Like the ancient symbol of the theatre, the sad mask signifying drama and the laughing mask signifying comedy, all governments represent the potential to bring sadness or happiness to all of us. These two sides of government occurred to me as I read and listened to all the news for the past week about Avian Flu.
Avian Flu is certainly being reported as possibly the most dangerous threat to human life in my lifetime. It has killed a few people so far in SE Asia. It spreads in flocks of domestic waterfowl and chickens. It has been documented in wild migratory birds in central and northern Asia. It has now been found in domestic fowl in Romania and Turkey where wild migratory birds are believed to have carried it. The words “pandemic”, “epidemic”, and “mutating to spread in humans” bring chills to the spine. Vaccine shortages and talk of military quarantine contingencies complete the reality of what at first seemed like a science fiction movie plot. Only one thing was missing.
Where are the Federal bureaucrats that administer Federal primary authority over migratory birds? Where are the wildlife “biologists” and wildlife “professors” that appear at the drop of a lawyers’ hat when there is a grant or environmental lawsuit popping up somewhere? Where are “our” State fish and wildlife agencies that are trying to “grow up” like their wildly successful Federal cousins? They are probably “doing lunch” with some environmental lobbyist or animal rights organization executive about the “opportunities” that Avian Flu may create.
Here are but a few things the Federal bureaucrats are sweeping under the covers as they think ahead about their careers and how Avian Flu may affect them. Ask yourself why the Federal agency and Department of the Interior (that “manage” Migratory Birds) are silent about:
- Is there any research on the likelihood of transmission of Avian Flu to wild North American migratory birds?
- Is it dangerous for US hunters to be handling, cleaning, or eating wild migratory birds?
- How much mixing is there of wild migratory birds from Asia and North American birds in the Aleutians? On the west coast? With birds that nest in far northern climes where E-W distances between Asia and North America are minimal? With birds that winter in central or eastern US?
- Is there any research on the potential for Avian Flu outbreaks where large concentrations of migratory birds congregate?
- Are there contingency plans for dispersing or destroying concentrations of migratory birds that are believed to be or about to be the source of an outbreak?
- Is there any research on killing and/or dispersal methodologies for emergency outbreaks? On private land? On National Wildlife Refuges?
- Have potential hotspots been identified (CA Central Valley, Central Platte in NE, Chincoteague VA and TX/LA goose areas, Rice Lake MN ringneck duck stopovers, etc.)?
- Have species or REAL concern (not all the money-driven drivel about “keystone”, “threatened”, “declining”, “invasive”, etc nonsense) been identified like snow geese, scaup, mallards, Canada geese, and others that gather for extended periods in large concentrations?
- Have areas where wild and domestic fowl intermingle or water supplies are shared, or runoff from wild birds contaminates domestic fowl areas been identified? Are there plans to minimize or eliminate such mixing? How could this be effected?
I could go on but you get the point. Why aren’t all these wildlife gurus that tell us we “need” wolves or that Indiana bats are “endangered” or that marine mammals “must be protected” or that dams must be “dismantled”, etc. informed and prepared for these deadly implications? Why aren’t the newspapers and TV commentators either interviewing them or summarizing for us what they are saying? The answer is because they are AWOL. This is tough stuff, not the warm fuzzies of “partnering” with some radicals to get more Federal money for bureaucrats and central authority over the rest of us.
I was recently on a radio program where I was asked about wolves and the simple fact that they spread many very dangerous (to humans, wildlife, livestock, and pets) diseases and parasites. The question was “doesn’t the government have to certify that wolves won’t spread disease before they introduce them? The answer is of course, NO. “Sound science” is merely a “high-falooting” term to make the public accept a government decree. Saying that “they belong” or they are “native” or they “balance the ecosystem” is merely propaganda. “Real” science and responsibility for the diseases and economic and physical harm is nowhere required or recognized. Is the government responsible for the girl killed in a sleeping bag by a protected and introduced grizzly bear”? Is the bureaucratic bunch that introduces and protects (more than you and I get in a bad neighborhood) wolves responsible for the dead pets? The dead livestock? The vanishing elk herds and elk hunting? The increased danger in rural living? Of course not, and they don’t even have to admit any of these harms or research the effects of their actions.
For instance, there is ample foreign documentation (oddly enough much of it from the same Asian breeding grounds of the wild migratory birds enabling the Avian Flu outbreak) that wolves carry many parasites that infect humans, livestock, and wildlife such as caribou. Wolves are vectors for rabies, foot and mouth, BSE (mad-cow), brucellosis (undulant fever in humans), chronic wasting disease in wildlife, neosporosis (abortions) in livestock and buffalo, and other things to be covered in a comprehensive book being written by a Mr. Will Graves as I write this. However none of this was mentioned as the wolves were forced back into the lower 48 states with money stolen by Federal bureaucrats from State Wildlife Restoration and State Sport Fish Restoration funds. This was after Congress refused to fund the wolf introductions. Those funds ($45-60M) were never restored to the State agencies. The State agencies never asked that they be replaced. Those in charge at the time went on to leadership of national animal rights organizations and Federal career moves. To this day (12 years later) the mention of wolves and disease is like the mention of the “lynx scandal” or the existence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in Arkansas: something you must doubt (that any Federal “environmental” bureaucrat would cheat) or must believe (that all the Federal money and land acquisition so far is justified for a bird that no one can substantiate exists). In the case of wolves and disease, you “must” believe all the Defenders of Wildlife and Wolf Animal Shelter propaganda that wolves are just like your dog and that they don’t harm anything and that they are (health-wise) as pure as the driven snow.
Avian Flu shortcomings and the cover-up of wolves as disease vectors bring us back to an even older governmental scam about how government action and inaction endangers us all as we are led to believe environmental/animal rights fairy tales. I speak of “resident” Canada geese.
