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Killing Condors for Homes, Hotels, and Golf Courses is Okay

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants exceptions for killing endangered birds

Just when you thought you've heard the most absurd and reprehensible news concerning a proposal to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List, it's just been announced that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will not prosecute the "incidental take" of California condors if they are killed by Terra-Gen Power's wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains or if the construction of the Tejon Ranch Company's "controversial 5,553-acre development of luxury homes, hotels and golf courses violates the harassment ban in the endangered species law." The incidental take permit granted to the Tejon Ranch Company, one of the largest private landowners in California, will last for 50 years. This is the first time the USFWS has allowed for the accidental take of condors. However, it likely won't be the last, as it should come as no surprise that the USFWS has invited other wind farms to apply for similar permission.

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Despite this ruling, the USFWS is celebrating this decision as a wonderful example of a successful Habitat Conservation Plan. Fish and Wildlife Director Daniel Ashe noted, "The good news is that we have an expanding population of condors, which are also expanding their range ... We have to make sure that as the condor population grows, we are learning to work with local private businesses to fit a conservation effort into the landscape." There are only 150 known free-flying condors in California. 

Of course, conservationists strongly disagree with the USFWS about harassing or killing condors as they do with the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species List.

Compassionate conservation to the rescue

Recently I've been writing about the rapidly growing international movement called Compassionate Conservation that focuses on the importance of individual animals in conservation decisions. I've also had an in-depth discussion for Forbes magazine with renowned conservationist and filmmaker Michael Tobias about this topic. Mr. Ashe notes that there is an expanding population of condors and in playing the numbers game he discounts the lives of individual animals. This is but one example of where compassionate conservation can come to the rescue of individual animals whose very lives are routinely trumped for a wide variety of purposes. 

Please contact the USFWS to protest this regrettable selling out to big business "in the name of conservation".

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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