Bush & the beasts
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2002:
WASHINGTON D.C.–Cultivating an image as an animal-lover,
U.S. President George W. Bush on February 12 signed into law the
Congressional reauthorization of the Asian Elephant Conservation Act.
Five weeks earlier, on January 8, Bush signed
reauthorizations of the African Elephant Conservation Act and the
Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act.
The devil was in the details.
“As reauthorized by Congress and signed by the President,” a
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release explained on Valentine’s
Day, “each act contains new provisions, one of which allows the
Secretary of the Interior to convene an advisory group to assist in
carrying out the Act. This provision is modeled on language included
in the recently enacted Great Apes Conservation Act and Neotropical
Migratory Bird Conservation Act. The creation of advisory groups
will allow for expanded private sector involvement in international
conservation, which will in turn increase the leveraging power of
the Service’s multinational conservation grant programs.”
Translation: Bush and Congress-ional allies have found a
way to put their trophy hunting pals in charge of U.S. funding for
foreign wildlife law enforcement. Kick in some bucks in the name of
convervation and the trophy hunters can call the shots.
Possible appointees to influential advisory board posts may
include cattle rancher Lee Bass, chair of the Texas Parks and
Wildlife Commission, and/or his wife Ramona, also a cattle rancher,
who raised $40 million for the pro-hunting Texas Wild exhibit opened
in June 2001 at the Fort Worth Zoo.
The Fort Worth Zoo was the only animal-related charity
identified as recipient of a gift from Bush in his presidential
election campaign disclosure statements.
But the question as to who will set U.S. overseas wildlife
policy goes well beyond perpetuation of aid strategies which have
emphasized trophy hunting over nonlethal eco-tourism since the
administration of President George H. Bush, father of the current
President. Also at issue is the principle of habitat conservation
itself, as friends and allies of the George W. Bush administration
pursue energy extraction, logging, and real estate development
projects which might jeopardize habitat for multinational species in
both North and South America.
Not to be overlooked is the role of the Multinational Species
Conservation Acts, as they are called, in arming and outfitting
antipoaching strike forces in parts of Africa and Asia where illegal
traffic in wildlife parts is a reputed major funding source for Al
Qaida, Hamas, and other militias that are violently opposed to U.S.
Anxiety in Africa
A confluence of the George W. Bush-led “War on Terror” with
anti-poaching efforts may look much less fortuitous abroad than to
For example, under the George H. Bush and Bill Clinton
presidential administrations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and
U.S. Agency for International Development extensively funded
anti-poaching work in Tanzania, where the ranger force helped to
keep conflicts in Mozambique, Rwanda, and Burundi from spilling
over the Tanzanian border. As well as remaining safe for U.S.
investment and eco-tourism, Tanzania hosted U.S. trophy hunters and
exported primates to U.S. laboratories.
Kenya, just to the north, battled– and still
battles–poachers believed to be working for militias associated with
fugitive Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. But hunting has been
illegal in Kenya since 1966. This includes the capture of wild
primates for sale to laboratories, although Kenyan enforcement of
the prohibition on primate captures and exports to labs has been
inconsistent, as Kenyans both inside and outside the government
struggle to choose between principle and economic opportunity.
The Kenya Wildlife Service has received relatively little
U.S. help, partly because Kenya President Daniel arap Moi resists
aligning national wildlife policies with those of the U.S., and
partly, well-placed Kenyan sources have told ANIMAL PEOPLE, because
arap Moi fears that a heavily armed Kenya Wildlife Service led by
someone eager to seize trophy hunting and wildlife trafficking
revenues could become a threat to his govenment–especially if the
KWS leadership received more funding and perquisites from an outside
source than through loyalty to the arap Moi regime.
Daniel arap Moi succeeded the first Kenyan president, Jomo
Kenyatta, in 1978, after Kenyatta associates allegedly looted and
sold the national ivory stockpiles. Most of the ivory was collected
after thousands of elephants died in a 1969 drought. Much of the
money is believed to have been invested in Washington D.C. real
estate, while U.S. officials looked away.
