Editorial: Endangered species put economy at risk

It could be a tough summer — unless one is a lizard. Fears of a stalling economy sent the Dow on a plummet last week. Housing values fell to their lowest in 10 years. Federal estimates of 180,000 new private-sector jobs in May fell short by 142,000.

Pain at the pump approaches $4 a gallon, which makes it difficult to prosper and create jobs.

In this time of economic burden, our federal government suddenly wants to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard. The tiny brown lizard lives among oak shrubs on Texas sand dunes, amid some of country’s most productive oil wells.

The U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service, bolstered by activists, wants to list the lizard as endangered. In doing so, the government could shut down or hinder production of up to 1 million barrels of oil a day.

There is no proof that oil production threatens extinction of the lizards, and they are not confined to the dunes above Texas oil deposits. It appears as just another effort to exploit the cause of an obscure species at a tremendous risk to the fundamental welfare of humans. It is similar, though many times more serious, to the economic growth barriers erected in Colorado by an urgent need to save the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. The mice are plentiful in Colorado and Wyoming, but environmentalists and the federal government want to protect them only in Colorado — where they come in useful for impeding economic growth.

“Bad science leads to bad policy,” Texas land commissioner Jerry Patterson wrote in the Austin American-Statesman. “And that defines the current administration’s domestic energy policy that seeks to close off more and more areas to oil and gas production. A policy which can be summed up as: ‘Not here.’”

Our economy needs oil in order to create prosperity and jobs. Without economic growth, we can forget about maintaining federal entitlements and the quality of life enjoyed by all classes of Americans.

Let’s be good to God’s tiny creatures, taking reasonable measures to ensure their ability to survive. But let’s not look for symbolic opportunities to strain to our economy by killing jobs, raising fuel costs and making Americans even more dependent on foreign oil. Let’s save the humans, too.