In the 1970’s the US Fish and Wildlife Service permitted (by issuing permits) States and cities to “establish” goose flocks on public parks and other urban settings. At first it was (just like wolves, grizzlies, cougars, etc.) “reestablishing” “giant” Canada geese from days of yore but soon enough it was any Canada geese as golf courses and cities and parks and even private owners wanted the beautiful geese “around”. What we discovered (as we are with wolves, cougars, bears, etc.) was that if you clipped the wings of geese they were just like muscovy ducks, they could nest anywhere, eat anything, and get by in or near any pond or catch basin the year around. Today millions of “resident” Canada geese inhabit the northern half of the lower 48 and much of southern Canada the year around. They poop in schoolyards, shopping mall parking lots, public parks, residential and commercial lawns, golf courses, swimming beaches, campgrounds, and on and on.
Do you hear any reports of the human health threats from all of the goose poop being deposited in urban settings? (The last time I drove through Chicago I observed 8 different large goose flocks fluttering around the City.) Why, no. Not from the Federal or State bureaucrats either. Not from the University professors and not from the conservation groups or the environmental/animal rights radicals as well. The newspapers ignore it and the TV news treats it as a non-issue. Why?
Three years ago I was asked by some Nebraska farmers to tell them how much pollution wild waterfowl can deposit. They had literally millions of ducks and geese spending months in their area roosting on five or six wetlands each night and (after feeding each morning in fields) loafing in the middle of certain large picked fields. The wetlands water turns to split pea soup each fall and each spring the loafing sites in the fields were unable to grow crops because of nitrogen enrichment (from goose “you-know-what”). The Federal and State bureaucrats that wanted to buy land there and shut down irrigation were accusing the farmers of polluting the soil and water by using “too much” fertilizer.
I agreed to try and help. What I found astounded me and was more of this “two-faces” of government.
There was no research on when wild ducks and geese poop or what their poop consisted of. What effect weather and the kind of food had on their amount and frequency of pooping was also lacking. Do they poop on the fly or while roosting or while loafing or while feeding or all four? There was no research (think of 90 years of Wildlife Refuges with millions of birds on them for months at a time) on the effect of half a million birds roosting on one 50 acre pond each night or loafing for 6 hours each day in the same spot. Think of the health implications for visitors or employees on Refuges.
So I asked a noted waterfowl biologist and he told me they “knew” that it wasn’t a problem. (Just like an Oregon State Veterinarian I asked about the disease implications of wolves and he said there were “none”. When I asked him how he knew he said it was because he was a Veterinarian and “knew” such things.)
So I asked professors of domestic bird husbandry and duck farm owners about domestic duck poop. Here is what I learned. Years ago (20?, 30?) the EPA began conducting research on domestic duck poop. Their research would fill a room today. They then used their findings to obtain Federal legislation and funding for the Federal government to seize jurisdiction over all flocks of domestic ducks of 5,000 or more. Today Federal inspectors have driven out many duck farmers and raised the cost of production dramatically. The Inspectors rule with an iron fist and lined settling ponds, on site aerators, double lagoons, and threats of business permit revocation for runoff during storms are a fact of life and farmers are reluctant to be quoted for fear of angering the all powerful Federal Inspectors. How did the Federal government seize control of all flocks of domestic ducks of 5,000 or more? Simple they showed the dire consequences of duck poop.
Keep in mind the following as you consider Federal Avian Flu pronouncements, wolf benevolence ala bureaucrats and professors and the plight of urban kids playing in goose poop or Nebraska farmers “over fertilizing”.
The EPA documented the following things in domestic duck poop:
Fecal coliform bacteria
Fecal streptococcus bacteria
There are standards for all these.
The EPA documented “threats” to groundwater, surface water, soil, human health, air, wildlife, plants, and other etceteras. The Federal regulations on Feedlots are of two types: ALL EXCEPT DUCKS and DUCKS.
So you see 5,000 7-8 lb. domestic ducks are a threat to America as we know it but 2 million 6-10 lb. geese on the Platte River wetlands for months on end or 80,000 snow geese wintering at Chincoteague Refuge or 30,000 geese in Chicago parks or 12,000 geese on Minneapolis golf courses and parks are different. On the one hand (domestic ducks) the Federal government wanted a new task, more money, and more authority and they were successful by painting a dismal picture. On the other, the Federal government didn’t want to be given the tough task of getting rid of or at least reducing the “resident” Canada geese so they ignored the health implications and it worked. Like the fictionalizing of wolf disease implications, we all swallowed the bait like a crappie swallowing a minnow while the bureaucrats do a double arabesque and pirouette off stage right.
Well Avian Flu control may just be the toughest task we (wildlife managers) have ever faced. We don’t need to continue these politically-correct fairy tales and we don’t need to depend on a bunch of green animal “protectors”. If ever the times demanded hard-nosed, common sense, it is now. Continued reliance on the fairy tale spinners of the past may suddenly cost more than just our freedoms and our property. It may very well involve our very lives and the lives of those we hold most dear.
Mention this when you can to the Federal bureaucrats and their “silent” State partners. Mention this to the professors and the politicians that fund them. Mention this to “our” conservation groups that keep their members “on the reservation” while they sell them out for their own careers. Mention this to any environmental or animal rights advocates you know. Mention this to the US or UN managers speaking about how more government controls are needed. Oh yeah and if they snicker, as some will, that maybe “the environment might benefit from fewer people” or “it’s just natures’ way”: smack ‘em one for me and tell your friends that this problem of two-faced government is getting more serious every day.
If you found this worthwhile, please share it with others. Thanks. Jim Beers is a retired US Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC. He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority. He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.
Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting. You can receive future articles by sending a request with your e-mail address to: email@example.com