It is indisputable that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, but...

...nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of Plate Tectonics.

28 August, 2009

Resourceful

"You can't do that. It's not legal. It would result in damage to natural resources."

In my line of work, which involves assisting private sector clients with natural resource management issues, I hear this all the time. Some times it has merit. Many times it is a bit ludicrous the way it is being applied. Most of the time it is tossed out as way to stop someone else from doing something that you don't want done - probably because you didn't think of it first.

Most of the time it is applied to some animal or plant that has been placed on a threatened or endanged species list. For example, I am working on a $30+ Million project which was held up for several years because of a turtle which is not present at the job site and has never been spotted nearby. But the stream valley, of otherwise ordinary resource value, is considered potential migration habitat for a turtle, if one is present. Nevermind there aren't even any turtles in the two end point areas where a turtle might be migrating from and to. Even worse - in that case, no-one has even identified two such end-point destinations. And let's be real - how far does a turtle migrate?

OK - so I worked our way through that one and the project moved on. Now that you have a flavor for natural resource arguments, here's the real kicker.

A quarry which has been operating since 1860 is at the point it needs to expand. The expansion will remove a natural chanel which carries water during storms - it is a natural resource because it meets some definition of a stream (with no biota). The expansion would also remove some forested area (which has only escaped the housing development boom of the past decade because it is zoned for quarrying) which is suitable habitat for some rare form of skunk cabbage - the cabbages are NOT there. So, the quarry is told they can't expand within the limits of their approved quarry zone because it would impact natural resources.

We're finally at my point.

How is the stone being quarried not also considered a 'natural resource' as well? The rock, which occurs naturally, is a resource which is exploited for societal use (that's what a resource really is). That can be mined, crushed, spread around the state, except it can't be mined where there is a linear indentation in the rock surface where stormwater flows while it is raining - because that is a protected natural resource. And not where some passing bird might unload an undigested seed of some skunk cabbage onto the rock surface where the shade is just right - we have to protect that area in case such a bird does decide to dump right there.

So what is this thing - a natural resource. Webster defines a resource a "a natural source of wealth or revenue." That includes the high quality aggregate mined, ut not a ditch or a skunk cabbage.

Webster goes on to define it as "a nautrual feature or phenomenaon which enhances the quality of human life."  Well, the stone does just that - but not while it remains in place. The ditch and the skunk cabbage?

People have been very resourceful, exploiting this idea of natural resources to stop other people from exploiting natural resources.
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