AUSTIN — To quote Ronald Reagan, “Well, there you go again . . .”
When President Obama tried to strangle West Texas oil and gas production by trying to list the dunes sagebrush lizard as endangered, I opposed the plan and took the fight all the way to the halls of Congress, testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee on June 19, 2012. We won. I described that whole episode on ABC News’ Nightline as the Obama administration’s bad case of “reptile dysfunction.”
Now this year, having failed to list the lizard, Obama is flipping Texas the bird.
The Obama administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is attempting to list the yellow-billed cuckoo as threatened. As with all these recent listing attempts — the dunes sagebrush lizard, the Lesser Prairie Chicken and now the cuckoo bird — the target is West Texas, an area vital to the energy needs of Texas and this nation.
Increasing dependence on foreign energy just to save a bird that may not actually need saving? That’s just cuckoo.
As Texas Land Commissioner, I manage 13 million acres of land dedicated by the Texas Constitution to the Permanent School Fund. Income from these lands pumps hundreds of millions of dollars a year into Texas public schools. And I’m not about to let the federal government’s environmental meddling threaten that mission unless there’s a damn good reason.
Fighting this proposed listing is important. Texas — the nation’s top producer of oil and gas — recently hit its highest ever monthly production rate, pumping out more than 2.7 million barrels of crude a day in September. Advances in hydraulic fracturing technology made this possible, putting an end to decades of declining production.
That’s domestic energy our nation needs to be free of the entanglements that come with dependence on foreign oil.
So why is this cuckoo plan even being proposed? Blame the lawyers. The truth is, the endangered species preservation process is driven more by bureaucratic lawyers settling lawsuits than biologists gathering data.
The trouble is, just like with the dunes sagebrush lizard, there’s really not sufficient data to pursue this endangered listing. At least not one backed by actual scientific data. U.S. Fish and Wildlife admits as much, conceding that within Texas, “additional portions of the range within the state still need to be defined.”
That’s bureaucrat speak for “we don’t really know where exactly this bird lives.”
While federal biologists struggle to figure out exactly where this bird you’ve never heard of lives, Obama’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is rushing to list it as “threatened.” So we have to protect it before we can find it. Kind of like passing a bill so we can learn what’s in it.
If the environmental extremists win this, the yellow-billed cuckoo will gain federal protection. As a result, substantial acreage in West Texas vital to producing oil, gas and wind and solar power for our nation will be negatively impacted. Restrictions placed on the areas that remain open will add so many regulatory costs and delays, future investments in energy development will be discouraged.
Even if this cuckoo plan fails, radical environmentalists have more plans for Texas. Other species — despite a lack of hard data to prove they are endangered — will be listed by the Obama administration should we win again.
And that, I think, is just cuckoo.
JERRY PATTERSON was re-elected to a third term as Texas Land Commissioner in 2010 and is responsible for managing state assets, investments and mineral rights worth billions of dollars on behalf of the schoolchildren of Texas. He is a retired U.S. Marine, Vietnam veteran and former state senator.