Green land grabs on steroids

Using bees to block human activities on land 15 times bigger than Virginia – or even more.

Foreword:

The Endangered Species Act has increasingly been used and abused to delay, block or bankrupt numerous projects and activities across America. We all hope there will be far less of this under President Trump, but there are no guarantees. The designation of rusty patched bumblebees and potential designation of other bumblebee and insect species certainly raises the specter that these problems will only get worse. The possible presence of these species on tiny tracts of land scattered across hundreds of millions of acres means the United States could be faced with land grabs of unprecedented proportions.

And when those tactics are contrasted with the way radical environmentalists ignore the growing carnage from wind turbines – and how AOC’s Green New Deal would increase US onshore wind turbines by hundreds of thousands – the impact and hypocrisy become incredible to behold.


Guest essay by Paul Driessen

Special interest environmental groups got stung recently by an 8-0 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that held private landowners cannot be compelled to forego future economic uses of their property and at their own expense convert their land into suitable habitat for an endangered frog. Now radical greens are eyeing even bigger land grabs.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has sued the Department of the Interior for failing to designate “critical habitat” for the “endangered” rusty patched bumblebee. It’s the latest of many Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuits, abusive sue-and-settle litigation, and other actions involving insects, and it led to an eleventh-hour Obama Administration endangered designation for the rusty patched bee.


Rusty patched bumble bee feeding on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Photo Kim Mitchell; USFWS

Interior points out that extremely limited knowledge about RPBs makes critical habitat determinations impossible. The NRDC counters that Interior must designate habitats based on “best available evidence.” The problem is, available information is so inadequate, conjectural, false or falsified that it must absolutely not be used to justify the astounding potential impacts of RPB habitat designations. 

Groups that have bee-friended them claim RPBs were “once common” in many Northeastern and Midwestern states. However, back then bees and other insects were studied for taxonomic purposes – not to assess species’ diversity and populations. So no one knows how many there used to be, or where.

The activists also claim RPB populations declined rapidly beginning in the mid-1990s, because of habitat loss, disease, climate change and especially the use of crop-protection pesticides. That’s not what they were saying a few years ago, before wild bees replaced honey bees in anti-pesticide campaigns.

Back in 2013, when it petitioned the FWS for RPB endangered status, even the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation said the bee’s apparent decline was due to habitat loss and multiple diseases that spread from domesticated honeybees to wild bees.

“The exact cause for the loss of the rusty patched is unclear,” says University of Virginia biology professor T’ai Roulston. “But it’s almost certainly related to disease,” especially a fungal gut parasite that “can shorten the lives of worker bees and disrupt mating success and survival of queens and males.”

Habitat loss is clearly another factor. Over the past half-century, cities and suburbs expanded, and farmers increasingly emphasized large-scale monoculture crops like corn and canola for food and biofuels. That reduced underground RPB nesting sites and the varieties of flowers that wild bees prefer.

The Obama FWS ignored these facts, arbitrarily downplayed its earlier disease and habitat loss explanations, and began blaming pesticides, especially advanced-technology neonicotinoid pesticides, which became a scapegoat for wild bee health problems after it became obvious to everyone that fears of a honeybee apocalypse were unfounded. A busy, understaffed Department of the Interior let the last-minute Obama era RPB endangered species designation take effect in early 2017.

Little evidence supports the pesticide claims, and much refutes them.

For example, a wide-ranging international study of wild bees, published in Nature Communications, found that only 2% of wild bee species are responsible for 80% of all crop visits. Most wild bees never even come into contact with crops or the pesticides that supposedly harm them.

Even more compelling, the Nature study determined that the 2% of wild bees that do visit crops – and so would be most exposed to pesticides – are among the healthiest bee species on Earth. 

Other studies found that neonic residues are well below levels that can adversely affect bee development or reproduction. That’s because most neonics are used as seed coatings that are absorbed into plant tissue as crops grow. They protect plants against insect damage – targeting only pests that actually feed on the crops – but are largely gone by the time mature plants flower. Neonics are barely detectable in pollen.