Later, arap Moi witnessed at close range the similar deeds of
Mobuto Sese Seko, former dictator of Zaire. Brought to power in
1965 with the assistance of U.S. Central Intelligence Agency air
support, Mobuto ruled until his terminal illness in 1996. As U.S.
backing fell off in response to flagrant waste and corruption,
Mobuto–though a member of the World Wildlife Fund’s elite 1001
Club–allegedly compensated for the loss of revenue by covertly
skimming the proceeds from the sale of ivory from as many as 50,000
Again the money was invested abroad, and again a plundered
and impoverished African republic was left to doubt the sincerity of
World leaders are watching the George W. Bush administration,
as they watch all U.S. administrations, both to see what they can
gain by way of aid, and what they can get away with by way of
enriching themselves and their supporters.
Bush made clear during his first year in office that as fond
as he reputedly is of his cat, India, and several dogs, neither
humane concerns nor the protection of endangered species are among
But he does put on a show. With his younger brother,
Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the President made a major photo
opportunity out of the January 9 signing of a 30-year, $7.8-billion
water restoration plan covering 2.4 million acres of the Everglades.
The project was actually the first phase of a 40-year plan, which
was approved by Congress and signed into law by former President Bill
Clinton back in December 2000.
That didn’t stop President Bush from touting the $245 million
federal appropriation for the Everglades as part of his own
environmental record in his February 3 budget speech, or from
stating that the Everglades restoration efforts may start to pay off
as early as September 2003,” even though the work will have barely
Bush made the claim of an early payoff, charged Palm Beach
Post staff writer Robert P. King, “because five endangered and
threatened species in South Florida are expected to be given relaxed
legal status–either downgraded to ‘threatened,’ or removed entirely
from the federal list of protected species.” The five species are
believed to be the American crocodile, Schaus swallowtail butterfly,
and three plants. The Everglades are known for abundant American
alligators, and has many native butterflies, but both the American
crocodile and the Schaus swallotail live outside the Everglades, at
the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.
On February 8, Washington Post staff writer Michael Grunwald
disclosed that a subsidiary of the bankrupt Enron Corporation called
Azurix in 1999 “made Governor Jeb Bush an extraordinary offer: it
would help pay Florida’s multibillion-dollar share of the effort to
replumb and revive the Everglades–if it could sell water captured by
The Florida pension fund lost $335 million invested in Enron,
reportedly more than any other public entity, but the Azurix sales
pitch was one Enron scheme that Jeb Bush shied away from. Azurix
collapsed in 2000, after losing $900 million.
Seeks oil, kills pigs
In his budget proposal, George W. Bush recommended spending
$42 million to expand oil, gas, and coal extraction from federal
land, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but cancelled
funding for the USDA Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and Wetlands
Reserve Program, even as the Bush administration claims to favor
incentive-based protection of endangered species. The Bush budget
also proposed to kill a Treasury Department fund to preserve tropical
Among the sops tossed to environmentalists was a $2.1 million
proposed Interior Department allocation, with which to fence feral
pigs into limited areas preliminary to a six-year extermination
effort on Santa Cruz Island, in Channel Islands National Park. Pigs
have already been exterminated on all the other islands of the park,
in a campaign lasting more than 20 years so far. The Santa Cruz
Island pigs’ ancestors were released circa 1849 by one M.J. Box of
Santa Barbara. By 1853, when a debtor tried to seize the herd, the
pigs had already gone wild and proved impossible to catch.
“On issue after issue,” charged a Wilderness Society press
release, “George W. Bush and his appointees have failed to safeguard
air, water, land, and wildlife. While our country wisely focuses
on countering terrorism, the Bush administration continues to move
at full speed to implement its anti-environmental agenda, mostly
under the radar. Since September 11,” the Wilderness Society
objected in particular, “Interior Secretary Gale Norton and others
have invoked ‘national security’ to justify massive oil development
not only in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but also on fragile
public lands across the Lower 48.”
The Wilderness Society reminded news media that “Norton gave
inaccurate testimony to Congress [in October 2001] about Arctic
caribou calving, claiming later that it was a typo” which caused her
to completely reverse the finding of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service that caribou calving has been concentrated within the
proposed oil drilling area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in
11 of the past 18 years.
Former Wilderness Society president George Frampton served as
Assistant Secretary for National Parks and Wildlife during the
Clinton administration, and the Wilderness Society has been closely
associated with Democratic Party environmental policies
ever since it was founded, in 1935.
