I love animals. Not just domesticated pets, all animals. That said, I think the EPA is wrong in shutting off the water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, California in order to save the delta smelt (a minnow). Last night (September 17, 2009) Fox News aired a Sean Hannity show highlighting the plight of the farmers and communities in the valley. Watching that show and seeing the plight of the people and knowing the end result for all of us in higher food prices and scarcities motivated this blog entry.

The San Joaguin Valley is the southern half of California’s Central Valley. This valley is California’s most productive agricultural area, producing 12% of our food. In their attempts to save the delta smelt, the EPA has shut off irrigation water to the valley, which has allowed the land to return to its normally arid state (made worse by the current California drought). The result is a modern “dust bowel” with farms baking in the sun while life giving water flows mere yards away from the parched fields.

Unemployment in parts of the Valley reached 41 percent in August, according to the Fresno County Employment Development Department. It is estimated that 400,000 acres of farmland lie unplanted this year with the resulting economic impacts on the Valley’s rural communities. Residents are standing in lines for hours to receive government provided food. One great irony is they are given carrots that were shipped in from China! Food from China going to our richest agricultural region is unfathomable to me.

California Governor, Arnold Schwarzeneggar has attempted to convince the EPA to lift the ban on irrigation, to no avail.

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZANEGGER: “Well I think that you know we have a terrible crisis on our hands. And this is a crisis not because of some disasters; it is a crisis that is self inflicted. This is something that the federal government is doing to us.”

While I believe the Endangered Species Act has done much good in saving animals, I do not believe it should be used in a way that puts the welfare of a minnow, a bait fish, over the well-being of humans. Over the eons of life on earth many species have come and gone. Some disappeared as a result of environmental forces before the appearance of humans on the scene. Some could not adapt to other changes, or were decimated by other life forms. Some were hunted to extinction by humans before we learned to conserve our game animals.

To put the welfare of a delta smelt over the welfare of the residents of the San Joaguin Valley and the cut back the nation’s food supply is just plain wrong. If a creature is so specialized that it cannot adapt to its changing environment, then maybe time has come for it to pass into history. It has happened to countless species and eventually may happen to ours.