Kill a Rat: Go to Jail
By Roger Canfield, originally written for California State Senator Phil Wyman
In August of 1994 a Bakersfield farmer faced a year in jail
and a $300,000 fine for a strange crime, “kill a rat, go to jail. The farmer
had the gall to plow his own field with his own tractor.
Tuang Ming-Lin and his family were Taiwanese immigrants, free Chinese, who
purchased a 720-acre farm near Bakersfield, their little piece of the American
Lin had borrowed a lot of money to buy a tractor and other farm
equipment. Once equipped, Lin got on his heavily mortgaged tractor and
disced his field on his property to grow bamboo, alfalfa and other vegetables to sell to markets that cater to Southern
California’s booming Asian population.
LIN’S life turned upside down when
federal agents claimed his tractor ran over endangered Tipton kangaroo rats.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents showed LIN a dead rat, told
him the rodent was found on his land and accused him of violating the
Endangered Species Act. LIN, 51, pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of
knowingly killing an endangered species and destroying its habitat. If
convicted, he could have been jailed for up to a year and fined $300,000.
In a similar case involving the endangered blunt-nose leopard lizard, owners of a farm in
neighboring Tulare County pleaded guiltyto the same charge. The
owners of that farm handed over part of their land to the Fish and wildlife
Service in lieu of paying a $5,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney KAREN KALIMANIR claimed the
government was simply enforcing the Endangered Species Act. ROGER GEPHART, a
Fish and wildlife Service’agent, said these cases are becoming more prevalent
because of public demand that endangered species be protected. “We’re the
caretakers and the stewards of the land, and we have no right to deny the existence of these endangered
species,” GEPHART said.
The civil suit, which is separate from the criminal complaint, was
filed against LIN’S $50,000 tractor. Agents confiscated the tractor to try to
forfeit it to the government. However, LIN still was obligated to pay the
remaining $37,000 he owed said his equipment company.
“This man is trying to create jobs,” farm manager ROBERT SANCHEZ said. “Isn’t that what the government wants?”
The California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service by their actions have once again placed a higher value on
rodents’ housing rights — habitat — than on lawful, honest human
economic activities. Both departments, in an attempt to enforce the Endangered
Species Act (ESA) , have mercilessly crushed the dreams and livelihood of a family in Bakersfield, sort
of like smashing a bug - except that the environmentalist Gestapo protects pests and vermin.
They do not smash bugs; they go after people, their property
and their habitat.
The lives of the Lin family were abruptly and further shattered when federal agents, acting in conjunction with the state Fish and
Game Department, claimed to have found on his property, prime habitat for three endangered species: the K-rat, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, and the kit fox.
Adding vicious insult to actual injury, the U.S. Attorney’s
Office originally had filed a civil suit against Mr. Lin’s tractor.
But in late June, the Department of Fish and Wildlife
rescinded their charge, and dropped the suit against the farm vehicle.
Can’t get real blood out of inanimate machinery.
Origins of ESA
Like all liberal, socialist, collectivist ideas and laws – those seeking absolute, total authority
– the Endangered Species Act was passed with all the usual claims of
warm and fuzzy good intentions.
The Congress wanted to stop thoughtless human predators who
were out shooting and trapping creatures such as the very symbol of America - THE bald eagle.
Good patriots in Congress rose to the bait and voted for the ESA.
In California, the Legislature established an ESA tax checkoff to help fund California’s ESA
Whether one agrees that the K-Rat should be on an ESA list,
the behavior of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service is
The ESA law has been twisted and mutilated in its
implementation, and it is now a prime example of how regulations can grow into
gargantuan bureaucracies that trample upon the rights and liberties of private citizens.
In terms of midnight raids on private persons and property — without due process of law — federal and state ESA police would
have little to learn from police states Americans fought against from Berlin to Baghdad.
As Mr. Lin’s attorney, Daniel Rudnick, explains, “Just
when he was ready to ‘” make
his dream come true, these people descended on him like storm troopers.”
His only tractor has been confiscated.
He has been ordered to stop cultivating his land until his
case is concluded.
While his livelihood is on hold, his creditors are knocking
on his door to keep him current on mortgage and property expenses.
The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California
Department of Fish and Game are enforcing the ESA with absolutely no regard for
the rights of individuals, in particular, private property.
Enforcement agencies have trampled upon the rights of
individuals and property owners under the banner of this onerously applied law.
The Endangered Species Act, particularly as it is being applied in California, represents a
flagrant and abominable abuse of governmental authority.
Government is stifling growth and entrepreneurship. This is
counterproductive and an affront to hard-working people, not only in California, but everywhere in the nation.
Once again the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife has
placed rodent interests above honest human livelihood.
I smell a rat so too does Tuang Ming-Lin.
On November 29th, Tuang Ming-Lin faced his accusers
before a U.S. District judge and a tractorcade rally
sponsored by the Coalition to Protect and Protect Property Rights gathered farmers, oil workers, real estate and other business and labor groups to support Lin.
It’s time for victory for property rights and freedom lest
California’s most endangered species will remain jobs for people.
(EDITOR: Fast forward by 2010 California’s Central Valley had 20% unemployment, 400,000 acres fallowed because of a manmade drought giving water to the “endangered” Delta Smelt at the expense of human farmers.)