Thursday, October 4, 2007

Explanations: Why you can't convince me to not do my job.

I consistently hear complaints from residential developers, engineers, and builders that environmental legislation causes unnecessary “delays.” Occasionally these complainers will attempt to argue with me about whether or not I should require mitigation for the loss of wildlife areas. I find these complainers to be borderline offensive, for the following reasons.

First, and perhaps foremost, I am not the one requiring mitigation, and I am not the one causing the delays. The elected officials of the state of Kansas passed into law the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act in 1975 and since then the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has been required by law to require mitigation for loss of habitat. Since 1975, the citizens of Kansas (and the U.S. as a whole) have repeatedly been polled to gauge the level of support for this legislation, and have consistently responded that they favor such laws. Environmental regulations are no different than regulations governing workplace safety or speed limits. The majority of Kansas citizens want such regulations to prevent irresponsible practices.

Secondly, whether or not I personally believe that each species should be regulated, or that KDWP regulations represent the best science, I am obligated to regulate based on the KDWP-approved methods. Now that I’m a part of the process, and because I’m a scientist, I will work to make sure that the methods KDWP uses are objective and transparent. In many ways, what we do can’t be improved upon. In other ways they can. What’s true in all cases, though, is that I’m obligated to not use my own methods, but methods that KDWP has approved.

Finally, this country needs environmental regulation. The evidence from the past suggests that various industries will pollute as much as they are allowed, even when that pollution is the source of human and environmental health concerns, so long as it increases profit. The reasons are many, but ultimately it is because any industry governed by market forces will punish those who willingly forgo an advantage. Without environmental regulation, any industry that benefits from immoral polluting will be at a competitive disadvantage to those companies that will pollute immorally. Regulations insure that all competition occurs on a level playing field that the majority of society agrees is fair. A similar line of logic exists for developers, agriculturalists, etc.
To sum up: I’m going to protect the threatened and endangered species of Kansas. Nothing you say or do will convince me otherwise. As a result, feel free to keep your meaningless grumbling to yourself.

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