None of these facts will matter, however, once the FWS starts designating RPB critical habitats. The agency and environmentalists will be able to delay, block or bankrupt any proposed or ongoing project or activity within a habitat if they can make any plausible claim that it might potentially harm the bee. Building new homes or hospitals, laying new pipelines, improving roads and bridges – a farmer’s decisions about plowing fields, planting crops or using pesticides – could all be subjected to litigation.

The potential geographic reach of these critical habitat designations is enormous.

RPBs are likely to be found “in scattered locations that cover only 0.1% of the species’ historical range,” the FWS has said. That doesn’t sound like much. However, 0.1% of the bee’s presumed or asserted historical range is nearly four million acres – equivalent to Connecticut plus Rhode Island.

Even worse, that acreage is widely dispersed in itty-bitty parcels across 13 states where amateur entomologists have supposedly spotted rusty patched bumblebees since 2000. That’s some 380 million acres: 15 times the size of Virginia! That is green land grabs on steroids, and it’s just the beginning.

No one knows just where those parcels might be. So environmental groups could pressure and sue government agencies to halt projects – or agencies could do it at their own volition, to delay or block gas pipelines, for example – while large areas are carefully examined for signs of rusty patched bumblebees.

New York regulators might be especially prone to doing that, considering the governor and legislature’s unbending opposition to “climate destabilizing” natural gas, even as gas and electricity prices climb ever higher in the Empire State.

More ominously, anti-pesticide and other environmental groups want yellow-banded, western and Franklin’s bumblebees designated as endangered. These species were supposedly once found in tiny areas scattered over a billion acres in 40 US states! Other anti-pesticide, anti-fossil fuel, pro-Green New Deal activists also want beetles and other bugs designated as endangered. It’s all about control.

The ultimate effect – if not their intent – would be to let radical groups use “threatened or endangered” insects todelay or veto countless projects and activities across nearly the entire United States.

Probably most Americans would say delaying or even scuttling certain projects and activities might be warranted when the threatened or endangered species holds a position of significance in the animal kingdom, and really is down to the last of its kind.

But bees, beetles and other bugs? Especially when we don’t know how many there ever were, or where? Or what might actually be threatening their continued existence, if it really is threatened? Highly unlikely.

Just as relevant, why aren’t the same eco-activist groups expressing the same concern – or any concern, really – about bald and golden eagles, other raptor and bird species, or multiple rare bat species that are being decimated by wind turbines? Whooping cranes are teetering on the brink of extinction, and yet their Canada to Texas flyway is now home to hundreds of bird-butchering turbine rotors.

The resulting carnage is ignored by greens and regulators alike, and Big Wind operators prohibit independent biologists from entering the killing grounds to get accurate counts of bird and bat carcasses.

Many of those wondrous and vitally important species would likely be wiped out entirely if anything like the Green New Deal sprouts hundreds of thousands of 400-foot-tall onshore turbines across the USA.

The Interior Department’s Fish & Wildlife Service needs to bring further balance and sanity to the ESA, to ensure that conflicting and competing needs are examined and balanced – fully, carefully and honestly.

All this underscores why the Endangered Species Act must be revised. It also explains why radical environmentalists and their allies will fight any changes tooth and nail, along with any nominee who might try to make any changes in any Trump land use, environmental or agricultural agency or policy.

These are complex but vital policy issues, requiring rational, responsible discussions and decisions.


Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and author of books and articles on energy, climate, environmental and human rights issues.

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42 thoughts on “Green land grabs on steroids

  1. Okay. Does anyone miss the passenger pigeon? Anyone? Bueller? The ivory-billed woodpecker? I have flickers and re-breasted woodpeckers that come to my feeding station regularly. The first group of redwinged blackbirds arrived yesterday and made pigs of themselves. I have pictures! One of them brought a girlfriend to the dinner table, too. And the female cardinals were flirting with the sole male cardinal, who looked a little young for them.

    There are many, many species of bees everywhere. These clowns probably couldn’t tell you how many wild species there really are, or what they are, but they want to protect them? This is nonsense of the worst kind. I have photographed a lot of bugs, probably more than I can count, including a green-shield halictid bee busily gathering pollen and nectar in the wildflowers. I frequently see many, many insects and birds that are not known to be local denizens, such as the white-throated sparrow, and eastern bird that normally doesn’t live around here. Yes, I do have pictures. There’s a territory expansion process that goes on all the time in the wild, and it is a NATURAL process.

