Scott Cavanagh
Freelance Writing, Editing and Photography

Endangered Species need Lujan's support
Reprinted from Northland ThisWeek 
July 11, 1992

"Nobody’s told me the difference between a red squirrel, a black one or a brown one."

Those are not the words of an elementary school student. Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan spoke those words just last week, when asked about the controversy surrounding the endangered red squirrel in Arizona.

Lujan was responding to complaints by environmentalists who became alarmed after the secretary announced to reporters last week that the Endangered Species Act should be weakened.

The squirrel squabble surrounds a proposed $200 million telescope project intended for an area on Mount Graham, the same area the fewer than 100 remaining red squirrels call home.

According to Lujan, the Endangered Species Act, which can stop the telescope project in its tracks, "is far too tough."

"Do we have to save every single sub-species," he said. "This law does not take into account the economic impact of protecting endangered species."

This is not the first time Lujan’s love for development has gotten in the way of his job. One week before the red squirrel incident, the Secretary spoke on behalf of a $589 million water project in Colorado that has been put on hold because of the dangers it poses to Colorado squawfish.

After the action was taken to halt the project, Lujan ordered a review of the plans and organized a future cabinet-level meeting to determine whether economic interests should overrule environmental ones. As a New Mexico congressman Lujan supported the water project.

Big business has plenty of backers and lobbyists, so many that our living environment in many parts of the country is as dangerous to our health as smoking and overeating. For the man whose job it is to protect animals like the red squirrel to continually align himself with economic interests betrays the trust of every environmentally conscious citizen.

In 1982 there were only 18-22 American Condors left in existence. Over the last eight years, captive-breeding programs costing millions of dollars have only raised the population to 38. The red squirrel and species like it should not be allowed to reach that point. After all, the red squirrel may be "just" a sub-species, but unlike development projects, when it’s gone it won’t be coming back.

Scott Cavanagh is editor of Northland ThisWeek.

Column copyright 2000 Midland Avenue Communications. Reprints without permission are a violation of Federal Law.