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March 25, 1997

FTP: Shoe on the Other Foot

by Woody Justice

[The following document pertaining to beachfront improvements on Fort Morgan Peninsula was slipped to me by a "mole" involved in the permitting process. Read and enjoy.]

TO: US Fish & Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior
FROM: Hadenuff Real Estate Development
RE: Application for incidental take-back permit

Dear Sirs:

On behalf of our principals in the "Alabama Beach Mouse Beach, Alabama" project, we appeal to your principles in granting the requested take-back of a significant portion of the beach dune ecosystem fronting on the Gulf of Mexico along Fort Morgan Peninsula in Alabama. In our opinion the take-back would not abridge the Constitutional protections against seizure of personal property for public use without just compensation (currently widely discussed as "takings" in threats by no-limits developers). We believe your findings will agree.

BACKGROUND

Establishment of the Endangered Species Act (the Act) in 1973 provided Federal protection for certain species BOTH threatened with extinction AND placed on the 'endangered or threatened' list. With very few exceptions, there have not been many listed species that actually recovered in sufficient numbers to become viable without continued protection. Indeed, many more species leave the 'endangered or threatened' list only by becoming extinct.

Even with a Democratic Administration, the situation appears to be getting much worse. Since 1982 the US Congress has allowed incidental take permits (ITPs) that were intended to indulge certain lawful human activities without undermining the design and purpose of the Act. In the first decade of this amendment, only 14 ITPs were authorized by the US Fish & Wildlife Service; USFWS has granted more than 300 additional ITPs in the last four years.

Since "extinct" means totally gone from existence forever; and since no person or thing can claim knowledge as to which species serve nonreplaceable roles in the global environment; and since humans also depend on and thrive within a naturally functioning ecosystem; and since humans alone (and no other species) are capable of affecting the balance of Nature to the detriment of other living things; then it seems fit and proper that humans bear the brunt of the inconvenience necessary to restore that balance, and no argument pertaining to "taking for public use" will be entertained.

Additionally, humans irresponsibly place more worth on the artificial value system of wealth called "money." (Reference Chief Seattle's message to the Great Fathers in Washington: "How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land?...If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?...We are part of the earth and it is part of us....Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.") With stewardship of this important ecosystem reverting to species with no agenda other than living, no further damages to real value systems, those bearing upon life and quality of life, will occur.

THE PROJECT

The "Alabama Beach Mouse Beach, Alabama" (ABMBA) project will cover approximately 10.5 miles of beachfront property on Fort Morgan Peninsula from the mean low-tide line to the paved east-west thoroughfare known as Highway 180, initially excluding existing single-family residences. The USFWS will conditionally be allowed continued claim to the parcels comprising the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, as well as previously unclaimed parcels under the same conditions; this will count toward mitigation measures instituted by our clients (see below). It will encompass all dunes, including those dune areas antecedent to any multiple-occupancy dwellings now extant. The multiple swales (or beach-ridge) formations will be left intact or allowed to naturally recover after corrective deconstruction is completed. This will provide a buffer zone of varying width to prevent further impact on human settlement areas, and will count toward mitigation measures instituted by our clients (see below).

Construction of any non-sustainable dwellings in the path of the ABMBA project will immediately cease, with all permits applying to them rescinded. Corrective deconstruction of existing completed structures will initially be limited to multiple-unit dwellings. No further sales of new or existing single-family human dwellings will be allowed, and any abandonment of the latter will be final. When they are destroyed by catastrophe, no reconstruction will be allowed. Ownership will revert to ABMBA in all of these cases. Continued ecological decline due to habitation of the remaining single-family structures will force negation of their ownership, which will revert to ABMBA. The value of expenditures committed in such projects will be considered as partial remuneration for the historical anthropogenic ecological damage to the area and region. During corrective deconstruction, all plastics, artificial fabrics, wires, and metal parts smaller than beams will be removed from the peninsula. Any fabricated-stone (concrete, cement, etc.) structures and large metal beams shall be broken and arranged in semi-parallel lines approximating the size and position of natural dune lines where those dunes have been destroyed through anthropogenic activity. (Determination of vanished primary, secondary, and scrub dunes will be by historical record and by extrapolation from present dune locations.) These foundations will be completely covered with clean sand, and sea oats and other natural vegetation will planted on them where applicable. An ongoing effort to maintain such vegetation to hold the dunes in place shall be continued for a minimum of six months. Underground structures containing material with the potential to leak shall be emptied and either filled with clean sand if inert (e.g., swimming pools), or if contaminated (e.g., fuel and petroleum tanks) removed and the holes back-filled with clean sand.

MITIGATION

Since acquisition by conservation agencies is an environmentally desirable option, our clients agree to conditionally allow inclusion into the existing Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge of those portions not already Federally acquired. The stipulation remains, however, that if not managed to the benefit of the entire coastal ecosystem, the entire 10.5 miles of beachfront area will revert to ABMBA, solely for habitation and occupation by the native species only, with no artificial designation pretending human oversight.

Beneficial management will be evidenced by the healthy coexistence of the Alabama Beach Mouse and the various sea oats species. Examples of maleficient management are (but are not restricted to) permanent artificial structures of any kind; fuel-burning recreational vehicles whether land-, air-, or waterborne; excess human pressure on the fragile natural environment outside of the few approved access routes; importation of trash; and removal of natural resources.

As mitigation for removal of unsuitable (human-occupied) structures, the storm-barrier effect of healthy intact dune systems for the inland dwellings and properties should weigh heavily. Consider, for example, the inconvenience and personal hazards and reconstruction costs caused by unalleviated damage to the main thoroughfare, Highway 180. Remaining human residents of the peninsula and nearby mainland should welcome the protection provided by Alabama Beach Mouse Beach, Alabama, as should fiscal conservat ives all over the State.

Submitted February 31, 1997
by Pristina La Playa, HSS, EF!R
for Hadenuff Real Estate Development


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