It's completely reasonable for rural residents and elected leaders to have concerns and questions about the proposed listing of two species of yellow-legged frog and the Yosemite toad under the Endangered Species Act.
But the public forum organized by U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock last week wasn't anything close to an evenhanded look at this issue. It was a stacked hearing part of a coordinated campaign to rile up rural Californians against the federal government and environmental protections in general.
At the public forum held in Sonora, Republican representatives Devin Nunes and McClintock sat in front of a six-person panel to pick apart a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The proposal would classify the amphibian species under the Endangered Species Act and would designate 1.8 million acres of primarily federal lands as "critical habitat," or land vital to the species' conservation.
Setting the tone for the meeting, Nunes decried the Endangered Species Act an "assault" on freedom and McClintock declared the evidence cited by the Fish and Wildlife Service "junk science," and endangered species listings as "destructive" to the environment.
With the exception of a single USFWS official, all the panelists condemned the proposal, making overblown predictions about its local impacts.
Much of the opposition to amphibian protections is being whipped up by a Siskiyou County group, Defend Rural America. The group claims on its website that the Endangered Species Act is "used to destroy more of our rights, lands, and resources than any weapons of mass destruction an external enemy could deliver."
We don't have a problem with elected leaders having points of view. But they also have a responsibility to see that accurate information is presented when they sponsor forums such as last week's in Sonora, and that people with differing points of view are allowed and encouraged to speak.