But the Wilderness Society perspective was not unique.
“There is a quite distinct desire on the part of a number of agencies
to hide under the air cover of the war in Afghanistan as they roll
back or weak environmental regulations,” National Environmental
Trust president Phil Clapp earlier told Los Angeles Times staff
writer Elizabeth Shogren. The Pentagon, for instance, is
reportedly seeking a broad exemption from compliance with the
Endangered Species Act in connection with military training. Ongoing
conflicts between the military and the ESA include the threat to
Mojave desert tortoises from tank maneuvers at the Marine Corps’
Camp Pendleton training base in southern California; to the Sonorra
desert pronghorn from bombing and gunnery practice at the Barry
Goldwater Air Force Range in southwestern Arizona; and to marine
mammals from Navy exercises involving low-frequency sonar.
Enabling oil and gas extraction from the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge is the focal point to date of Bush policy relevant to
animals and habitat–and of Bush action on energy issues, even
though the oil supply beneath the refuge is believed to be large
enough to power the U.S. for only six months.
The White House has also backed efforts to expand oil, gas,
and coal extraction from protected wildlife habitat along the
southern California coast; the Grand Staircase-Escalante National
Monument, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park in
Utah; the Florida coast of the Gulf of Mexico; Finger Lakes
National Forest in central New York; the Bridger-Teton National
Forest in Wyoming; the Michigan shores of the Great Lakes; the
Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon; and the Allegheny National
Forest in Pennsylvania.
In most cases the drilling or mining appears to be proceeding
as the White House wants. Florida Governor Jeb Bush won a 75%
reduction in the scope of the drilling leases issued off the Florida
Gulf Coast, however, after a direct confrontation with his older
brother George W. Bush, and won another concession when Interior
Secretary Norton said in mid-January 2002 that she would seek to stop
oil drilling in Big Cypress National Preserve by purchasing the
rights from the Collier Resources Company.
Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has proved a hard sell.
The Republican majority in the House of Representatives in
August 2001 passed an energy bill that would have given drilling
within the Arctic refuge the go-ahead. After the terrorist attacks
of September 11, pro-drilling U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)
tried to attach the House bill to a $345 billion defense
appropriation, but it was removed before the defense bill won
unanimous approval. The Senate also balked, 94-1, when in December
2001 Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a similar bill as
a proposed amendment to a bill on railway transportation.
Despite the setbacks in the Senate, where the Democrats hold
a one-seat majority, Bush reiterated his determination to start
drilling in the Arctic refuge during a February 15 refueling stop at
Anchorage, en route to six days of meetings in Asia, and again
during his February 23 weekly radio address.
Bush ally Don Young (R-Alaska) hinted at a January 30 press
conference that he will seek to oust any Fish and Wildlife Service
staff in Alaska whose actions interfere with oil drilling in the
refuge, inhibit hunting and trapping, or restrict the use of snow
machines. Young formerly headed the House Resources Committee, but
was forced to yield the chair in the 107th Congress by a term limit
Oil drilling within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is
intensely favored in Alaska partly because it would create jobs, but
mostly because Alaska distributes oil and gas royalties among all
longtime residents, and also uses the revenue in lieu of raising
taxes. Looking toward the fall 2002 elections, Alaskan politicians
from all parties are aligned in the pro-drilling camp.
Alaska Governor Tony Knowles, a Democrat, on February 12
signed into law a state allocation of $1 million to Arctic Power, a
lobbying front for Arctic refuge oil and gas development which has
already received more than $9 million from the state since 1993.
Knowles has also reportedly joined the Republican majority in
the Alaska legislature in support of a bill which would eliminate a
citizen appeal process that might allow Alaskans opposed to Arctic
drilling to delay the issuance of any environmental permit for up to
50 days. North Slope Borough resident Joseph Akpik used the process
this past winter to obstruct five Phillips Alaska projects, Phillips
representative Ken Donajkowski testified at a February 21 legislative
Florida senate majority leader Jim King (R-Jacksonville) and
state representative Gaston Cantens (R-Sweetwater) lead a comparable
legislative effort. King and Cantens hope to repeal a 1971 law that
guarantees legal standing to Florida environmental groups who
mobilize to challenge issuance of environmental permits, whether or
not they can establish that their members are directly affected.
