- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2001

More bad news. It appears that the ugly milkweed plant is endangered, thanks to the monarch butterfly. Those bureaucratic defenders of weeds and insects in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), have proposed regulations to outlaw monarch butterfly farms and eliminate school science projects in which monarchs are raised. It seems milkweed is the favorite food of monarch larvae. We all know what kind of a world this would be without milkweed.
There are farms where the monarchs are raised for profit. People order thousands of the little bugs to be released at weddings and parties. The USDA says that schoolchildren could still raise the butterflies but would have to kill them at the end of the experiment. Will the people for the ethical treatment of bugs stand for this? Is this really something we want to teach our children? Can the teacher explain the reasoning behind killing a monarch so that a milkweed plant might live?
The endangered plants exist in Oklahoma and Arizona. From what I have seen of Arizona, anything growing in the ground is endangered. There is enough milkweed in the rest of the country to fill the Grand Canyon. According to a monarch expert, there is no proof that monarchs feed only on the milkweed in those states. This looks like a case where bureaucrats have run out of things to do. They even want schoolchildren who raise the butterflies and release them to pay a fine of $50,000.
"How are you doing in your science class, Junior?"
"Good, Dad. I got an A and a $50,000 fine."
This is your tax dollar at work, folks. Right now, the monarch population is judged to be somewhere between 100 million and 400 million. The farm-raised population may hit 100,000. I would guess that the milkweed population is somewhere in the billions. We have far too much milkweed and far too many USDA bureaucrats.
Another agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has determined that there are only about 100 Mississippi gopher frogs left. These have been found around a single Gulf Coast pond and have been added to the endangered species list. The pond, of course, is located near a residential development. If it weren't for the construction of buildings, many endangered species would never be found until they disappeared entirely. The construction people are usually rewarded with some kind of injunction.
The adult frogs spend most of their lives underground in abandoned animal burrows, which makes you wonder how we determined there were only 100 left. Did the wildlife people line them up, or is it possible they counted the same couple of frogs over and over again? The president has asked that we go about our business as usual, but I'm not sure he had this kind of business in mind. If Mother Nature could talk, I'm sure she would ask us to please stop helping her.

Dick Boland is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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