    The busybodies who view everything as endangered and want to wall off where these critters congregate also prevent them from moving elsewhere. They are control freaks who won’t let you into a certain area because there might be an endangered species in there, and they don’t want you to see it. They are ridiculously self-serving when they act like this, and it is not about anything other than patting themselves on the back.

    Where were they when the pteranodons and pterodactyls were looking for a place to cop a nest and start hatching eggs?

    • As far as the pteranodons go (and went), the end result was due to the Survival Of The Tastiest. I mean “Kentucky Fried Pterodactyl” just didn’t cut it! And Hairy Mammoths were just too big to fit into a frying pan!

  2. “neonic residues are well below levels that can adversely affect bee development or reproduction.”

    On the Neonicotinoid pesticide issue and bees, I’m still skeptical that there isn’t a costly impact to the bees. Development and reproduction are basic growth processes, but bees are far more than that.
    These colony-based pollinators have a very complex, highly evolved neural development for navigation an communication. Think about it. These insects can fly up to a kilometer away from their colony, find a food source, then have to fly back to colony and read-out the location to other bees with their waggle-dance communication. A kilometer may not be that much for a mammal, but for a small insect, the world at that scale is immense. There are some suggestions that neonics at extremely low dose can interfere with this navigation circuits such that many bees simply fly away and never return, steadily depleting the colony of foragers. Think of it as being drunk. You can e staggering drunk, and your body still largely functions as it must, even reproducing 🙂 , but you have trouble navigating and thinking.

    • Joel

      That would be fine; but taking the ‘domesticated’ honey bee as an example, (I believe there was a crisis of population some time ago) species decline was tracked down to bad human husbandry which encouraged the parasite mite to occupy dirty hives.

      Since then, the domesticated honeybee population has boomed as husbandry improved.

      So I’m not sure your contention of drunk bees is reasonable or domestic honeybees wouldn’t be able to wend their way home after a day on the cider either.

      • My point is the toxicology studies that have “ruled out” impacts on bees have had to rely on development or reproduction as the read-out for minimum concentrations.
        But neonics are neurotoxins to insects. That clearly suggests their first effects at the extreme low concentration end are neural circuit disruptions, long before any disruption of development or reproduction. I used the “drunk human” analogy to highlight this in a way most people understand.
        As such, I find the studies I have read on neonic toxicity to colony-based foragers (honey bees) to be clearly lacking in regards to the effects neonics might have on a highly evolved, finely tuned navigational mapping and memory these insects clearly have. Simply reading out gross anatomical development, growth, and reproduction simply doesn’t get to this issue. Maybe there is some research now on this issue, but as of a few years ago (last time I researched colony collapse disorder and a role for neonics) there was none.

        • That’s probably the potential problem doesn’t seem serious anymore, now that better husbandry has helped the populations recover.
          It would be incredibly difficult to prove that picogram percentages in a bee “caused” it to lose track of its navigation papers get lost. There are so many factors involved, just like climate, that we haven’t even begun to list them all.

          Of course, propaganda doesn’t need proof. It only needs a few plausible lines, a lot of hype, and a lot of news coverage to have a big effect. Now, nobody would do that about bees, would they?

        • Joel

          But neonics are neurotoxins to insects.

          With the best will in the world mate, how do we know that?

          They might be aphrodisiacs for all we know.

          Load the bees up with a gut full of neonics and sure, they might act like an 18 year old on a stag night, but give them a sherry’s worth and they might start flirting with every male in sight, like my old Granny did.

        • Salute Joel!

          I look at the glass half full, and maybe the bees that have better navigation and memory will prosper. Those that can’t steer a straight line after two beers will lose their way and not reproduce.

          Darwin in action, and we’ll have super bees that navigate further and quicker and…

          Gums wonders….

      • Glad I went through the thread before commenting. I was going to point out that better bee keeping practices and an increase in the numbers of people keeping hives has done a lot to restore honey bee populations. Another help is more flowers in landscaping and public spaces(road right of ways, parks, storm runoff sumps etc). In recent years have seen farmers who are planting mixed variety flowers along edges of crops. More bees is good for crops.

