Saving smelly fish sustained, costly endeavor

Steve Pearce isn’t a big fan of relaxed immigration policies, food stamps, bargain air fares, or most critters, especially the Rio Grande silvery minnow.

New Mexico’s Second Congressional District congressman may have something with that last one. Back in 2003 he told a Belen audience:

“We all understand in the west that water is about families, it’s about a way of life, it’s about our culture, and it’s about our jobs. Water is life in the west. It gives value to our properties…”Ned 001c

Ten years later, New Mexico suffered a stifling drought and Pearce’s words, spoken at a hearing on the Endangered Species Act and its protection of the Silver Minnow, deserve consideration.

They won’t get much consideration from the likes of the WildEarth Guardians whose position would endorse the thinking of a Colorado Law Review entry by Sean O’Connor who uses this description of the silvery minnow to argue the logic of the Endangered Species Act:

“The Rio Grande silvery minnow smells like a fish, does not soar, leap, or cuddle, and has no discernible dollar-value except as bait. But something tells us that the minnow is still valuable, and that biodiversity in general is valuable; the more species, the better. Our assignment of value goes beyond standard economic analysis, beyond utilitarian concern, beyond man as the purely rational animal…”

There’s my problem. That is the reason this observer, who normally finds Pearce dead wrong on issues, finds himself agreeing with the Tea Partyish congressman in this instance.

Purely rational animals are troubled by reports of New Mexico farmers losing their livelihoods during a drought that has seen the Rio Grande suffer its lowest levels since 1989. Yet water is released to save the silvery minnow.

Worse, the crusade to save the minnow has been pretty much a bust. A tentative deal to try a new approach has been called a “huge step” by Estevan Lopez, director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. It’s a step backward, says WildEarth Guardians who see the Recovery Implementation Program as a “recipe for disaster” for the Silvery Minnow.

Granted, satisfying WildEarth might be like feeding Big Macs to a glutton in hopes he will one day get his fill. The truth is, though, saving the wannabe Nemo has been a sustained and costly endeavor.

The federal government has spent more than $150 million in the last decade in its valiant rescue attempt.

One might be excused for pondering. Let’s see, we have $150 million to spend. Homeless people, smelly fish? Homeless people, smelly fish?

Don’t despair, fellow citizens. The silvery minnow is not No. 1 on New Mexico’s parade of problems. We have bigger fish to fry, if you will.

Ned Cantwell, who may have an endangered column, can be reached at:

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