By Jim Beers
Recently I was asked by an Oregonian, "What is a little National Wildlife Refuge like Bandon Marsh going to do with $950,000 in 'Stimulus' funding?" He asked me to go online and read an article in the local Bandon paper about this local windfall from Washington and then try to explain what they are going to do with it.
In the article in the local paper titled "Stimulus money to help Oregon wildlife projects" it was mentioned that Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge would receive $950,000. There was no indication of what this windfall would be spent upon other than "wildlife" and the Oregon economy.
An examination of a map of Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge reveals two units of land, one on the North side of the Coquille River and another unit somewhat "kitty-corner" adjacent to the other on the South side of the Coquille River close to the mouth of the River where it dumps into the Pacific at the town of Bandon, Oregon. The refuge is a total of 889 acres and the South Unit is described as "a natural area with no habitat manipulation"; "an undisturbed salt marsh"; and a place where "resource values are maintained by natural processes". The North Unit, called the "Ni-les'tun Unit", is described as being "purchased" by the Federal government but is believed to have a title clouded by Native American considerations. According to the Refuge website, "Public use on the Ni-les'tun Unit is currently limited to environmental education". This refuge is part of a larger manned complex of southern Oregon coastal refuges and "is monitored to ensure that these values are not compromised. "
While the South Unit is "an undisturbed salt marsh", the North Unit "is diked lowland pasture and will eventually be restored to tidal marsh, making history as the largest tidal marsh restoration project ever attempted in Oregon." Not surprisingly, the internet now carries a notice of request for input on the following project, "The public is invited to comment on plans for the proposed wetlands restoration project in the Ni-les'tun Unit of the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. A draft Environmental Assessment for the project - and the related North Bank Lane Improvement Project - has been prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Federal Highway Administration, Western Federal Lands Division."
This project is what the $950,000 is intended to accomplish. The project is compsed of two parts:
- First is the "tidal marsh restoration consisting of removing the artificial levees, approximately 15 miles of interior drainage ditches, and three tide gates. The project also would include reconstructing the creek channels for Fahys, Redd, and No Name creeks."
- Second is the the improvement of North Bank Lane "to reduce flooding, permit implementation of the wetland restoration project, improve the pavement surface, and better accommodate the mixed (bicycle and vehicle) use of the roadway." The total acreage encompassed by the project is 400 acres.
The money will go for everything from construction and public input to "planning and supervision" charges by a Regional Office and the Washington Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. 400 acres "improved" with $950,000 comes out to $23,750 per acre. While public use on this area is now "limited to environmental education", it is my considered opinion (as a former Chief of Operations for the National Wildlife Refuges) that the likelihood of any future hunting or fishing on this unit will be even more remote as a result of this project to "return historic tidal influence and provide habitat for a suite of wildlife including migratory shorebirds, waterfowl, and anadromous and resident fishes."
In crazy economic times such as these, attempting to explain the origin and funding of such a project seems quaint and a little like swatting at a fly in a windstorm but putting such cynicism aside, here is how this comes to be:
When any Refuge (or National Park or National Forest) is purchased or otherwise obtained it is obligatory that it comes on the heels of some great urgency. Everything from it will be "developed" or "destroyed" to it must be "restored" or some sort of plant/animal mix ("Native", "pristine", "Wilderness", etc.) must be "saved." Often it is the agencies operatives in cahoots with environmental/Animal Rights organizations or bureaucrats working with Congressional staffs to A. increase agency budgets while, B. helping to re-elect some lifelong (and therefore powerful) politician.
When such Refuge (or Park or Forest) is authorized by Congress the agency immediately produces a list of personnel and money "needed" and a justification for why they are necessary and what they will do. As any citizen over the age of 12 knows, such lists are always excessive in every aspect with the hopeful expectation of a more modest level of support by the "fiscally-concerned" politicians from President on down.
When the Refuge (et al) is staffed the manager's most important job is to assure funding increases and his own promotion in the future. This means long lists of every sort of maintenance, operations, AND construction project imaginable is assembled and kept always on hand.
Simultaneously, each US Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Office assembles and prioritizes, and "buffs up" all the Regional needs for the Refuges in the Region for as much as ten years into the future under every imaginable (from budget cut protections to taking advantage of unimaginable, as now, funding windfalls in competition with all other Regions and all other USFWS hogs at such an overflowing federal trough.
Likewise, the USFWS Washington Office keeps these "Lists" and massages and buffs them as do the Regional Offices only their purpose is to out-compete the National Park Service and the US Forest Service whenever cuts (God forbid!) come down the pike but, as now, to get every bit of slop from this "Stimulus" package or any other (God forbid!) future such federal spending orgies.
So when the President and Congress jammed through the "Stimulus" and the "Bailout" and the "largest federal budget" and the "largest deficit in American history" - our federal bureaucrats were ready and up to the job of getting "their" (meaning the largest possible) share. The Secretary of the Interior got the "most" he could for Interior (US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service) from the White House and Congress. Likewise his "Assistants" (like everyone else acting like they cared about "priorities" but really divvying things up based on 1. who are our "friends, 2. who needs to be reelected, 3. who are our enemies, and 4. last but certainly not least what is the best way to do this to benefit me in the future?) divided it up between the agencies while "tweaking" the projects and locations in ways that the bureaucrats are only too glad to quietly comply with. This happened several times during the 70's and 80's as Presidents sought re-election or one party was worried about holding onto Congress so it was thought that a "big" environmental funding package for Parks and Refuges (who could resisit supporting such wonderful politicians as would "come-up with such finding for such a nobel cause?) might save the day. Nevere were they anything like this "Stimulus" but the players and the play were just the same.
So everyone is happy. Oregon gets $X and every paper touts the largesse of our political elites. "Wildlife" is "helped" by making a "diked lowland pasture" that is essentially useless into a "restored salt marsh" that will make a very small contribution to environmental diversity but will also remain "useless" (remember that "Useless means unable to USE) to those that live nearby. The local town is grateful for money from Washington (heaven?) in hard times and they are sure to be even more amenable to federal wishes (i.e. mandates) in the future. State governments didn't have "to raise taxes" and state bureaucrats are trying to figure how they can benefit from such future largesse (by "partnering?", by "Cooperating?', by performing enforcement?, By abject begging?) as they envision an inevitable (to them but not to me) decline inhunting, fishing, trapping, logging, ranching, farming, etc. both because of places to do such things disappearing but more importantly (to them) their complete surrender to the machinations of the environmental/animal rights radicals that infiltrate their ranks and are seemingly unopposed as they impose their radical agendas on the Nation.
I for one don't need my marshes "stimulated", I need them managed for human activities in ways that assure their values and productivity are available to future generations. In most ways, modern bureaucratic controls by radical bureaucracies for pernicious ends like "Environmental Education" (i.e. environmental propaganda), "Wilderness", "Sanctuaries", "Ecosystems", "Native Species", "Critical Habitats", etc., etc. are worse than the destruction of these areas. Destroyed areas can one day be restored or can restore themselves but in the meantime government areas are increasingly "useless" and even anti-human use oriented as well as destructive of human communities by eliminating revenue from renewable natural resources and creating fires of catastrophic proportions and proliferation of deadly and destructive predators.
As for the $950,000, call me old-fashioned but it would be better left in the taxpayers pockets and off the list of assumed debt that my kids and grankids are being asked to sign!
Jim Beers 13 May 2009
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