Congressional hearings were held this week before the House Natural Resources Committee at the bequest of Rep. Doc Hastings, the committee chair.They concerned not just the sagebrush bladderpod controversey in Franklin County, but were also to call attention to the numerous closed-door rulings made by the EPA over allegedly endangered species.

The EPA makes many of the final rulings, as well as the Department of Fish and Wildlife, but the agencies appear to be heavily lobbied by environmental groups that sue the federal and state governments to have animals and plants declared endangered.

That was the case in the bladderpod issue. An independent study showed the plant is found in numerous other areas besides the White Bluffs region, therefore it's not endangered.

A telling remark was made by Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe during his testimony. He defended the government's 2011 settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity over the bladderpod by saying it that stipulated large Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) be set aside for the plant. These ESAs would have taken farmland away from several Franklin County farmers.

Ashe said it was easier and far more cost effective to settle than to waste taxpayer money fighting losing battles with such environmental groups across the country.

Trying to get a clear picture of who these groups are is like trying to pull Bermuda grass from your yard. You may get the top inch or three, only to find the roots go down a foot or more.

There are literally dozens of these groups across the country; they go by names like Earth Justice, Union of Concerned Scientists and National Resources Defense Council.

We've seen a few of them impact us locally, like the Hanford Education Action League (HEAL) and the Physicians for Social Responsibility. These were groups that tried to influence politics at Hanford. Often, these groups don't have anyone with any experience in the areas where they are active.

The Center for Biological Diversity claims to have some 220,000 members in its non-profit organization. It's annual budget is over $13 million with assets over $10 million. Like many similar organizations, their agenda is to protect what they claim are endangered species, such as the bladderpod. They're not always completely wrong, but often throw their weight behind sketchy or debatable data, without concrete proof.



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