White House highlights Desert Tortoise website as ‘government waste’

Obama willing to waste billions of dollars to destroy the natural environment, less willing to spend a pittance to conserve it

In a recent email from Vice President Joe Biden, the White House chose, among the umpteen thousand examples of government waste, a federally funded Desert Tortoise website as its whipping-boy to highlight what it considers wasteful government spending in its “Campaign to Cut Waste”.

There’s a New Sheriff in Town – The White House Blog

I bet you didn’t know that your tax dollars pay for a website dedicated to the Desert Tortoise. I’m sure it’s a wonderful species, but we can’t afford to have a standalone site devoted to every member of the animal kingdom. It’s just one of hundreds of government websites that should be consolidated or eliminated.

This kind of waste is just unacceptable. Particularly at a time when we’re facing tough decisions about reducing our deficit, it’s a no-brainer to stop spending taxpayer dollars on things that benefit nobody.

I found this via a post on Chris Clarke’s Coyote CrossingA note for future historians if Obama loses in 2012 – and must say I couldn’t agree more:

It’s a small stupid thing, but it just reinforces the fundamental dishonesty of this administration. This is the website he’s talking about. It’s a low-budget website. The money involved in putting it together has already been spent. The only reason to get rid of it is that it works to promote appreciation for an endangered species that the Administration has decided stands in the way of its policies being enacted.

When the White House uses it’s staff time and outreach dollars to in effect steal its former political opponents anti-endangered species stump-speech talking point highlighting money spent on conserving endangered species as wasteful – something is very wrong.

What’s more, the tiny website the White House is talking about was put together under Gale Norton’s watch with the Bush Administration, casting doubt on the recent LA Times editorial‘s hesitation to take the gloves off in comparing Obama to Bush:

It’s probably going too far to say that former president and onetime oilman George W. Bush was a better conservationist than President Obama. But they’re not as far apart as most people think.

What’s particularly ludicrous about the direction the White House is taking is that there are real waste’s of government taking place – wasteful spending that destroys and diminishes the environmental heritage our kids are entitled to.

Consider Welfare Ranching:

Assessing the Full Cost of the Federal Grazing Program

Hess and Wald (1995) estimated $500 million per year for the full net cost to the Treasury of the federal grazing program including direct and indirect costs. Jacobs (1991) estimated that the full cost to taxpayers from all federal, state and local government programs approached $1 billion annually. Considering the many federal and non-federal indirect costs and other intangible ecological and social costs, the full cost to the public of the federal grazing program is most likely to lie in the range of these earlier estimates of $500 million to $1 billion.

Despite these remarkable shortfalls in receipts received for grazing permits versus federal dollars expended on the grazing program and associated activities made necessary to administer it, the Obama Administration recently refused to reform the public lands grazing fee:

Conservation organizations submitted a petition in 2005, asking the government to address the grazing fee formula and adjust the fee in order to cover the costs of the federal grazing program, which costs taxpayers at least $115 million [direct] dollars annually according to a Government Accountability Office report. Conservationists contend that Americans lose even more in compromised wildlife habitat, water quality, scenic views, and native vegetation.

“Campaign to Cut Waste” ?

This administration’s priorities on cutting waste are way off the mark.  There is ample opportunity to cut hundreds of millions in subsidizes to large corporate livestock production entities – just by charging closer to market value for the public resources leased to private parties.

Instead, this Administration is content to cut or consolidate a modest website of which in all likelihood more federal dollars were spent preparing and publicizing Vice President Joe Biden’s criticism than it took to development the site itself.

– – – – – –

Update 6/14 by Ralph Maughan.

So it turns out the Desert Tortoise web site costs about $125 a year. As Chris Clarke at Coyote Crossing writes, “BrightSource, the developer of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, has received (last I checked) $600 million in direct grants from the federal government, and $1.3 billion in loan guarantees. That’s $1,900,000,000 taxpayers’ money for a project that will denude 4,000 acres of old-growth desert, kill between 400 and 1,000 tortoises, and provide electrical power for maybe two decades.”

If a project has to be subsidized, they are saying the market would not provide the capital to have it built.





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  1. JimT Avatar

    Unbelievable that this kind of crap is coming from Obama White House…It is like there is a race is DC to find the least important things in these crazy economic times, blame them for the problems and then stand there and preen like a damned peacock in front of the cameras, saying “Didn’t we do good here, eh”…

  2. Daniel Berg Avatar
    Daniel Berg

    You have to have a sense of humor about government waste or you would risk becoming bitter.

    How much money do we throw around in timber subsidies, bailouts to banks, agriculture (ethanol, etc.), misguided green energy initiatives, unecessarily low tax breaks for the rich in various forms, or wasteful construction projects?

    The list goes on and on, and we’re talking billions upon billions. That doesn’t even get into Medicare and Medicaid and the fact that as much as 15-20% of the disbursements are fraud-related.

    But let the blubbering eunuch Biden pick something that his handlers feel is politically safe, no matter how absurdly inexpensive it is in relation to most other government expenditures.

    It probably cost me more as a taxpayer to have some fellow locate the website, identify it as a form of waste, present it as a form of waste in a meeting, then have a group of individuals work to incorporate it into a Biden speech on waste than it did to actually create the ******* website.

    1. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      In public accounting, when auditing financial statements, you have a thing called materiality. It’s a dollar amount that is determined based on the size of the company and the risk for misstatement. If you find an issue that falls beneath the materiality threshold, you don’t even waste your time looking at it.

