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“”`411 ‘ Sea orse Inn \(,1-,Ik: I.\\ I4* I: Pets Welcome 1423 11th Street 410 . Port Aransas. Tx 78373 . S S tili -5221 $ c /Hr Rc-,cr -vdlimi-, Au ” ………..4,Adili g ” . 4091r* 14o 9r1/4 -%Imo…ft. ‘o f 1I \\ /c /I/\(‘ ; t \(1/ .11\( \\ \(‘ \(‘Ii 11/01\(111’: 1\\1\(11/\(1 \(iii \( 7/\(0 \(c 1/111\(1sph\( AFTERWORD For The Birds BY CHAR MILLER THE TIMING could not have been more ironic or instructive: No sooner had the news hit the wires in late June that the House Appropriations Committee had voted out a bill sharply cutting back the scientific research and environmental regulatory powers of the Interior Department, than word came of an extremely unusual sighting of a juvenile Aplomado falcon in the Rio Grande Valley. This species has been so endangered that more than 30 years ago the authoritative Roger Tory Peterson noted it was “very rare” to catch a glimpse of it within its south Texas habitat. Spotted atop a utility pole near the Port of Brownsville, its birth partly underwritten by federally funded conservation projects in the Interior Department, and its habitat protected under the Endangered Species Act, the young falcon is beginning to learn the tools of its survival, a sanguine example of the beneficence of the committed human stewardship. That this outreach soon might be terminated at the hands of Republican cost cutters speaks volumes: On the appropriate relationship between humanity and environment, the federal government is at odds with itself. That is not odd. The conflict between conservationism and those who declaim against it, such as lawmakers and their constituents who assert that human needs should be paramount and uncontested, finds its source in that most ancient text, Genesis. Within its first chapter, in fact, the differences emerge in terms of the status God assigns to the human population.” On the one hand, humanity was created to have dominion “over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all earth,” including over “every later the language of dominance is tempered, so we will “subdue” the land, as divine creatures we are also commanded to “replenish” the world we use. What Genesis offered, then, was an uneasy balance between dominion and conservation, control Char Miller teaches American History at Trinity University. and stewardship. In the beginning, there was tension. This strain runs through the more recent American past. Since the late nineteenth century, when the principles of conservationindeed the word itselfbecame part of our political lexicon, Americans have battled over the importance of an idea that demanded they rein in their avarice, slow down their consumption of natural resources and work to restore a cut-over ter rain. When George Bird Grinnell, influential editor of Forest & Stream, President Theodore Roosevelt, naturalist John Muir and chief forester Gifford Pinchot proposed and then enacted legislation that established a series of national forests, parks, wildlife refuges and bird sanctuaries, they did so in hopes of setting aside a portion of the American landscape from the rapacious energy that the industrial revolution had unleashed. While many of their contemporaries shared this edenic vision and its faith in the human capacity to regenerate a wounded land, others furiously opposed its application, believing that nothing should restrain the economic impulse that underlay the capitalist enterprise. If the pursuit of wealth meant that mining would take place in the Grand Canyon, or that the geothermal geysers of Yellowstone would be tapped and drained, or that ancient stands of California redwoods would fall to the axe, so be it. Such actions, after all, were consistent with the Genesisan injunction to subjugate the Earth. Subjugation is uppermost in the minds of the late 20th century legislators in the Republican-dominated Capitol. As Gingrich and his minions eradicate such watchdog agencies as the Bureau of Mines, slash the appropriations for other federal environ mental organizations, gut the Endangered Species Act, and thereby prohibit ecologists from analyzing the complexities of and planning for habitat restoration, they abort their party’s allegiance to the conservationist principles for which Teddy Roosevelt stood. For these present-day Republicans, there is nothing to be gained from the creation of an American eden. The near-decimation of the Aplomado falcon suggests otherwise. Nearly de stroyed by the indiscriminate use of pesticides and the wan ton destruction of its indige nous habitat, it is being revived by human action. This replen ishing might make it possible. one day to observe hosts of adults teaching their fledglings how to fly and hunt, and to marvel as these falcons, with the signature of cinnamon breasts, flash overhead, then wheel, dip and dive through the humid, shimmering air of the Rio Grande Valley. Should that arresting scenario come to pass, it will provide a vivid demonstration of the wisdom of humanity’s earthly stewardship, a command performance. Americans have battled over the importance of an idea that demanded they rein in their avarice, slow down their consumption of natural resources, and work to restore a cut-over terrain. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23