Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Snail Darter and the God Committee

The snail darter is a small fish, about the size of a paper clip, that lives primarily in East Tennessee. It feeds on snails and providers food for larger fish like trout. In 1975 it was declared as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. This is significant because when this happened, it halted the creation of the Telico Dam (which helps bring electricity to the valley). The construction of this dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) would alter the habitat of the river to the point of killing all of the snail darter. You would think this would have brought a stop to construction of the dam, considering destroying this fish would have an equally destructive affect on recreational fishing and the local economy: enter the God Committee.

Senator Howard Baker (R-TN) sponsored of an amendment to the Endangered Species Act that would allow some projects exempt. The Tellico Dam was the first of such projects. This "God Committee," made up of several cabinet members and at least one person from the state in question. This amendment was signed into with bi-partisan support in Congress and signed by President Jimmy Carter.

As a side note, Baker was replaced by Al Gore in the US Senate in 1985. He was also asked by President Nixon to be on the US Supreme Court. Because he took too long to answer, Nixon picked Rehnquist instead. In 1976, he almost was picked to be Ford's running mate instead of Bob Dole. He ran for president in 1980 but dropped out after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. He was President Reagan's Chief of Staff from 1987 to 1988.

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