient. It is not true that the whole city was a swamp, but there were tidewater and freshwater wetlands included in the planned acreage. Perhaps that city’s reputation as a quagmire came with the evolution of some of the slimy characters that later inhabited the District of Columbia? After the founding years when the city had grown considerably , local waterways were filling with silt. That led to the decision to change to dump fill materials to create new( and newly valuable) dry land. So, the reputation for being built on a swamp became entrenched and a bit exaggerated. So, just why are the wetlands so important and deserve so much protection? First point is the high percentage of wetland dependent species- everything from bacteria, protistans, fungus, plants and animals that are genetically tied to the wetlands. Estimates vary but the number in a practical sense is well more than half of the known species even though wetlands make up only 6 % of the land. Secondly, high percentages of endangered species are wetland dependent species( a column later this year of month will focus on the endangered species topic). Considerable argument occurs about what these percents are but they are all consistently big numbers. The point is, wetland species are a big ticket item and our species would be very foolish not to be good stewards. Wetlands are critical not only to mankind’s survival but also how well we thrive while surviving. Among wetlands attributes are: Recreation, cleaning pollution from waterways, storm-water control, and consumables of both food and non-food of great economic importance. Wetlands are the Horn of Plenty in the truest biological sense. Likewise, wetlands are a treasure to be both used wisely and guarded well. Now, the functional definition of wetland may come as quite a surprise as most of us would envision a swamp or marsh. Surprisingly, to be a wetland does not require any surface water….. ever! It’s all about water in the soil. How much water and for how long during the year will dictate the wetland characteristics or not. The dynamic issue is water displacing air in the tiny crevices between soil particles. This limits severely how much oxygen can circulate through a soil and that in turn dictates what kinds of little microbes can survive or thrive. Drier soils have aerobic( direct oxygen metabolism like you and me) microbes that really can burn up a lot of energy and change the organic in the soil in to carbon dioxide which goes off into the atmosphere. The more water tolerant versions of these tiny organisms use anaerobic methods( much like fermentation to make beer) and burn the available organics ten to fifteen times slower than the aerobes. This allows the organic to build up over time. The key term “hydric soil” is both a scientific and legal characteristic of wetlands and is the direct result of anaerobic activity due to saturated soil conditions. Some of these microbes are switch-hitters, that is, they use oxygen when available and switch to fermentative when the soil is saturated with water. So, for all of the other things that catch our attention about wetlands, it starts with the simple issue of water filling up the little spaces between particles and what certain microbes can and cannot do in those circumstances. Although it’s rare to find a group a scientists in lock-step agreement about much of anything, the science associated with wetlands is generally reasonably uniform if you sit more with the “lumpers” than the “splitters”. Within a scientific organization ( such as the Society of Wetland Scientists) there’s much less debate about what is and isn’t wetlands. The focus within most of these groups is more oriented toward discovery of the scientific pieces of the puzzle and educating professionals and public to the issues and facts. Legal on the other hand is a lot more chaotic. Bet that doesn’t surprise you in the least! The concept of wetlands and determined a number of major points: first, wetlands support the majority of all species even though wetlands represent on about 6% of the land area; second, the cornerstone issue is water saturation of the soil that creates an environment very short on oxygen and usually heavy on organic build up, third, there are many laws that govern wetlands, public and private, and fourth, wetlands need to be used wisely and protected well to secure a high quality of life for us all. Although there is general agreement, the range of regulatory agencies that rule the world of wetlands constitutes a patchwork quilt maze of both sound scientific reason and absurd politics. The same piece of the earth may be a wetlands for one agency but not necessarily wetlands for another. Satisfying the criteria for any one the several state agencies that hold power, may or may not satisfy other state, federal , international or local agencies. The word quagmire does seem appropriate now. Wetlands are perhaps multi-regulated by more agencies than any other issue we encounter. Far more agencies would have a say-so in a wetlands transaction than would taxes on a single financial transaction , as an example. Layer upon layer of regulatory control which is usually reasonable but unfortunately is mostly frustratingly redundant and sometimes, a real catch 22 nightmare. One important shift in the legal view of wetlands began about 20 years ago . A waterways law from 1899 had been the basis for the federal jurisdictional claim for any water( or watery land) from a navigable waterway. What began as a national security shipping issue evolved into an major environmental protection issue for the US Corps of Engineers and the USEPA and several other agencies. So any wetland that came from a navigable water source was under federal jurisdiction. Later that jurisdictional criterion was extended to include isolated wetlands based on the assumption that water