Let’s review. The Giant Palouse Earthworm is not such a giant after all, topping out at only one foot in length, not three as according to legend. Neither does it spit at predators. Its smell reminds no one of a lily. Its range is not confined to the Palouse, having been found westward as far as the eastern slopes of the Cascades and eastward past Moscow. And, finally according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, there’s no evidence that it’s deserving of protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Other than that, everything that the environmentalists have told us about the Giant Palouse Earthworm was true, which leaves nothing.
And nothing is what the environmentalist wackos came away with on this one.
According to Robyn Thorson, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region, the worm could not be given protection because, “We have a lot of questions yet to answer about this species. If we don’t know where these animals live and we can’t determine the level and type of threats, we cannot determine whether the protection of the act is required.”
For decades it was presumed that this mythical subterranean monster worm was extinct, driven into oblivion by the agriculture that drives the Palouse economy. When it was rediscovered in the WSU environmental preserve north of Albion, the environmentalists shouted, “Eureka!”
Ever since a Tennessee Valley Authority dam construction project was halted by the discovery of a previously unknown minnow, the Snail Darter, in the Little Tennessee River back in 1973, assigning endangered species protection to obscure species has been the favorite blunt instrument of environmentalists in their relentless assault on modernization.
According to reports, when biologist David Etnier emerged from the river after discovering the little fish, he had an Archimedes moment of his own and declared that with his discovery, he had stopped construction of the Tellico dam. The reservoir behind the dam would have inundated the Snail Darter’s habitat and driven it into extinction. Thus, the recently passed Endangered Species Act required that the fish receive federal protection.
Eventually the dam was completed and the reservoir filled when Congress intervened on behalf of sanity and passed an amendment exempting the Snail Darter from the Endangered Species Act’s protection. No one noticed the Snail Darter before it was discovered and no one has suffered from its inconvenience after the dam was finished and the reservoir filled.
But even though the environmentalist wackos ultimately lost on the Snail Darter saga, the episode showed them the way to pursue their anti-capitalist, anti-modernization agenda.
The Palouse can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding because Congress is not so wise these days as it was in 1979. An equally inconsequential fish has decimated agriculture in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
The Delta Smelt, a piscatorial nuisance that I never even heard of while I lived down there has been deemed to be threatened by irrigated agriculture. The San Joaquin Valley is quite arid and without irrigation, it’s a desert. And that is the condition that it has returned to since the spigots were turned off.
A couple of decades ago, an obscure subspecies of kangaroo rat also found in the San Joaquin Valley was designated as an endangered species, halting farming in a wide swath of the valley, even though the rat actually thrived on tilled land.
Even flies, mice and weeds have been used to bring land development, agriculture and oil exploration to a halt. I’m only slightly surprised that no one has tried to protect the smallpox virus.
So using the Endangered Species Act to return farmland to its native state is nothing new to environmentalists.
In the case of the Giant Palouse Earthworm, not only is it unclear that the beast is endangered, it’s far from certain that it is agriculture that endangers it. Most, if not all, of the worms you encounter in your garden are exotic species, brought across the Atlantic by early European settlers who sought to transform North America and make it more like the continent they left. The European earthworms do a fine job of recycling decaying vegetation and enriching the soil, although this comes at a cost to other species that use that same substrate. Exotic species, especially those as prolific as the European earthworms, typically displace native species.
Just as environmentalists would like to displace normal people.