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ENVIRONMENTAL OBSERVER Wildlife Lacks Enforcement BY ROBERT BRYCE At Flea Market 77 in Brownsville, yOu can always count on a variety of birds. Red-lored, yellow-beaded Amazon and Mexican redhead parrots are all easily available. You can also find macaws, hawks, jays and toucans. All are illegal. Smuggled across the border and sold for between $50 and $100 each, the illegal trade in birds in South Texas is part of a booming, multi-billion-dollar global exchange in birds and animals and their skins. But in Texas, the resources to combat the smuggling and illegal trade in wildlife have not risen to meet the increased problem. “We could use another 10 men [in Texas] right now,” says Michael Spear, regional head of the U.S. Federal Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque. “We could use an additional five agents along the Texas-Mexico border,” Spear said on a recent trip to Austin. Joe Ramos understands the difficulty of fighting the smuggling problem. An agent with the law enforcement division of the Fish and Wildlife agents in Texas. Each of the agents is charged with patrolling huge areas. Ramos is the only FWS agent in South Texas. In Lubbock, agent Rob Lee is responsible for 60,000 square miles, or an area the size of Illinois. Since 1977, the Fish and Wildlife Service has increased its staff by 78 percent. But during that same period, the number of field agents working in the law enforcement division has declined by 11 percent, to 197, of which only 150 are field agents. In addition to the cut in manpower, the law enforcement division has faced serious reductions in funding. FWS officials estimate that each field agent requires $105,000 per year for salary, benefits and operational costs \(such as was appropriated for each agent, forcing a cutback in operations. Agents in Louisiana and the Southeastern U.S., for example, were restricted to their desks for several months last year because the agency could not afford to buy gasoline for their vehicles. While their funding has been cut, their responsibilities have increased. The agents enforce some of America’s most important wildlife laws, including the Lacey Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Marine Mammal Act, Eagle Act and the Endangered Species Act. Over the past 15 years, while the number of agents has declined by 11 percent, the number of species protected by the Robert Bryce is a writer based in Austin. Endangered Species Act has nearly doubled, as 1,134 rare species are now protected by federal law. The lack of manpower and funding has left huge gaps in the cases agents are able to pursue. In Florida, agents have had to ignore the problems of the manatee despite the sea cow’s dwindling population. In Nevada, toxic ponds operated by the gold mining industry have killed countless migratory birds. The two agents that cover the state haven’t been able to properly address the problem due to lack of personnel. Comparatively, there are 7,500 wildlife enforcement officers working at the state level. Most state wildlife agencies spend 25 to 35 percent of their budgets on law enforcement. In 1991, the FWS spent just 2.3 percent of its $1.1 billion budget on law enforcement. Although Texas has 449 game wardens working in the field, they cannot enforce federal game laws, which in most cases are much more stringent than the state statutes. Instead the federal regulations must be enforced by the FWS agents who are constantly scrambling to keep up with their caseload. The General Accounting Office recently completed a report on the enforcement-of federal wildlife laws. In a May 29, 1991, letter to Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan, Assistant Comptroller General, J. Dexter Peach, summarized the GAO report: “Staffing and funding shortfalls have .caused FWS’ regions to selectively enforce wildlife legislation,” he wrote. Peach’s letter stated that federal wildlife agents are “increasingly unable to respond to state requests to investigate suspected crimes.” The GAO reported that “State law enforcement directors in 10 northeastern states have advised FWS that they believe the agency has `turned its back’ on investigations of major violations involving the interstate transportation of illegally taken wildlife and plants.” The report said the FWS needs 16 additional agents immediately. Although the FWS has planned to add more agents, those plans may be put on hold again. In President Bush’s new budget, increases for natural resources and the environment totaled only 1.5 percent, an increase of $300 million, for a total allocation of $20.5 billion. \(The biggest increase in Bush’s proposal is for interest payments on the federal debt: $315.8 billion will be spent this year on interest payments, an increase Without new funding, it is doubtful the FWS will add many agents to its staff in Texas. The lack of staff not only means that smuggling along the border will continue, but that endangered species cases will be more difficult to prosecute in areas such as Austin, which hosts two endangered songbirds the black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler and seven federally protected endangered cave-dwelling insects. Jim Stinebaugh, senior resident agent at the FWS office in San Antonio, says, “I’d love to have an agent in Austin. But I need an agent in Del Rio, San Angelo and Houston.” To meet the demand, Stinebaugh is stretching his resources as far as they will go. The result says Stinebaugh, is that FWS agents end up “trying to be the cavalry with only three horses.” Maxxam, John Connally and the redwoods Just a few years ago, former Texas governor John Connally’s personal possessions were being auctioned on television. Today, as a board member of Houston-based Maxxam, Connally and Maxxam CEO Charles Hurwitz are taking part in the destruction of one of the largest remainest in the U.S. In the Oct. 7 issue of Fortune magazine, Maxxam was rated the 11th fastest growing company in the country, with an annual growth rate of 156 percent over the past three to .five years. The listing of Maxxam in Fortune reads, “aggressive and controversial redwood harvester.” In1985, Maxxam bought one of America’s ‘,gest stands of virgin redwoods when it acquired Pacific Lumber, a company that did no clearcutting and had been practicing “sustained yield,” of its forest. Hurwitz’s takeover of Pacific Lumber was fmanced by $800 million in junk bonds provided by the Wall Street firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert. Hurwitz’s broker at Drexel was none other than Michael Milken, whose dealings in junk bonds got him indicted on 98 federal counts in 1989. Seven of the 98 charges related directly to his dealings with Pacific Lumber. In Schnayerson’s article, ex-Pacific Lumber employees estimated that the remaining redwoods now owned by Maxxam will only last another 10 years or so. Connally, who helped Hurwitz in the Pacific Lumber Acquisition now works part-time for Maxxam for $250,000 a year, was asked by Schnayerson if the there was any reason to save the old-growth virgin redwoods, Connally replied, “They’re there, but nobody gets to see them, so what the hell good are they?” 16 MARCH 27, 1992