foul who swam in navigable waters but set down during migrations into isolated wetlands provide a nexus for regulatory control. This was a very unpopular legal concept with land owners throughout the entire Mississippi flyway and was referred to often sarcastically as the “duck-butt” rule. This legal avenue was followed for many years as the more modern wetland use laws were developed by federal , state and local authorities. However, the Supreme Court did away with that interpretation several years ago limiting the authority of the Corps for isolated wetlands. Interestingly enough, restriction of federal power had a back lash effect. State and local authorities rushed in to fill the gap and essentially began carving out their own non-federal dominated regulatory world that added isolated wetlands to their jurisdictions. One issue connected to wetlands and the infamous “ draining of the swamp” is wetlands subsidence. There’ s lots of other kinds of subsidence but this is the type where for any reason, the water saturation of the soil is reduced and bad things happen to the wetland soils. As the soil de-waters, oxygen increases and the microbes switch from anaerobic( very inefficient) metabolism to aerobic where they burn up the hydric soil organics at a rapid rate literally removing mass from the soil matrix in a big way. A sadly classic case for this is the draining of south Florida’s Everglades area. Some of the towns around the edge of the Glades have seen a physical drop of 15 feet since the early 1900’s because of the subsidence problems related to canals and land draining! Sometimes the subsidence occurs fairly near the salt water and salt water intrusion through the soil becomes a serious headache for communities. Often, and mistakenly, subsidence occurring near a salt water shoreline sees the land sink enough to allow sea water flow inland. Less than accurate journalism often describes this as sea levels rising but that is absolutely not the case. As Mark Twain said “If you don’t read the newspapers, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you’re misinformed”. The oil and gas extraction industry is rightfully blamed for a good bit of subsidence but usually blamed for the wrong reason. The actual extraction of the oil and gas rarely is close enough the surface to affect this; however, the collateral damage of canals and other drainage activities has been a serious problem for on-shore drilling such as in marshes- something that off-shore drilling simply does not encounter as a problem. It is happily noted that two mega-projects have been underway for several years now aiming at fixing some of these past environmental transgressions with wetlands. The Kissimmee River Restoration and the Atchafalaya Basin Restoration, both seriously big buck projects and, amazingly, both with excellent outcomes as a likely result! These two projects do offer hope that we can clean up some of our colossal environmental mistakes. Even though protected, wetlands can be legally destroyed through the permitting system when several agencies simultaneously have been satisfied that all legal requirements have been met. This does not come without a special price tag( actually a tax claimed to be a fee) for significant size activities for dredge and fill permits. Often agencies will require something called mitigation. Wetlands mitigation is a process where the regulators agree to allow the use and destruction of wetlands in exchange for either: one, permanent wetland acreage set asides or, two, payment for the set-asides though mitigation banks. Commonly there is a leverage cost because acreage set asides( or payments) may be perhaps 10 to 20 times the acreage actually used in the permit. Further, there is an opportunity to create wetlands by construction of artificial wetlands. Some of these are quite good but for the most part, the man-made version are not surprisingly less valuable and productive as the natural wetlands. So, a qualitative judgment about the quality of a wetlands, both the one destroyed and the one for mitigation, affects the multiples required. Some permits have required up to 100 times the acreage replacements. Whether you call it tax or a fee, it is a cost that will be passed along to the end user if that business is to stay in business for long. It’s really no different from sales, income or excise taxes….a cost of doing business extracted by the government. Certainly there’s much more to wetlands than has been covered in this short chapter, but at least the basics have been visited and hopefully offers some perspective for the general public to better evaluate the issue. As with all environmental understanding, it is deep and wide at best and not to be underestimated in importance. CHAPTER 5 -LISTED SPECIES ISSUES The term listed species may not be nearly as familiar as endangered species but to get the big picture of stewardship of earth’s biology, we need to begin here. The term simply means that a species is on a list of one or more regulatory agencies and has some level of legal protection. In 1966 congress passed the Endangered Species Preservation Act. It was actually quite limited in scope and was aimed at vertebrate animals. For both good science and unsavory bureaucratic reasons, this quickly expanded in the 1973 revision passed by congress and today theoretically could include any cellular organism although at this point only covers animals, plants, and fungus. Yes, some fungi has legal rights and the protection by congress. We were not the least bit surprised by that association. However, as far-fetched as that may appear on the surface, there is actually good reason to include some fungus in a protected status. For example, in the Florida Panhandle, we have a near-beach specialized fungus known as Cladonia perforata ( a close relative of the very common deer