“If the bill passes,” Florida Wildlife Federation attorney
David Gluckman told Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel staff writer Neil
Santaniello, “we lose the concept of statewide watchdogs to protect
The specific issues driving the proposed Florida legislation
included dock construction in protected manatee habitat, residential
and commercial development in gopher tortoise habitat, and beach
driving and night lighting on sea turtle nesting beaches.
Both the Alaska and Florida bills parallel a Bush
administration effort to restrict the ability of advocacy groups to
sue the Interior Department over non-enforcement of the Endangered
Species Act. That proposal was rejected by the House Appropriations
Interior subcommittee–dominated by fellow Republicans–back in June
President Bush proposed a $5.9 million increase in federal
funding for Endangered Species Act programs in fiscal 2003. If
inflation rises above the present rate in the interim, that could
amount to a cut.
Bush has mostly stayed out of endangered species disputes,
leaving the case-by-case issues to Interior Secretary Norton.
“In her first year,” Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility development director Dennis McKinney charged on
January 29, “Norton has done more to disrupt efficiency, discredit
the department, and depress employee morale” than any predecessor
since James Watt, the first Interior Secretary under President
Reagan, and her mentor when she worked as an attorney for the
Mountain States Legal Foundation, then headed by Watt.
McKinney cited eight instances of alleged administrative
malfeasance, most of which interfered in some manner with protecting
species or designating critical habitat. Many also coincided with
the stated hope of the 40-member Western Caucus in Congress, headed
by Richard Pombo (R-California), that pro-endangered species
officials who rose to mid-level positions in the Interior Department
and USDA under the Clinton administration can be chased out and
Norton has all but cancelled plans to reintroduce grizzly
bears to the Bitterroot region of Montana; in July 2001 was ordered
by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider an allegedly
“arbitrary and capricious” decision to not protect the flat-tailed
horned lizard as an endangered species; and was scolded by actor
Robert Redford in May 2001 for alleged hypocrisy after she asked
Redford to join her in releasing a Calfornia condor to the wild as a
But Norton is not entirely predictable. Addressing the
National Rifle Association annual members’ banquet in May 2001,
Norton spoke not of personal hunting experiences, as politicians
speaking to pro-gun groups usually do, but rather of ineptly
shooting skeet targets with President Bush. Asked in July 2001 to
convene the “God Squad” to overturn ESA provisions in a long-running
water rights dispute between irrigators and the Klamath National
Wildlife Refuge, Norton favored compensating the irrigators for
their crop losses instead.
In December 2001, according to Associated Press writer Lisa
Snedeker, Norton told the Governor’s Conference on Travel and
Tourism in Las Vegas that, “Public lands are not just for ranchers
and hunters any more,” as part of an endorsement of eco-tourism.
In January 2002 Norton reportedly persuaded Bush to boost the
National Wildlife Refuge System budget by $56.5 million. The 18%
hike would be the biggest the refuge system has received since 1995.
In fiscal 2002 the refuge system will spend $319 million, 6.4% more
than in 2001, but still far short of the budget needed to catch up
on a reported backlog of $600 million in accumulated maintenance
Steven A. Williams, the Bush choice to head the Fish and
Wildlife Service, was finally confirmed in the appointment by the
U.S. Senate on January 29, nearly six months after Bush named him.
Williams, 44, was previously deputy executive director at the
Pennsylvania Game Commission, but was fired in 1995, according to
Associated Press, “after it was discovered that he had asked a
subordinate to change payroll records, which temporarily boosted his
salary. He was never charged over the incident, and has said he
didn’t know anyone was doing anything wrong. The Interior Department
fully backed Williams for the job and said he was exonerated by the
Pennsylvania attorney general and game commission.”
The details were exposed by Erie Times-News writers Ed
Palattella and Mike Simmons on August 12, 2001, three weeks after
Williams was nominated.
The first major action of the Fish and Wildlife Service after
Williams took office was to ask California U.S. District Judge
Stephen Wilson for permission to re-evaluate as many as 10 critical
habitat desigations that have been challenged by realtors, fishers,
and wise-use groups. Among the affected species would reportedly be
the Alameda whip snake, the Stellar sea lion, the California
coastal gnatcatcher, the San Diego fairy shrimp, and the
Southwestern willow flycatcher.