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Editorial: Change endangered species act to give humans a place

In massive areas of the Jemez Mountains and Otero County, it’s the meadow jumping mouse. In a long stretch of the Rio Grande, it’s the silvery minnow.

In wide swaths of southeast New Mexico and the American Midwest, it’s the lesser prairie chicken. Also in southeast New Mexico and Texas, it’s the dunes sagebrush lizard.

In Colorado and other Western states, it’s the sage grouse. In southwest New Mexico and Arizona, it’s the narrow-headed garter snake and northern Mexican garter snake.

And don’t forget the Mexican grey wolf.

All these creatures, which together cover untold millions of acres across the Western United States, are having trouble surviving. And so all have or will lead to restrictions on human activity.

The problem is finding a way to best preserve the animals that recognizes that they must live in the midst of many millions of humans, who have a need for food, water and energy and also seem to like to go right where these animals live for recreation.

Most of these species have become the subject of what some call a war being waged on rural Americans, whose economy relies heavily on mineral extraction, energy production, livestock and tourism. It is said that the fight over the sage grouse could ultimately be the deciding factor on whether the U.S. Senate remains Democratic or goes Republican this fall.

If it is a war, it is one that is requiring great sacrifices from the Americans who live in these areas and virtually no sacrifice elsewhere. For instance, exactly what are the masses in New York City doing to help save the jumping mouse?

One reason some people equate the struggle to help these species as a war is the all-or-nothing way in which the battles are fought. There appears to be an exception in the handling of the dunes sagebrush lizard, but in most cases any time some resolution is approved the lawsuits quickly follow. There is no middle ground and no credit given for best efforts.

And the ability to change course if an approved action has a greater-than-expected negative effect on neighboring communities is almost nil.

While it is of extreme importance for humans to do all they can to protect these species, corrective measures must include locally driven solutions and allow for rational decision making and the ability to adapt to changing conditions, like drought.

All these species deserve a place here. But so do humans. The balanced approach recognizes both. And Congress needs to change the law to recognize that – since environmentalists and bureaucrats insist there is no leeway.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.