Michelle Harrington of the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity provides a telling glimpse on the following page of the junk science that drives extremist environmental groups like hers.
In her screed about the hoops her own and other environmental groups are making Salt River Project jump through to accommodate a few dozen Southwestern willow flycatchers in and around SRP's reservoirs, Harrington claims that “endangered species are our ‘canaries in the coal mine’ or our environmental dashboard warning lights.”
This claptrap has been repeated so many times by pseudo-ecologists that it's unfortunately widely believed by a gullible public. Yet it has no basis in science. Indeed, it is so obviously bogus we marvel at its shelf-life.
Species have been evolving into and out of existence for eons. The process predates humans by millions of years. Species extinction is a complex process that indeed usually results from changes in the ecosystem, but typically those changes are perfectly “natural.” Weather patterns change or predators migrate into a new area. Sometimes a species is unable to adapt to a changing environment.
Harrington correctly points out that damming of the Salt and Verde rivers has profoundly altered the ecosystems in those areas. But her unspoken assumption is that those changes are harmful, presumably because they were caused by humans. Not necessarily so.
First, humans are part of nature. We have the same survival instincts as other successful species. Second, homo sapiens has been an incredibly successful specie largely because it has been able to adapt to different environments, and even alter the environment to enhance its own survival. And third, the changes humans have made in and around the Salt and Verde rivers to enhance survivability in the Sonoran desert haven't only destroyed habitat; they also have created habitat.
Like other extremist groups of its ilk, the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity is attempting — with remarkable success so far — to use voodoo environmentalism to put SRP in a Catch 22. SRP's dwindling reservoirs have created rich new habitat for flycatchers and other flora and fauna. But when SRP wants to capture runoff in those nearly empty reservoirs, the center screams about “canaries in the mine” to force SRP to duplicate the habitat nearby, at water ratepayers' expense.
Certainly we don't want to willy-nilly destroy natural habitat. And to the extent that saving the flycatcher is affordable, we should at least make an attempt.
But Harrington does the public no service, and undermines what little credibility her own organization may have had, by warning of catastrophe if the Southwestern willow flycatcher makes its home someplace else.