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"One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results."

--Milton Friedman

California likes to ban things. More precisely, the state legislature of California likes to ban things. And debate banning things. And pay for lawsuits defending banning things. From fur to private prisons, from free plastic bags at groceries to foie gras at restaurants, from puppies in pet store windows to animals in circuses, bans are a preferred way to herd the populace in the nation's most populous state. All of the things listed above are either banned in California--or state politicians are planning bans. And soon, perhaps, see ya later, alligator.

Dispatches say a new California law would ban the sale of alligator "products"--euphemism for alligator hides and meat. After a lawsuit by Louisiana, a federal judge temporarily put the law on hold until she can get the sides together in a full hearing come April. But PETA called the California law a great victory. Which tells you much about that law.

Those who pushed this ban, and maybe consider themselves environmentalists, say the law--if it's upheld--will be a victory for alligators (!) and also a victory for the natural state of things. We will stipulate that a ban on alligator hides would be an obvious victory for any particular alligators not being skint, but that's as much as we'll grant. For we read the papers.

The Los Angeles Times, which is not exactly The Wall Street Journal in its political leanings, said alligators were removed from the endangered species list during the second term of Ronald Reagan. And they've roared back. In Louisiana alone, the animals number in the millions. Sure, they were once threatened, and nearly hunted to extinction before the 1960s, but things have changed.

What's changed?

Alligator farming, for one.

From The Los Angeles Times:

"The alligator business has played a key part in bringing back the animals and is important in protecting marshes and swamps and other species that depend on wetlands, according to Louisiana's lawsuit.

"The big reptiles don't breed well in captivity, so farmers get permits to collect eggs from the big heaps of plants that alligators pile up as wetland nests. When the alligators hatched from those eggs are three to five feet long, the number that would have survived to that length in the wild must be returned to the wild, where most hatchlings get eaten if the eggs don't get eaten first."

The rest are grown like steers--although in warmer, enclosed, and smellier environments--and later skinned and butchered by farmers. In the last three decades, those who've made their living running alligator farms have contributed to the animal's comeback in Louisiana's bayous. Which is why wild gators can now be hunted commercially, and folks can watch those awful reality shows about it.

Also, we'd add, when hunting becomes profitable, so does the land that's hunted. See the piney woods of Arkansas, and the deer leases owned by timber companies but operated by hunting clubs. Or see the efforts by Ducks Unlimited all over the country. Louisiana officials say the alligator industry keeps landowners on their toes as good stewards of the environment where these gators live and thrive. And when farmers and landowners protect the marshes and bayous, whole ecosystems are improved.

Profit is a great incentive. Ask any business owner.

You wouldn't think that environmental groups would care much about jobs in Louisiana, or even about the owners of certain boutiques and boot stores in California. Not when they're crying crocodile tears over alligator skins. But you'd think they'd care about millions of privately-owned acres of alligator habitat and conservation efforts along the Gulf Coast.

If the latest ban inscribed in California's law books is allowed to stand, the results might lead to disaster for the alligator population. But at least the humans running PETA and other environmental outfits had good intentions.

Although some of us know where that path leads.

Editorial on 02/13/2020

Print Headline: Gator is the new fox


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