      It’s a waste of your time, it’s an immaterial risk to the company, and it’s a waste of their money to have to pay you to research it. Apparently the government is beholden to no such common-sense standard.

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan

        Daniel Berg,

        Thanks for that word, “materiality.” I know the concept, but I didn’t know what it was called.

        Now I can use it

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    This reminds me of John McCain’s long campaign to complain about the study of the DNA of Montana’s grizzly bears. That was to show how he would balance the budget by eliminating such waste.

    We had no choice in the last election. We just thought we did.

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar

      yeah – reminded me of that too – i linked to that McCain post in this one.

      What a sad state of political affairs

  4. Chris Clarke Avatar

    If you click through to the Obama video, he shows three other websites as examples of “wasteful” and “stupid” government spending. One is for the Fiddlin’ Foresters, arguably a silly site promoting a Forest Ranger folk band, but the FFs’ mission was promoting public service and conservation through music. The other two were for the Invasive Species Council and the International Polar Year.

    In other words, all the examples of wasteful or stupid websites Obama trotted out were environmental education and environmental science sites.

    But I’m sure that was a coincidence. Really.

    1. Maska Avatar

      It is as if the Administration is deliberately seeking ways to poke a sharp stick in the eyes of people who care about the planet and its non-human inhabitants.

    2. JimT Avatar

      So, did the Army sponsoring a NASCAR racing car make the list as well? Doubt it..that is essential to the country’s wellbeing…

  5. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    I just unsubscribed from Obama’s re-election campaign e-mail list, citing as my reason his unwillingness to support western environmental issues, including wildlife, clean water and real sustainable energy sources.

    If enough of his 2008 supporters follow suit, perhaps it will get his campaign’s attention.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Debra K.

      How do you do it? I just sent him a furious webmail post.

      1. Debra K Avatar
        Debra K

        Ralph, go to this link: http://www.barackobama.com/unsubscribe.

        You can leave a detailed message as to why you’re unsubscribing. And I did.

  6. Mike Avatar

    Pathetic. I’m embarrassed I voted for these idiots.

  7. Phil Avatar

    I believe the biologists and scientists would tend to disagree with the White House on this one (and many other issues). Actually, I am only one person, but I believe many actions by the White House have caused severe government wastes, so I would not credit them in much of what they say.

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar

      check Chris’s link out

      it’s unbelievable …

  8. PointsWest Avatar

    I think the Obama Administration has to “look” like they’re doing something to cut government spending. It is all for show. It is like some of the concessions he has made towards oil companies. Obama cannot do a thing to drop the price of oil. The US cannot drop the price of oil. It is a world market now being driven largly by demand in Asia and I’ve heard that even if we open up all offshore drilling, the price per gallon of gasoline would not drop more than a few cents. But Obama has to LOOK like he’s doing something about the price of oil to get reelected.

    Having said that, I do believe Obama’s base is Blacks and Lantinos and neither group, in general, is as concerned about wildlife and environmental issues as are Anglos.

    Many blacks are afraid of the Yellowstone area and other areas of the interior West that supports wildlife…much like whites are afraid of South Central LA. They fear hostile racist rednecks in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. They fear they are not welcome and might be attached at the slightest conflict. You won’t often hear it from blacks because it is not politically correct for them to talk about racists but I have had several black friends and associates and I whenever I ask if they’ve been to Yellowstone they have not and make excuses of why they’ve never been. I soon realized that they fear the place and places like it and are afraid to go. There are many places blacks fear going. Consequently, blacks do not have all the warm family memories of fishing trips or of summer vacations in Yellowstone or Glacier where they saw six moose and two grizzlies.

  9. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Re: NASCAR: If politicians would only start wearing the logos of their corporate buddies, just like racers do, then Americans would better know who their corporate sponsors are.

  10. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Addendum: Just as far as the U.S. Air Force alone is concerned, the examples of “waste” are easy to spot. I have not heard the VEEP, for example, complain about the cost of having the Thunderbirds air show team perform fly overs for things like the Super Bowl, etc. Or how about the U.S. Postal Service paying for prime time tee vee ads at the same point in time it complains (very loudly) that it is near bankruptcy.

    1. WM Avatar

      I am wondering how the Postal Service (near bankruptcy …as the internet takes more of their business…. and unless they raise rates and cut back service to 5 days), will fare in staffing without all those heavy Federal Registers to deliver week after week. I would guess, but don’t know for sure whether, the federal government gets billed for Postal services used, just like a private party. And on the other end of the Federal Register, how much solid waste and recycling of newsprint does that take? There are going to be some unhappy private waste haulers across the entire country.

      Second, anyone who has dealt with Medicare will understand how much paper waste there is with boiler plate language on every submittal, and claim review. They kill and process alot of trees just to do that paperwork, and of course, that stuff goes thru the mail too, and must be disposed.


      What about the National Christmas tree? Selection process (I think they put bureaucrats on an airplane, put them up for a night or two in order to pick out the tree and make sure it meets standards), hauling it to DC, setting it up, trimming, lighting and eventually disposing of it. Will that get the axe (pun intended)? ….probably not.

  11. Rusty Avatar

    Joe Biden should be able to recognize a waste of government money, I mean he does look in the mirror, doesn’t he?

  12. Vic Avatar

    I have $250 to donate to pay for the website for the next 2 years

  13. somsai Avatar

    More than the cost to maintain the web site is the cost to make it in the first place. And why make the web site when we have a huge government entity concerned only with the welfare of wildlife?

    So ya, a waste of not just money but effort. Perhaps the web site developer could better spend time picking up trash at a National Park or something for a whole lot less money.

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Brian Ertz