V. Paul Reynolds, outdoors columnist with Maine’s Lewiston Sun Journal, and editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, wrote an engaging column about how the U.S. Endangered Species Act can make criminals of average folks.
William McCoy of Pennsylvania was sentenced to jail time for accidentally killing a Canada lynx in northern Maine and then, out of panic, attempting to cover it up.
As Reynolds points out:
Part of the problem is the Endangered Species Act itself. A “hanging judge” could technically have sent McCoy to a federal jail for six months and fined him $25,000. So Kravchuk can argue that her sentencing of trapper McCoy was reasonable and restrained.
He argues that biologically, the lynx population does not warrant protection under the ESA:
What she and the average citizen may not realize is that the lynx in Maine have substantially recovered to the point where federal protection has been unwarranted for some time now. In truth, the lynx remain federally protected by default: two years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seriously considered delisting the Maine lynx. That never happened, not for biological reasons, but for lack of funding and staff. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist conceded as much during an interview with the Northwoods Sporting Journal.
In other words, the jailing of McCoy is, in effect, the product of governmental dithering and a law that has run amuck. Make no mistake, McCoy should have reported his incidental take of a lynx to authorities, and he should have been slapped with a fine. However, putting him behind bars for his mistake, especially in context of the bureaucratically delayed delisting of lynx, makes no sense at all. Judge Kravchuk’s threat to hand out longer prison terms to victimized ESA “miscreants” like McCoy, further marginalizes the credibility of the Endangered Species Act and, in some ways, raises questions about Judge Kravchuk’s capacity to exercise discretion in her rulings.