Monday, September 25, 2006

A Sandy Wasteland

In a textbook example of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face, residents of Boiling Springs Lakes, NC, are engaging in an orgy of clearcutting to remove trees that may, or may not, harbor the threatened red-cockaded woodpecker.

The results can be seen all over town. Along the roadsides, scattered brown bark is all that is left of pine stands. Mayor Joan Kinney has watched with dismay as waterfront lots across from her home on Big Lake have been stripped down to sandy wasteland.

“It’s ruined the beauty of our city,” Ms. Kinney said.
The "logic" here says that because Fish and Wildlife Service decisions on local woodpecker habitat may lead to new building restrictions, it's best to purge all the trees from one's property ahead of time. In this way, landowners can sneer at the would-be tyranny of the FWS, while reveling in their God-given freedom to do stupid, self-destructive things for no good reason.

The sheer number of logging permits granted - 368, according to the NY Times - suggests that this is an outbreak of mass hysteria. And at least one local official is doing his part to fan the flames:
Bonner Stiller has been holding on to two wooded half-acre lakefront lots for 23 years. He stripped both lots of longleaf pines before the government could issue its new map.

“They have finally developed a value,” said Mr. Stiller, a Republican member of the state General Assembly. “And then to have that taken away from you?”
The problem is, that's not exactly what's happening, as an official with the FWS explains:
Having a woodpecker tree on a piece of property does not necessarily mean a house cannot be built there, Mr. Benjamin said. A landowner can even get permission to cut down a cavity tree, as long as an alternative habitat can be found.
From the standpoint of "rational self-interest," trees usually add considerable value to a property. Landowners who cut down half their trees would be acting more in their own self-interest than these folks, who are simply lashing out (as a result, I'm sure, of melodramatic anti-ESA propaganda from the Right).

Safe Harbor programs comprise another way to escape ESA regulations without denuding one's land and denying habitat to threatened species. Perhaps Mr. Stiller, given his position as a public figure, ought to be educating the public about these options, instead of handing them a gun and helping them to take careful aim at their own feet.


ERic said...

Shooting themselves in the foot? More like shooting themselves in the head. We need more trees on the planet, not fewer!

Sorry. Just feeling very sensitive about global heating lately.

Phila said...

Sorry. Just feeling very sensitive about global heating lately.

I can't imagine why...