      • I believe there is some very recent studies at the University of Texas indicating an harmful impact on the gut microbial population in bees from some pesticides. Very early work and not yet definitive.

    • HotScot has it right as follow-up work has shown.
      But directly to your point of “extreme low concentration”, where do you draw the line?
      Not a rhetorical question, actually. With Mass Spectrometry and other exquisitely sensitive analytical techniques now routinely available, the issue looms large.
      We can now find, as they say, “anything in anything”.
      Do we draw the line at the ppb (parts per billion) level?
      How about the ppt (parts per trillion) level. Or the ppq (parts per quadrillion) level.
      These are levels orders of magnitude below any plausible biological activity, yet people can always claim “traces were found”. In my opinion, ultra low-level analysis is being abused just as much as unfounded claims of new, endangered species.

      This actually happened to me:
      Working late with a mass spectrometer. I was writing software to do the mass calibration, for instrument fine tuning. I needed a test solution to provide a few elements to look at, and a few elements that would be known not to be present. So I simply gor some ordinary tap water and ran that. Fe, Cu, and a few others, all is well. Then I slewed upscale for a blank for comparison.
      M/Z=238, Peak(!), drat, Uranium.
      M/Z=235, Peak, Uranium, again.
      OK, so the water filtered through some granite, and picked up some Uranium on its way to the water well.
      M/Z=239, Peak, Plutonium. Left over from above-ground nuclear testing in the 1950s.
      M/Z=245, Clear, finally.

      I leave it to you to guess the reaction of the local community if they had found out that there was Plutonium in their water supply.

  3. What goes around, comes around. The exact same “endangered species” and “sensitive habitats” arguments can be used to block designations of lands (both public and private) for development and use for solar farms, wind turbine farms, and hydropumped energy storage dams.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword.

    • Don’t need to use “endangered species” and “sensitive habitats” claims to argue against industrial wind. The fact that industrial wind factories provide no firm capacity while covering miles and miles of land area make them not only an environmental and civil disaster, but a total waste of taxpayer and ratepayer money.

      • Tim Flannery (well known climate activist in Australia) argues that it is wrong to oppose wind farms on environmental or endangered species grounds, because wind farms are so desirable that they should be given special exemptions.
        https://www.theage.com.au/national/let-wind-farms-pay-to-help-endangered-species-they-hurt-20060626-ge2laj.html
        Curiously, he argues: “If further wind developments are blocked on the same grounds — that a single individual of an endangered species may die — the decision may affect the development of Australia’s energy infrastructure. It may, for example, lead to the development of more coal-fired power plants.“. So here we have the argument that wind farms, which are a threat to endangered species, should not be blocked because if they are then it could lead to development of more coal-fired power plants, which are not a threat to endangered species. In other words, he is arguing that endangered species protection should apply only to developments he doesn’t like, and not to developments that he does like.
        That’s hypocrisy.

          • Flannery is well known as a fool and hypocrite here in Australia and his predications are as accurate as the IPCCs are. He is a palenotologist, not a climate scientist. Meanwhile here in Canberra the endangered Golden Sun moth and Legless Lizards have a limited range that seems to move to any development area that the greenie parasites are opposed to. Perhaps they are being planted?

    • I agree that should be done. Don’t think for a moment however that leftwing judges will be embarrassed by throwing out cases that would block or delay bird whackers as supposedly being frivolous lawsuits, while simultaneously upholding actual frivolous lawsuits to “protect” rusty patch bumblebees or whatnot.

    • Not really, as the wind farms have an exemption for the killing of protected birds, including eagles.

  4. Our freedoms are allusions. This is all part of the bureaucracy, raping and running off with individual liberties, in pursuit of governance. They grab more and more power each and every administration.

    While the media has us arguing with ourselves about the politicians who come and go the Bureaucrats are working 24/7 in the background to gain totalitarian control of our lives.

    The Swamp fights back against any effort to curtail its power grab and in the swamp it is hard to tell where the influence of the elite wealth holder leaves off and the intoxication for more power takes over for these swamp creatures.

