Front Porch Blog

Protect the Warbler: Endangering Bird Could Herald Humans’ Demise

Dec. 9–More than a million tiny blue birds once sang and nested in the tops of Appalachian forests. Now there may be only 500,000 cerulean warblers left.

Because they’re declining at a rate of 2 percent to 4 percent a year, it could take another century before they’re on the brink of extinction; so no sweat, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

We don’t know enough about the Endangered Species Act to say whether the federal agency erred in denying protection to the cerulean warbler.

But we’re certainly familiar with the rationale behind the decision. We see it everywhere — from the ballooning federal deficit, which is a huge tax we’re imposing on our children and grandchildren, to our energy policy, which can be summed up as “burn it while you got it,” to our heedless development of farmland and forests.

A problem — or even a disaster — that’s a couple of generations off is no problem for us. So fill ‘er up; you won’t be around when the oil runs out.

The cerulean warbler’s great misfortune is living in areas where coal mining is destroying vast stretches of forest. The destruction of forest habitat on the other end of its migratory route in South America is also a threat.

Granting the bird protected status could interfere with the coal industry’s practices by giving environmentalists a new tool for opposing mountaintop removal. That, in turn, could increase electric bills and spur conservation by making coal more expensive to mine.

While the cerulean warbler’s demise is sad, we can live without ever hearing one sing in the wild.

What we can’t live without is clean air and water, both of which, like the songbird, depend on healthy forests. Our shortsighted disrespect for nature could one day put humankind on the endangered list.

Posted on: Saturday, 9 December 2006, 03:00 CST

Editorial by: The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.





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