Saturday, September 27, 2008

Leave the bears out of it!

While McCain and Obama were sparring over the economy yesterday evening, McCain brought up the "millions" of dollars spent on "bear DNA" as an example of wasteful government spending. “I don’t know if that was a criminal issue or a paternal issue,” McCain joked lamely. And since it is unlikely that many people watching know much about why this money is being spent, it probably went over as a good example of taxpayer money going for silly projects. But believe it or not, sometimes there are good reasons for spending money in this way, despite McCain's deliberate and cynical appeal to the ignorance of his audience.

Earlier this year, Scientific American ran a piece explaining the grizzly bear project, which readers would do well to consult and then look for other areas to save taxpayer money--for example the $100 billion/year war in Iraq. A few excerpts from the SciAm article:

In fact, Congress over the past five years has forked over a total of $4.8 million to study the genetic material of Montana's grizzly bears, according to Katherine Kendall, a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Kendall heads the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project, which is aimed at obtaining the first accurate population estimate of grizzlies living in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem—eight million acres of land in northwestern Montana that encompasses Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

"This is not pork barrel at all," says Richard Mace, a research biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP). "We have a federal law called the Endangered Species Act and [under this law] the federal government is supposed to help identify and conserve threatened species."

The grizzly has been listed as a threatened species since 1975 and scientists say that it is essential to get a handle on the population to preserve it. But, according to Kendall, until the feds decided to invest in this grizzly bear DNA study, researchers lacked the funds to conduct research at the scale necessary to get a reliable measure.

Read the rest for more details. And you can find more important information here and here.

And then let's start hunting for pork, not bears.

"Let's suspend the whole election." Good news, Jon Swift is back blogging again, and he's as funny as ever. Oh, there he goes again!

Bail out, Palin, now! Liberals and conservatives agree.

And now more from Sarah herself:

Oh, and this from that other Sarah:

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.


GM Roper said...

I could bearly stand to read this because of the spending. ;-)

You bearly make out good reasons for spending this money, but not necessarily for continuing the practice of (b)earmarks. If a project is worth funding, isn't it worth being in the appropriations bill as opposed to an "afterthought?"

Michael Balter said...

You're absolutely right, GM, and after Obama is elected the nation will finally be able to come out of hibernation, get its bearings, and bear down on the real problems of the day.

Jeff Meredith said...

Heard about the Great Schlep website, but I never saw Sarah's video for it until tonight. Absolute gold ...

Tony M. said...

Good post.