    One thing is certain the environmental movement has always been about consolitdating power to a few and the IPCC was created to help the wealth holders, who own the government, wield power.

    • Allusion and Illusion
      quoting M-W:
      “Allusion and illusion may share some portion of their ancestry (both words come in part from the Latin word ludere, meaning “to play”), and sound quite similar, but they are distinct words with very different meanings. An allusion is an indirect reference, whereas an illusion is something that is unreal or incorrect. Each of the nouns has a related verb form: allude “to refer indirectly to,” and illude (not a very common word), which may mean “to delude or deceive” or “to subject to an illusion.””
      https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allusion

    • Bill Powers

      I have been talking online to a British guy recently who has lived in Russia since around 1991 (3 years after the wall fell?).

      He lives in a city of about 1m inhabitants called Ufa. It’s a modern city with gas and oil producing facilities, universities (plural) and is a technology centre.

      He assures me income tax there is 13%. His 17th floor luxury, 3 bedroom flat in the city centre cost him around £70k, in any UK city you could probably ask 3 times that. In London it might cost around £1m, or perhaps three times that.

      Healthcare is free other than medication. Roads are modern and cars considerably cheaper than anywhere else on the Russian/European continent.

      Crime in the city is virtually unheard of and there hasn’t been a religious dispute in over 400 years, despite the place being home to Christianity, Islam and a number of other religions.

      He says there is more respect for Capitalism there than there is anywhere else in the world he has been to.

      Strange. I often wonder if we’re barking up the wrong tree.

  5. The loss of a single species is not a tragedy. Millions of species have gone extinct, independently from human influence, and that will continue forever. The notion that we must protect every species, whatever the cost, is insane, not unlike the notion that we can and must control global climate.

  6. I’m fairly certain you guys will all enjoy this short essay from Matt Ridley. I have posted a short excerpt to whet your appetite.

    …….Newspapers, politicians and pressure groups have been moving smoothly for decades from one forecast apocalypse to another (nuclear power, acid rain, the ozone layer, mad cow disease, nanotechnology, genetically modified crops, the millennium bug…) without waiting to be proved right or wrong.

    Increasingly, in a crowded market for alarm, it becomes necessary to make the scares up……….

    http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/a-surge-in-pseudoscience/

    Enjoy.

  7. Decisions made by people that never leave their computers and never venture into nature. The rarest commodity in today’s world is the truth.

  8. One of the all-time greats is the case of the Snail Darter. This is a small fresh water fish that was used to great effect.
    The Story:
    The Tennessee Valley Authority was planning a combined dam and reservoir project with hydro power produces at the dam site. As envisioned, to safeguard the watershed, the surrounding areas were set to become protected forest and parkland. The lake area would also provide numerous water and camping recreational opportunities. This is all fairly typical for such projects in this general region of the country. Nothing new at all.

    The environmentalists went wild in fury, anyway. They seized upon this little fish as the way to derail the whole project. The claims made are by now the usual litany of horrors.
    The fish is unique.
    The fish is indigenous, existing nowhere else in the world.
    The fish has irreplaceable genetics.
    The fish is a new species, previously unrecognized.
    The fish is endangered, Endangered, ENDANGERED!

    This all started way back in the Carter administration.
    Obviously, things went straight to court. There we have been treated to the spectacle of wildlife experts, geneticists, and biologists of every stripe solemnly intoning how precious and unique this fish is.
    The case dragged on for 40 years.

    Science lurches forward:
    In time, genetic analysis became broadly available.
    A full comprehensive gene sequencing revealed that the much vaunted Snail Darter was nothing more, and nothing less than the common lake minnow. Absolutely nothing special about it or its’ genes.
    Nonetheless, the fish was used to hold up the reservoir project for 4 decades. I think, largely, because the courts allowed it.

    The snail Darter became a model for the use of the Delta Smelt in California to shut down agriculture in the Central Valley by shutting down water delivery to the farms.

    • Do you know how much CO2 that hydropower would have replaced? Weird how that didn’t matter then when they were killing hydropower, right after they killed nuclear power. It’s almost like CO2 is today’s scapegoat. Don’t let them get away with “but we didn’t know about CO2 then” lie. What about sulphur dioxide, mercury and all of the other stuff that is REMOVED from emissions today? At the time that hydropower could have immediately replaced that, and they didn’t care. Not a bit.

