02 May, 2007

Bad Day for Mother Nature

In Florida, if you are building a strip mall or tract houses, you can legally kill a Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). In Florida, they are listed as a species of concern (two steps removed from endangered) and on the decline, mainly due to habitat lost to the area's rampant development.

Oh, sure you can try to relocate them, but they just end up killed one way or another while slowly making their way back to their home range. Much like you or me they eventually just want to go home only to discover like the rest of us that you can never truly go home again. For us it's usually family issues. For them "home", once sand pine scrub, is now a new housing development incongruously named for what is no longer there ("Tortoise Trace") and laced with pretentious, made-up street names (Harvard Ln. or Yale Pl.). And we're not talking one or two; try about 200 for one roughly 2000 acre site. So, the polite term for how land developers and mining companies can handle their tortoise "problem" is mitigation. According to the Gopher Tortoise Council:

"In Florida, rather than relocate tortoises, developers have the option of "mitigation". In this case the developers must apply for an incidental take permit, and although tortoises at the development site are lost, funds are contributed toward the purchase of gopher tortoise habitat elsewhere. Gopher tortoises at mitigation sites are afforded long-term protection by the state."

So, if you are a tortoise living under what will be that "master planned community", gas station, shopping mall, etc. you are screwed; mitigation equals death by entombment. However, if you are one of the lucky ones blessed to live in a "mitigation site," even if all you want to do is get your prehistoric self back to your home range, you will live to the expected ripe old age of upwards of 60 years.

Once granted your permit, and you most certainly will be, you can go on your merry way and simply pave over their nests. These tortoises are burrowers and not all that quick, so it's an easy task to manage. Yes, as easy as 1-2-3 you can encase them in concrete, leave them to suffocate, and get on with erecting a new Gas-n-Sip, patio home, or drug store. Does this whole thing seem wrong to anybody? Of course, now and then, one of these ancient buggers throws a wrench in your plans and gets himself in the way of "progress" and then makes it into the papers. And I am not the only one who thinks this is just plain wrong.

In addition to the loss of this poor guy, we may have to deal with the loss of honey bees, which admittedly could pose larger problems Sure I knew they had their function in nature, but I had no idea how important honey bees are to this country's food crops. Anybody have any good ideas for replacements?

And, that alarm you should hear going off worldwide would be the Arctic ice cap, melting a good 30 years AHEAD of schedule. Way to work on deadline.

And, somewhere in environmental hell James Watt and Anne Gorsuch are smiling. Can somebody inform Shrub's people that the Endangered Species Act is not a hunting season to-do list. For those of you who don't remember Reagan other than his funeral.

Good times, good times.

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