Saving Toads thru Off-Road Racing

Posted by: 

by Laura Huggins

In my neck of the woods there's a saying that pertains to endangered species; "shoot, shovel, and shut-up." Interestingly, in the case of the rare (and not too cute and cuddly) Amargoso toad, the local folk are working hard to protect it.

What keeps these land owners from shoot, shovel, and shut-upping? Do the locals simply have an inherent liking for this little critter or is it that they dislike the Endangered Species Act so much that they are willing to pay to keep the toad from being listed? NPR reports:

A small environmental miracle has occurred in Beatty, Nev., a former mining town that sits on the eastern edge of Death Valley between Jackass Flats and Sober Up Gulch. The people of Beatty have helped revive the Amargosa toad, a warty, speckled, palm-sized creature that's unique to the area and, just a few years ago, seemed headed for extinction. But this is not your typical story of environmental action — the toad owes its comeback to an unlikely coalition that includes ranchers, miners, off-road racers, opponents of big government and the local brothel.

"What you're seeing tonight are the results of active land management, active habitat management," says rancher David Spicer. He has run miles of underground pipe around his property to create breeding pools and wet habitat for the toads. Spicer grew up with the toads and wants to preserve them, he says. But here's the surprising thing: Another reason, and perhaps the major reason Spicer has gone to such lengths is because he really, really does not like the Endangered Species Act.

"Nobody trusts the government anymore," Spicer says. "Nobody wants to work with the government. The government always wants to take something from you." So Spicer got worried more than a decade ago when some scientists declared that there were only a few dozen Amargosa toads left. Soon after that, when a group petitioned the federal government to add the toad to the endangered species list, Spicer came up with a plan.

Spicer feared the government would try to protect the toads by telling him he couldn't raise cattle or ride off-road vehicles on his own property. So he helped start a group called STORM-OV, which stands for Saving Toads thru Off-Road Racing, Mining and Ranching in Oasis Valley.

It's a quirky kind of environmentalism. But it seems to be working. This year's toad counts show that their numbers remain in the thousands. And earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the latest petition to place the Amargosa toad on the endangered species list."

Huggins is a research fellow and former director of outreach with PERC as well as a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Her association with PERC goes back several years, although she has recently embarked on a new venture as the manager of economic initiatives for the American Prairie Reserve. Huggins coauthored...
Read More > More Articles by Laura Huggins >