moss) which has the distinction of being the first protected fungus. So, listed species for each of the various agencies has a fair amount of redundancy but considering the millions of species that exist, there is also plenty of unique inclusions. State, federal, county, international and city law have their own claim to protecting a plethora of species dear to their own viewpoints. Additionally, there are several possible levels of protection. Here’s a short list of only the top three: Endangered- means the species is rare and/or has decreased rapidly in either population or habitat to the point extinction is probable. Threatened is the next most restrictive and is less specific. This level can include the lack of sufficient scientific data to make a judgment about it’s future security for population or habitat stability. Species of special concern - in this one, the species may in itself be robust, but it has many known direct and critical relationships with a number of other species that either are under stress or would be under stress if the special concern group’s well being became precarious. The species of special concern perhaps illuminates the fundamental of why this kind of protection is so very important. All species have a relationship of interdependency at some level. Some of these are very obvious and direct, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker and the long leaf pine. Others may be far more convoluted and some may appear to not have that kind of connection but the truth is there is always a link no matter how remote it may be. Once again, I bring up the word stewardship as the key element in responsible planet housekeeping. Most folks are well aware of some of the more famous species comebacks that were the result of listed status in this country: the bald eagle, pelicans, alligators, grey wolf, black-footed ferret and others. What is not so newsworthy are the plants. The only plant that received much coverage was the Amercian chesnut tree and that is more or less regional in public interest. Plants are different in the sense that it’s usually the whole ecosystem they live in where some level of protection has been improved and therefore those plant species have a better shot at surviving. The best example of that would be wetland protection as was discussed in the previous chapter. The Florida Panhandle is home to an impressive number of carnivorous plants, both in terms of numbers of species and total populations that have gained new levels of stability from the general wetlands protection. As valuable and worthwhile as species protection is to humanity, it does not escape the silly factor when legislators and bureaucrats are not held accountable for their actions. The list of silliness is much too long for this publication but I’ll bring you a few to remind us to keep our eye on the ball. In Florida, our legislature made certain plants “ invisible” as they related to wetland delineation surveys. That’s pretty mild compared to King County Washington that( and we are not kidding) put Big Foot, a.k.a. Sasquatch, on their endangered species list. Not to be out done, New York state includes Champy on their list. In case you haven’t heard, Champy is the Loch Ness type beast that supposedly inhabits Lake Champlain. This is a prime example of the waste of time and money and personnel resources that could be better spent in functional protection programs. We wish we could tell you that these were the only silly ventures but every regulatory body we ever came in contact with has at least some small portion that meets or exceeds this kind of silliness in every sector of the environmental protection function. Protecting the complexity of the biology of our planet is just too important to include that kind of malfeasance and hopefully articles like this one will help make the general public less tolerant of that behavior. Thankfully to a very large extent, the bizarre and silly protection rules take a back seat to real environmental protection. This country has been the world wide leader for a lot longer than you might expect. Nearly 100 years before the creation of the EPA, a partnership of government, industry and academics were launching serious efforts to make the planet a better place to live. Our history of proactively protecting the environment goes well back into the nineteenth century and includes such landmarks at the first national park preservation program. We may not have a perfect record, but we do have the best results of any developed country. CONCLUSION: We hope this limited journey through a few of the basic issues in the complicated world of environmental science has been useful. We would like it to be useful in the sense of opening a door as opposed to demanding agreement. None of us will be experts in everything but, like most topics, if we can look for underlying fundamentals, perhaps that may help us make better( not always right) choices about the process we undertake to be responsible citizens of our country and the planet. About the authors: Dennis Mitchell is certified as a Qualified Environmental Professional( QEP) by the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice( IPEP) and is presently the chair of Ethics Committee for IPEP. He was a recipient of the Lifetime Honorary Award from the International Air & Waste Management Association in 2001. He has been a Lecturer for Troy University and has taught federal taxation, biology and chemistry and was named as The Outstanding Faculty for the University College in 2004 . He has been a member of Louisiana Society of CPA’s since 1985. Muncelle Mitchell, Practicing Attorney; Member of the Mississippi Military Affairs Committee. She has been a member of the Florida Section of the International Air & Waste Management Association since 2000.
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