Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Trojan Cat

Diabetics beware: reading this editorial in today's Denver Post could have you reaching for the insulin.

Not sure what it is about endangered species that leads to the suspension of all skepticism among journalists. Hand them a pretty picture of a "majestic" Canada lynx running free in Colorado and they go weak in the knees. Then all we hear from these supposedly hard-bitten cynics is goo-goos and ga-gas. Not once in this 500-word gusher do the larger implications of lynx reintroduction get a mention, though the cats already are having significant adverse impacts on how public lands are managed in Colorado.

The reintroduction is a success story, of sorts, if you ignore the fact that Canada lynx are, technically-speaking, an invasive species (much like the gray wolves released in the Northern Rockies are invasive), along with the fact that Colorado marked the southernmost boundary of their historic habitat, meaning that they never exactly flourished here. But like the "successful" reintroduction of the wolf, it can complicate life for the rest of us -- something that the Post doesn't mention.

Before Colorado volunteered to be part of this experiment -- based on a promise that we wouldn't have the regulatory hammer lowered by the feds if the experiment worked -- anyone claiming that a ski resort couldn't be expanded, or a forest trail improved, because of "lynx habitat" would have been laughed out of the room. No lynx, no habitat, no problem, in short. Federal land managers would have to dream-up another excuse to say "no" to something.

But that's no longer the case in Colorado. With a colony of the cats now firmly established, "lynx habitat" now becomes a credible catch-all excuse to block this project or that one. It's a regulatory Trojan horse, which Colorado invited in, rather gullibly. And like the defenders of Troy, we'll now pay a heavy price for that gullibility.

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