STATEMENTS NEED CORRECTING
June 21, 2009
Coburn, R-Okla., and I both made comments last week about the environment.
My observations were on a topic that affects all of us on a global scale.
His were focused on a specific location concerning a specific endeavor,
but they reflect what I believe is an unhealthy environmental mind-set.
In my opinion we should both revise our statements: I, to clarify an assertion;
he, to adjust his attitude.
is easy. I stated that some scientists remain skeptical about whether
global warming and climate change are an issue to be concerned about.
I also said that other scientists "stake their reputations on their
belief that it is a problem and that people are the cause." I should
have said that I was referring to virtually all reputable climatologists
and other scientists. The point is an important one. In a subcommittee
meeting of the Committee for Science and Technology of the U.S. House
of Representatives last week, every scientist on the panel agreed that
global climate change was real and that it can be attributed to human
causes, including the burning of fossil fuels, changes in land-use patterns,
criticized the use of federal stimulus funds for a variety of local projects
scheduled for support under President Obama's economic recovery program.
One of the programs under attack last week was development of under-the-road
crossings (ecopassages) for wildlife, a topic I have written about before.
ecopassages are designed to counter the proven negative environmental
impact of highways. Millions of animals are killed annually on U.S. highways
that fragment the habitat into compartments that may be too small for
some species, which then try to cross the road in search of more suitable
habitat. Over the past few years, various wildlife species have benefited
from hundreds of successfully constructed ecopassages, including those
designed for spotted salamanders in Connecticut, toads in England, and
desert tortoises in California.
use of funds at Lake Jackson near Tallahassee, Fla., is one Coburn doesn't
care for, and it is indicative of an environmental attitude that, in my
opinion, needs adjusting. Matt Aresco, while a student at Florida State
University, constructed a guide fence to lead turtles and other animals
to a culvert beneath a highway that bisects Lake Jackson. Prior to the
fence's construction, highway deaths of more than 9,000 individual animals
comprising more than four dozen different wildlife species were documented
over a three-year period on a half mile of highway. By making the local
community aware that on average more than 50 animals died each week on
the highway, Aresco inspired action. The Lake Jackson Ecopassage Alliance
was formed by a group of environmentally concerned citizens intent on
developing a permanent ecopassage to connect the two parts of the lake.
money has been allocated for building two major under-the-road waterways
so turtles and other wildlife can move safely between the two bodies of
water. I spoke with Aresco to confirm that the proposed amount of the
stimulus money was $3.4 million (a trivial amount in overall road construction
spending). The reconstruction would make right the bad decision, made
years ago, to build a highway through a wetland. In addition, the changes
will address a traffic safety problem. As Aresco said, "Would you
want to hit a 12-foot alligator or a turtle the size of a cinder block
as you zip along the highway?"
and politicians clearly cannot agree among themselves on the best way
to get the U.S. and world economies back on track. Minimally funded local
projects may make handy scapegoats amid strident cries of "earmarking!"
But eliminating such funding is neither a reasonable nor an effective
means of addressing the greater economic problems. Matt Aresco worked
single-handedly against steep bureaucratic odds to protect the environment.
It would be appropriate if the bureaucracy came to his aid--and the turtles'--with
the stimulus money allocated for ecopassages.
I have now
corrected the omission I made in last week's statement about the environment.
How gratifying it would be if the senator were to adjust his environmental
views and retract his objection to using stimulus funds to save the turtles
and other animals at Lake Jackson.
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