Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
REGION 8: Regional Director Steve Thompson Responds to Misinformation About the Endangered Speices Act
California-Nevada Offices , June 1, 2008
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By Alexandra Pitts

On May 19th, 2008 The Sacramento Bee published an opinion piece by M. David Stirling entitiled "Rodents Shouldn't Trump Humans."The article appeard to be an excerpt from Stirling's recent book "Green Gone Wild: " and contained a number of inaccuracies about the Endagered Species Act and the Fish and Wildlife Service's role in implementing it, especially during natural disaters.  Below is is California and Nevada Region's Regional Director Steve Thompson's response that published in the Bee on June 1, 2008 as an alternative view.



Finding solutions to complex natural resource issues that meet the needs of people while conserving our fish and wildlife resources is a challenging business. Overcoming these challenges often begins with prevailing over myth and misinformation about species conservation as perpetuated by M. David Stirling, vice president of the Pacific Legal Foundation in the May 19th issue of the Bee.


After the 1993 California fire the allegation was that people’s homes burned down because they could not clear vegetation around them due to prohibitions on such clearing designed to protect the endangered Stephens’ kangaroo rat. Homeowners were told they could mow around their homes and some did.  The practice of disking was prohibited.


While it is always a tragedy to lose a home, the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported to Congress in June 1994 that the 1993 California fire was fanned by 80 mile an hour winds and jumped concrete barriers, highways and a canal.  GAO concluded that “on the basis of the experience and views of fire officials and other experts, the loss of homes during the 1993 California fire was not related to the prohibition of disking in areas inhabited by the Stephens kangaroo rat.”


As far as Perdido Key Beach mice and reconstruction after Hurricane Ivan are concerned, it's worth noting the hurricane struck the panhandle in 2004.  The Service didn't propose critical habitat until December 2005 and it was not finalized until October 2006.  No lawsuit was ever threatened by us.  And in the case of this natural disaster and others, homeowners were given the green light to rebuild on existing footprints no questions asked.  During disaster response and recovery emergencies, the health and safety of our citizens is our first priority and the ESA provides specific flexibility for just that.  We make every effort to ensure that fire and flood responders do not perceive a need to delay emergency responses because of endangered species issues. 


As the Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in California, I work hard to make sure our efforts both protect species and support landowners. Doing what’s right for endangered species more often means doing what’s right for people. Through experience, we’ve learned that the cause of conservation is best served by cooperative processes based on truth and fact.  Misinformation and myths are not helpful.



Steve Thompson

Steve Thompson is the Regional Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s California and Nevada region.

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov
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