The Supreme Court decided last week to bar completion of the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River because it would wipe out a species offish known as the snail darter. Considering the uproar that followed about amending the Endangered Species Act, it might be well to listen to Michael Bean, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, who wrote an amicus brief in the case for a number of conservation organizations.
Bean, author of the only comprehensive study ever done on federal wildlife legislation, says, "Experience to date suggests that the Endangered Species Act has functioned well. Only the Tellico Dam has been thwarted, but the full range of issues in this case has not been made clear to the public. The TVA introduced the idea of the dam more than 10 years ago and planned to have a company build an industrial town on the banks of the reservoir that would be created. One company, Boeing, was interested, but then backed out because the project was not economically feasible. The principal reason for the dam evaporated, so the TVA came up with other reasons to justify the dam, such as facilitating barge traffic and offering flat-water recreation. But there are 22 other dams within a 60-mile radius of the Tellico site, and, moreover, the Little Tennessee is well worth saving because it is one of the very last free-flowing and clean rivers in the region.
"There is the question about benefits. The sole benefit that would be realized only by building the dam is $3 million worth of energy production a year, but by not building the dam and flooding the valley, the region gets $8 to $24 million in agricultural benefits each year.
"Then there is the issue of endangered species. In the minds of many, this issue pits the interest of human welfare against that of obscure creatures. If that were true, we could decide it quite easily by-putting human welfare first. But that is an erroneous characterization of the issue. It is one of balancing present quantifiable human benefits against those of the future. Examples are legion of species that do not seem of value to mankind but are. Penicillin from bread mold is one. The horseshoe crab, thought to be a pest by some, was found to have blood with unique properties that can detect certain toxins in intravenous fluids. Then there is the armadillo, which may serve as a source for a leprosy vaccine.
"The point of all this is that 'worthless' creatures are worthless only until such time as we discover a medical, scientific or other use for them, and if we are to allow their extinction when we can prevent it, we have lost for all time our ability to put them to productive use. One can find some irony in the fact that we are spending enormous amounts of money to discover evidence of life in outer space while at the same time some of us are content to watch countless numbers of species, about which we know nothing, disappear from the face of the earth."
The 1978 British Open could be the last important tournament held at St. Andrews, the spiritual home of golf. A local planning committee, the North East Fife District Council, has given a developer, British Transport, provisional permission to build a car park, swimming pool, two squash courts and about 45 chalet-style houses on the grounds of the Old Course Hotel. The property is next to the dog-legged 17th hole, which Arnold Palmer once picked as his favorite 17th. Trouble is, the land was zoned for commercial use some years back when the hotel was built, and the planning committee maintains that "if land is designated for commercial use, there are no grounds for refusal of planning permission."
Keith MacKenzie, secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, says, "The development will have a ruinous effect on the 17th hole. Players on the 17th tee will have to contend with the noise from car engines and shouts from the pool. The hotel itself is already a horrible eyesore. To put 45 chalets surrounding it is to add insult to injury. I can see the bucket and spade brigade using the 17th fairway as a shortcut to the beach. With golf balls flying everywhere, there is danger of serious injury."
Despite the planning committee's announcement that "notices would be erected to dissuade the public from crossing the course," the Royal and Ancient has appealed to higher authority, the Secretary of State for Scotland, to have the development stopped. Thus far the response has not been satisfactory. The Secretary of State's office says it could intervene only if the issue were of national or international significance. Which prompted MacKenzie to retort, "If golf at St. Andrews is not national and international, then what is?"