NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Using Salmon To Control "Sprawl" -- And People

March 17, 1999

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday classified nine types of Pacific Northwest salmon as either endangered or threatened. Critics, however, say the move is no more than a backdoor approach to limiting "suburban sprawl."

What is certain is that the reclassification is going to cost residents of Washington state's Puget Sound area a lot of money.

  • Putting various types of salmon on the endangered species list represents the broadest application of the Endangered Species Act in the statute's 26-year history -- both in terms of geography and the effect on an area's population.
  • The move will certainly generate a host of new building restrictions and raise taxes across the Seattle area, experts warn, and restoring lands could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • While the initiative is locally popular now, analysts predict that support will dry up once environmental restrictions hit and the bills come due.
  • The restrictions could ban fertilizer use, limit residents' use of water, restrict development, and bring federal sanctions against local governments and individuals if salmon runs are not restored to specified levels.

The Seattle-Tacoma region already has a population of three million and some demographers project that will grow to four million over the next 25 years.

The listing includes eight types of salmon classified as "threatened," which means that the species are likely to become endangered in the future, and one species -- the Upper Columbia River Spring-Run Chinook -- classified as "endangered, which means it is likely to become extinct.

Source: Sam Howe Verhovek, "An Expensive Fish," New York Times, March 17, 1999.

 

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