Black v. White? Supreme Court on Endangered Species and Clean Water

When I went in search of a news article about Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, I was dismayed to find the majority of papers picked up the Associated Press story and headline “Business prevails in environmental case.”

In six paragraphs, an intricate and complicated Supreme Court case is devolved into yet another story pitting environmentalists against developers, with developers coming out on top. And this is the wire story that is going to be in the majority of newspapers across America (if it is picked up at all).

I am an “environmentalist.” I lost. They won. Really?

Actually I think we all lose when such issues are boiled down to this simplistic equation. Ask my brother, who owns his own homebuilding company in Florida. He grew up in the same backyard, walking through the same woods, swimming at the same lake place and boogey boarding the same ocean as me. He wants those places and the wildlife we grew up with protected for his son as much as I do for my nephew. But articles like this portray us as enemies.

As I used to say back in the days when he had control of the upstairs radio…”NOT FAIR!”

Endangered species conservation is not about us “greenies” making it harder for developers do their job. It’s about Americans–no matter their occupation–taking fish and wildlife into account, as it actually benefits all of us in the long run.

What the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision boils down to is that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have to follow the Endangered Species Act when that law conflicts with other statutes (in this case the Clean Water Act). “The Endangered Species Act was designed to work in harmony with other federal laws,” said John Kostyack, NWF’s Director of Wildlife Conservation Campaigns. “By allowing the Bush Administration to evade the law rather than trying to harmonize it with Clean Water Act, the court has muddied the waters on which actions will continue to be subject to the Endangered Species Act’s safety net.”

Yes I am disappointed in this ruling. I feel like I lost. I feel America’s wildlife did as well. But I think my brother would also think he–as well as his son–lost if he were to see more than the basic wire-story headline in his newspaper.