The State of Indiana is close to securing 7100 acres in Greene County (immediately west of Monroe County, where Bloomington is located) with the intent of turning it into a swamp … excuse me, a “wetland”. This idea has been kicking around for years, based perhaps on the fact that the land in question was a swamp that was drained in the late 19th century to be used as farmland.
There was a big push in 1996-1997 to get the feds to take over that was resisted by 8th District U.S. Representative John Hostettler on the grounds that the feds had no authority to do this. Hostettler was correct but that didn’t prevent local Herald-Times columnist Mike Leonard from calling Hostettler a “dim bulb” (paid subscription required) for entertaining the idea that there is such a thing as enumerated powers or that the Commerce Clause is not infinitely elastic. Though I was Hostetter’s Libertarian opponent in 1996 (and again in 1998), I vigorously defended him against the “dim bulb” charge.
Over the years the groups – principally an unholy alliance of eco-fascists and duck hunters – committed to using government to make the property a swamp have been unremitting. The eco-fascist involvement is to be expected. If the ancestors of Europeans did anything that changed the native environment in North America – such as draining a swamp – it is always considered a desecration. Eco-fascists are strangely silent when it comes to the profound environmental changes wrought by the aboriginals – the folks whose ancestors came to North America via the Bering land bridge. The aboriginals were “super predators”: vastly more efficient killing machines than any animal the native life had encountered. There is strong evidence that when humans showed up they proceeded to exterminate the megafauna, starting with the mammoth, which was an apex animal in the existing ecosystem. The list of contemporaneous extinctions with the appearance of humans is extensive (and may include Titanus Walleri, a close relative of the “Terror Bird” that was distinctive in having “arms” for manipulating prey, just like the long-extinct velociraptor).
I have friends among the duck hunters and their involvement in the Goose Pond affair is puzzling. They are generally conservative politically yet they abandoned principle in order to obtain public funding for their hobby. Hypocrisy aside, cozying up to the eco-fascists is remarkably short-sighted. The eco-fascists will turn on the duck hunters at their first opportunity: hunting is evil; guns are evil. The duck hunters, by making common cause with their mortal enemies, will eventually learn that when you dance with the devil, the devil leads.
The feds have already put money into the project (by purchasing an easement) so any concerns about federalism are now moot. However, if the state is going to move forward, it is fair to ask what sort of Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been filed. I’ve been checking around (in an admitted desultory fashion) and haven’t found anything of consequence. As far as federal law is concerned there is a presumption that creating a swamp is desirable. Never mind that there was a time when draining a “malarial swamp” (such as the land on which Washington, D.C. is built) was considered a good thing. Nor are malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases problems of no consequence today. The evidence I’ve found thus far is that vector-borne diseases are given, at most, perfunctory consideration. The main concern seems to be with having to use pesticides in extremis.
Added to the problems with naturally occurring mosquito-borne diseases associated with swamps is the fact that there is a small but finite probability that a terrorist attack could utilize vector-borne diseases. Weaponizing a vector-borne disease is old technology (see Preemptive war against Iran) that was perfected by the Japanese during WW II. Even with the technological advances over the past 60 years, it is probably the case that only state-sponsored terrorists would have the resources to produce such weapons. Still, it seems to me that if current environmental law doesn’t consider the possibility that existing and proposed swamps could be used for biological warfare, it is a serious omission.
With respect to Goose Pond there are two questions:
- has the state done the requisite EIS for this project before actually spending the money?
- do the federal environmental regs adequately address the health risks of creating new breeding grounds for mosquitoes?
Swamp note: For some time, I’ve thought that someone should create an “Eco-fascist to English dictionary”. As this post indicates, one entry would be “wetland” = swamp. Other possibilities I’ve considered include “environmentally sensitive” = undeveloped; “sustainable” = backward, primitive; “precautionary principle” = institutionalized Luddism; and so on. Suggestions are welcome.