U.S. Drought Spells Bad News for Endangered Species

It's been said that the wars of the future will be fought not for land or for oil, but for water. Well, the battle lines are already being drawn here in the United States.

The American Southeast is in the middle of an "exceptional" drought that could see some water supplies drying up in as little as three months. In response, every single one of Georgia's senators and congressmen (Democrat and Republican alike) have proposed amending the Endangered Species Act to lift species protections during times like this, saying "we're united in this crisis to put our people before sturgeon and mussels." (Georgia is particularly upset that some of its water resources are being sent south to Florida to protect endangered fish species.)

This legislation, which was introduced into the U.S. Senate and Congress this week, would allow a state like Georgia to exempt itself Endangered Species Act whenever its governor or the Secretary of the Army declares that drought conditions threaten public health and safety.

Environmentalists are, of course, aghast at this legislation and say Atlanta's wasteful water polices are to blame, not endangered species.

How serious is this? Well, a new study warns that drought conditions put an area's water-based biodiversity at risk. The research, published in the October 15 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that drought results in situations which kills off many pond species, leaving the ponds that recover all completely alike in terms of species populations. It's worth noting that this study looked at species, such as amphibians and insects, that could try to migrate to other ponds. Fish can't do that. So in a drought crisis, they're doubly screwed.

If this legislation passes, make that triply screwed.

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how odd that species suffer just like everyone else in a drought -- not!

Georgia is really saying that golf courses and water features are more important than endangered species OR drinking water for humans. As drought, and global warming induced drought, increases, this legislation could triply or even quadruply screw vulnerable plants and animals. War is ugly - whether it's for oil or water. And there are always casualties. If we choose extinction over letting lawns and golf greens brown, the casualties will be our children.

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