Amazing … these stairs are testament to how far some people will go to lay claim to beachfront property. According to this study, half of Oregon’s fish are facing extinction from human impact. I strongly suspect that a similar situation exists in every state. Dams, logging, sport fishing, and development are combining to finish the job started by the Fish and Wildlife Service when they began planting non-native fish for people to catch. Large buffers against logging and development along lakes and streams would do wonders.

Finding ways to keep people from building along streams and lakes is essential. One big problem with protecting habitat with zoning restrictions is that it angers people who lose potential market value as a result. Oregon’s voters managed to neutralize efforts by its government to protect habitat by passing Measure 37, a property law that makes government compensate land owners for any lost value resulting from zoning changes. If the government can’t cough up the money, they must waive the regulations and let the owner proceed with their development project. Because the local governments have no funds for compensation, they have been handing out waivers instead. Washington State is facing a similar problem.

You can argue that we all have to live with zoning restrictions. For example, I cannot add a third story that would capture an awesome view, greatly enhancing the value of my Seattle home. The other problem is that, given enough time and financial pressure, zoning laws always change. I may one day be allowed to add a third story. Land use ordinances tend to be relatively short-lived solutions. Preventing extinction requires long-term solutions.

One option would be to put landowners who resist on reservations, like we did the Native Americans when we took the land from them in the first place … ah, just kidding. In all seriousness, the best way to fix both of those problems (angry citizens and the ephemeral nature of zoning laws) would be to compensate landowners while at the same time creating permanent conservation easements on the areas of concern. The money would have to come from taxes of course, spreading the pain of saving the planet around, which sounds very reasonable to me. Ironically, the cost of the Iraq war for just one month could probably compensate most of these landholders.

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“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”
-Albert Einstein

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