Federal power and the Gator Hoax

This year marks the 40th year of overreaching domestic federal power: IRS tax enforcement? ATF “fast and furious” gun-running program? U. S. Justice Department suing the State of Arizona for enforcing immigration laws? Well, yes. But I refer to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the authority granted the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Politicians and media people supported this law because they assumed it would have limited scope. Now it’s become a bureaucratic, tyrannical monster used to block development projects, confiscate private property and jail citizens.

Recently, a nearby Brunswick County man here in North Carolina was sentenced to 120 days in jail and fined $4,300 for killing an American alligator. According to a Wilmington StarNews article by F. T. Norton (StarNewsOnline.com) the man was convicted in 2007 on a similar charge. I don’t know the technicalities of the law in this case, but I question it based on fairness and facts we know about alligators.

Most citizen residents in coastal North Carolina know them to be common and dangerous. State wildlife officials will capture and remove these reptiles, under certain conditions, if contacted. But why shouldn’t individual citizens have the right to protect themselves from a threat? The animal in this story was caught in a “retention pond behind a Leland housing development” not in some remote swamp.

Federal agencies assume the arbitrary authority to trap and kill wild animals to protect turtle eggs here on the coast. Are alligators more important than people? Apparently so; however, there’s no evidence that alligators are “endangered.” In fact, research has exposed the Great Gator Hoax.

Brian Seasholes of the Capital Research Center shows that although activists and federal officials have attributed the ESA with saving the American alligator from extinction, it didn’t happen. States where the critter lives had protected the animal from poaching prior to the ESA being passed. In fact, the beast was probably never endangered at all. (link)

Mr. Seasholes chronicles efforts in Alabama, Texas, Florida and Louisiana. Going back to the 1940s in the Gulf States commercial hunting of alligators reduced gator populations. That was curtailed by state game laws and amendments to the federal Lacey Act of 1900 that prohibited interstate trade in animals protected by the states.

Ironically, after conducting research to get the facts, state wildlife managers, especially in Louisiana, realized that harvesting alligators to sell their skins for leather goods was good for commerce and for alligator conservation. A world renowned Louisiana biologist specializing in crocodilians remarked: “The best thing people can do for the alligator is to buy alligator products.” Of course, the state controls the take with a hunting season and limits. You can see how this works by watching “Swamp People” on the TV History Channel.

Mr. Seasholes’ investigations show that the federal FWS is supported by activist “pressure groups” that promote emotional agenda, rather than policies based on objective research and field experience. Unfortunately, government bureaucrats and environmental activists discovered it profitable to dramatize and demagogue issues for self-serving benefits such as funding, media coverage, memberships and prestige, as Seasholes points out.

The Great Gator Hoax is a classic case study proving that states are best equipped to handle wildlife management—serving the best interests of their citizens.

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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