- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 24, 2001

An environmental group recently got into the rat-protection racket. Astonishingly enough, it did so without giving to the American Trial Lawyers Association at least not directly.

The Fund for Animals announced that it is suing the Interior Department to block the department's plan to exterminate the rats on Anacapa Island, a part of the Channel Islands National Park located off the coast of Southern California.

The offending rats are neither endangered nor unique to Anacapa Island. However, they have been feasting on a native seabird long enough to threaten it with an endangered species listing. As a result, the Interior Department proposed a program of rodenticide, which was endorsed by both the local Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy. Perhaps those organizations were placated by the plan to temporarily relocate the island's resident raptors, which might have otherwise been poisoned by eating the dead rats. Park rangers would be sent to pick up rat carcasses instead.

However, the Fund for Animals worries that other critters could be harmed by the rat extermination. Michael Markarian, executive director of the Fund for Animals, told Audrey Hudson of The Washington Times that he couldn't understand why a humane way to relocate the rats couldn't be found.

Beyond the Fund for Animals' blind persistence in rat protection is the simple fact that this represents another instance in which the Interior Department must fend off a silly lawsuit, even as a threatened species that should be protected is instead being offered as an hors d'oeuvre.

As Interior Department spokesman Mark Pfeifle told Miss Hudson, "These types of pointless and just plain goofy lawsuits … force us to take scarce money and personnel away from our real priorities of protecting species and being good stewards of the land."

Even worse than that, such laughable lawsuits enrich activists and trial lawyers at the expense of taxpayers, whose hard-won income is always a threatened species while the legislature is in session. For that reason alone, the Fund for Animals ought to drop the lawsuit and get out of the rat-protection racket. Failing that, perhaps it would be more humane to move those rats to the headquarters of the Fund for Animals.

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