- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2001

Columnist shows no love for endangered wolf

In his Feb. 8 Op-Ed column, "Naughty old wolf," Kenneth Smith asserts that the federal government is powerless under the Constitution's Commerce Clause to prevent the indiscriminate killing or "take" of endangered species on private land. His assertion is premised on two arguments that rightfully have been rejected by every federal court to have addressed them including, most recently, the conservative U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Mr. Smith argues, first, that the protection of endangered species and their ecosystems has no connection to economic or commercial activity and, second, that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) impermissibly intrudes on the primacy of the states in regulating wildlife.

The value of biological diversity to our nation's economic health is well-established. For example, 50 percent of the most frequently prescribed medications are derived from wild species; the commercial value of wildlife-derived medicines is estimated to be more than $15 billion per year; wildlife-related recreation in the United States generates more than $100 billion in revenues annually; the value of native pollinators to agriculture in the United States is estimated at $4.1 billion annually; and before their collapse, anadromous salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest supported a $5-billion-a-year industry. As far as the red wolf is concerned, the Dare County, N.C., tourism bureau has noted that tourism related to this species has had a significant economic impact on the local economy. Indeed, as Congress recognized when it enacted the ESA, the value of our biological heritage is "incalculable."

The protection of biological diversity never has been the sole province of the states, and the proposition that federal action in this arena is an unconstitutional infringement on states' rights is specious at best. Indeed, the federal government has a long history of involvement in wildlife conservation, including laws to protect migratory birds and marine mammals. Those laws, as well as the ESA, were enacted primarily because the problems they were intended to address, for example the exploitation and extinction of wild species, are of national and even international scope and therefore demand national and international solutions. To be sure, it is only because the states were and remain incapable of adequately addressing the loss of biological diversity that the federal government moved to enact the ESA and other wildlife protection laws.

Notwithstanding Mr. Smith's sarcasm and trivialization of federal efforts to protect the red wolf, one of the world's most endangered mammals, the issue before the Supreme Court in the red wolf case is central to our nation's ability to protect it and the vast majority of endangered species in the United States.

MICHAEL SENATORE

Legal director

Defenders of Wildlife

Washington

Overseas abortion policy has indeed been violated

Werner Fornos, president of the Population Institute, writes in his Feb. 7 letter that there is no evidence that any organization has violated the 1973 Helms amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits U.S. tax dollars from paying for abortions, in the past 28 years of its existence ("Bush denies free speech to overseas family-planning groups").

But just last fall, the General Accounting Office (GAO) informed Sen. Jesse Helms that the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) had given $700,000 to two of its affiliates in India and Uganda "for abortion" and "abortion-related activities," in violation of its agreement with the U.S. government. IPPF just happened to discover the violation on the eve of a GAO audit, and returned the funds to their proper (U.S. Agency for International Development) account.

This led Marc Thiessen, then-spokesman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to say that IPPF had been caught "red-handed" violating U.S. policy.

One wonders how many other violations are not discovered absent scheduled audits.

TERESA R. WAGNER

Analyst for Sanctity of Life Issues

Family Research Council

Washington

Correcting tax code first step to better health care

I applaud your Feb. 9 editorial "Patients bill of goods." Individuals, not companies, should own insurance policies, but the government stands in the way of this goal because it provides full pre-tax deductibility of health insurance premiums only to companies and, to a lesser extent, the self-employed.

Pre-tax deductibility should be available to all citizens and should include selected health-related expenses such as expenditures for uncovered services, deductibles and copays. This is the only form of national health insurance that can fit into our current political and economic situation. We do not need the endless spiral of expense, regulatory impositions and quality discrimination that would come with any attempt at a government single-pay or health care system.

Correcting the current inequity of tax treatment for health care would be a first step in making real progress. The next move should be to find a way, through tax credits, to compensate physicians for providing pro-bono care to the uninsured. A move to value that contribution of professional time, effort and risk would certainly open more physicians' offices to those who need care.

RUSSELL C. LIBBY, MD

President

Fairfax County Medical Society

Vienna

Legalizing drugs would be catastrophic for Third World

In his Feb. 14 Commentary column "A new agenda for Mexico and the U.S.," Carlos Fuentes is flat wrong when he states that legalization is the only solution to the drug problem. The results of legalization would be catastrophic, especially in the Third World.

In a 1990 report on drug policy, Maj. F. Andy Messing, Jr. and Bruce A. Hazlewood address the probable effects of legalization on Third World nations. Out of the many conclusions they draw, three stand out.

First, any increased revenues produced by drug sales will not automatically lead to a healthier economy. Many developing countries and businessmen lack the political maturity, unselfishness and wisdom to spend the money in ways that will effectively help their countries. In a system of what the report calls "dark-side capitalism," additional criminal mechanisms develop that negate democratic procedures. Hence, power is accumulated by the few.

Second, these countries do not have the social infrastructure needed to cope with increasing cases of addiction that will always follow legalization.

Finally, developing nations may become too dependent on drugs as a source of income, neglecting farming and manufacturing.

In Maj. Messing and Mr. Hazlewood's study, they tell us that legalization "is an experiment the United States government, the United States people, and the international community cannot afford to try."

As a popular country song puts it, "It's hard to walk backwards down the road just taken."

PAT OSWALD

Senior Research Assistant

National Defense Council Foundation

Alexandria

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