  9. I do think we should endeavour to protect endangered species but wouldn’t working with the landowners and convincing them to bo use environmentally friendly policies be better than forcing them to do it.

    • Yes, jireland1992, it would. We saw an example of that in Australia some years ago with Rick Farley of the National Farmer’s Federation, and Philip Toyne of the Australian Conservation Foundation. They could have chosen to resolve their differences using pistols at dawn, but instead they got together and worked out a win-win collaboration.

  10. That discussion reminds on “annie proulx wyoming house”

    where she has to learn:

    If you want to protect a species you have to go out YOURSELF and save EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of that species.

    She goes out and tries it and fails and loses everything she had.

    a hard lesson.

  11. The Greens in Victoria tried the same stunt using the orange bellied parrot to stop development when Labor was in power.
    Later when wind turbine were proposed in Gippsland the conservative government used the endangered parrots migratory route as an excuse to stop the wind farm.
    Guess who squealed like stuck pigs?

    • We can all thank the Gippsland Conservatives for the Ultimate Weapon ™ against Green New Deal idiocy. Other useful anti-GND weapons include the laws of economics, and physics.

  12. I have seen frogs killed by human actions, once a bunch probably from a carrier of a mosquito pesticide back in the DDT days. The problems with so many of these is separating out natural causes. Populations fluctuate, sometimes we understand causes, often not. If you look at a lot of reasons given, they are often very general. Mortalities, although with complicating factors, usually seem traceable, but not necessarily easy to prove. Life is certainly not fragile to have survived what it did long before humans, but that’s not an excuse to do dumb things. In dry country where I have lived masses of frogs came out when it really rains. They know where to hide and will not be found in computer simulations.

    Whooping cranes are so far a success story and migrate higher than the turbines, but they are getting very close together and may be getting spoiled, the cranes that is. Bumblebees are nasty critters and not usually tolerated.

    The possibility that government could take land based on a hypothetical is more than rather chilling.

  13. As they noted, it is all because of “urban areas”!!
    Let’s tear down all urban area, esp in Calif!
    …and anyone “displaced” can just move to China!

  14. So, let’s see….
    the problem is more development leading to loss of habitat and the increased use of monoculture in agriculture. Surely the solution wouldn’t be plots of land left fallow, hither and yon, to allow natural weeds and shrubs to flower, and in doing so provide food and habitat. And it doesn’t take much space or effort. Try it in your yard. Take one garden plot and let it go fallow. Observe…bees, wasps, flies; pollinators of all stripes. No need for government to force people to do anything.

  15. “multiple diseases that spread from domesticated honeybees to wild bees”

    Mr Driessen – I think you have this slightly wrong. Nosema bombi is a disease of Bombus (bumblebees), not honeybees (they have their own Nosemas). North American bees may be suffering from N. bombi strains introduced from European bumblebees, but the data is weak. The sudden and rapid decline in the Rusty Patch Bumblebee does look like an epizootic (other Bombus species exhibited no similar sudden decline), but as you note habitat loss is the major problem for all native bees. A little less monoculture would probably go a long way towards bee conservation. Planting appropriate flowers and leaving areas for nesting is something anyone with a yard could do to help native bees. Setting aside unknown ‘critical habitat’, not so much.

  16. So, whenever a Green New Deal Massive Infrastructure ™ project makes an appearance on the environmental impact study books, we are duty-bound to raise awareness about all of the endangered species that just moved to that parcel of land last year!

    There’s no law against weaponizing idiocy and shooting it right back at political initiatives you don’t care for.

    • for example – while large areas are carefully examined for signs of rusty patched bumblebees.

      Examined? Couldn’t they just bring the critters with them and let them loose?

  17. Will someone please ask the same Progressives behind these land grabs how they reconcile their “open borders” policy of inviting tens or hundreds of millions of people into our country with their desire to preserve habitat? Nothing is going to destroy more wildlife habitat more than the millions of new homes, businesses, and other infrastructure we’re going to have to build to support the masses of people they are inviting in.

    Or do they just assume that they’ll be crammed into ghettos?

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