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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.
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"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer






Monday, October 22, 2007

 

-- It's (Not) All About the Money --

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When I first read the USF&W Draft recovery Plan for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the $27 million figure for the task immediately jumped out at me as something that would grab skeptics' attention (...and I don't mean that in a positive way ;-))

Sure enough, some have seized that figure like a rottweiller grabbing a towel and, weeks later, continue shaking it back and forth. The proposed funding was for the years 2006 - 2010, so as I understand it (but feel free to correct me if you know I've got it wrong), the first $13 million, allocated for 2006- 2007, has essentially already been spent if it was going to be. What we are really talking about is the $14-or-so million scheduled for 2008 - 2010. Of course there are possible reasons why that expenditure can be criticized, although I'd quickly add that almost all science spending the Gov't. does can be criticized by SOMEone in terms of finding a better use for it SOMEwhere.

I love the space program --- they can double it as far as I'm concerned --- but as a practical matter I could never "justify" its cost given the pressing and immediate problems afflicting us, and all the PR-created-justifications regarding side-benefits that are spun off by it (according to NASA) DON'T justify it either (truth be known, I suspect the REEEEAL justification for the space program is 'national defense' and not a whole lot more). Buuuut, exploring space and the cosmos gets at the essence of what we are as humans, in both our desires and our capabilities... and that's all the justification I need.


Like the space program, the proposed in-depth study of Southeast bottomland habitat and search for the Ivory-bill will also have numerous side-benefit spin-offs for natural history study and other endangered birds potentially. But I wouldn't use that as the justification for going forward with the Plan. The simple fact is that there are claims, beliefs, hopes, and scientific controversies (even personal reputations and integrity) involved at this point that are difficult to put a monetary figure on and that need resolution... as well as obviously one of the most inspiring, charismatic birds that ever graced the American woodland, at the center of it all.

A long-deceased Senator once famously said, regarding Gov't. expenditures, 'a million dollars here, a million there, pretty soon you're talking about real money...' Yes, the Draft Plan involves 'real money,' but had we spread that $27 million over the last 60 years on this very work I don't know that anyone would've ever batted an eye, and no telling what the gains might have been. Personally, I don't have much problem spending it now.
Still, I realize it is a roll of the die: the possibility of rolling snake eyes (NO Ivorybills found) and potentially affecting future endangered species funding well into the future, far outweighs, for many, any possibility of confirming IBWOs. But the reverse is also true:
because of the way this saga has played out, just documenting the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (even if it could not be saved) would now likely be the greatest boon to both private and Federal funding for endangered species support and habitat conservation ever imaginable.

....It won't be long before the next IBWO search season, whatever form it takes, gets underway; which means it will be even less time 'til the Auburn and Cornell summaries of the previous season are released. Oh, and from the Pearl (La.) Mike Collins reports he's given up his "trusty old '78 Fairmont" and purchased an '08 Honda Civic while embarking on yet another search season. Surely, a good omen! ;-)
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