Janitor Petitions Government to Protect Eel:

A Massachusetts janitor has perhaps unintentionally underscored one of the eccentricities of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA): It provides that any individual American can call on bureaucrats in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list a species as endangered thus potentially effecting the property rights of millions.

According to an Associated Press story picked up by the Los Angeles Times, Tim Watts, described as “a graveyard-shift janitor from Middleboro†, Mass., joined with his brother, Doug, in filing a petition asking FWS to consider listing the American Eel for protection under ESA. The FWS, reports AP, now has until February 18 to determine whether there is enough evidence that the eel might be endangered to warrant a full investigation of the question. If the agency decides there is enough evidence, it will then have another 9 months to decide whether to list the creature.

If the eel is listed under ESA, human activities can be curtailed in areas deemed its “critical habitat.† And where might the “critical habitat† of this creature be? Apparently, it could potentially stretch all the way from a patch of ocean east of Bermuda to the freshwaters of Wisconsin.

“Eels spawn in just one place–the Sargasso Sea, an expanse of warm, algae-filled water in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,† says AP. “After hatching in those still waters east of Bermuda, they are carried by currents that deposit them at the mouths of rivers from South America to Greenland. They swim upstream into fresh water, making their way as far inland as Wisconsin. When they mature, the eels swim back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and end their lives. The entire journey can take seven to 30 years.†

House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R.-Calif.) told Human Events earlier this month: “Updating and improving the ESA will be my committee’s top legislative priority in the 109th Congress. This law has been much more effective in generating conflict and frivolous litigation in its 30 year history than it has in actually recovering endangered species. A tune-up for the act is long overdue.†

  • AP story in Los Angeles Times on janitor petitioning to make eel endangered