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Do they, or don’t they exist?

According to a story by Associated Press writer Andrew DeMillo on July 20:

"LITTLE ROCK, Ark — A federal judge temporarily stopped construction on a $320 million irrigation project Thursday, ruling the changes could disturb the habitat of a woodpecker that might or might not exist."

They are referring, of course, to the much-debated existence of the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought to be extinct until one was reportedly sighted in 2004 in Eastern Arkansas. The sighting has not been duplicated and the debate rages on with some ornithologists believing the bird is still extinct, while others think it lives.

It seems to me the above-mention federal judge may have just resolved the whole argument with his diabolically simple ruling. According to the AP story, U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson said that "for the purpose of the lawsuit he had to presume the woodpecker exists in that area."

Does this mean that we no longer need to have real animals? That we can just presume animals exist in a particular area?

That would certainly explain the herd of elephants I heard grazing on the fruit trees in my backyard last night.

Seriously, Judge Wilson may have set an interesting precedent. Can we assume that instead of environmentalists having to prove that an endangered animal exists in an area where developers want to build a shopping mall, that developers are now going to have to prove that the endangered animal doesn’t exist in that area?

That could be a little tricky and maybe take a few decades to prove conclusively for each species. Or longer.

I’ll bet that’s going to make someone in Washington, D.C. a little unhappy.

I can hear him screaming now.

Posted on Friday, July 21st, 2006
Under: Developers, Endangered species, Wildlife | 1 Comment »