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The delta smelt were framed

June 18, 2011 - Mike Maneval
Conservatives, both serving on the Natural Resources Committee in the U.S. House and in punditry, have spent the past few years speculating and insinuating and flat-out claiming that environmentalists are killing jobs and preventing the creation of new ones in central California, all to save a fish.

A September, 2009 editorial in the Wall Street Journal refers to efforts to preserve delta smelt populations as a "green war" on farming in its headline and attributes "devastating" unemployment to the environmentalists' lawsuit that prompted the policy. Adam Sparks of conservative website says the smelt are "raising your food prices" in a headline on a February 2011 piece, where commenters respond with suggestions the "criminal and fascist" EPA be abolished. Other conservative pundits said the preservation efforts placed greater value on fish than people, and reflect "screwed-up priorities," in Sean Hannity's words.

But, as Sarah Laskow, blogging for the American Prospect's website, notes, the Pacific Institute makes an observant catch: Farms aren't shedding jobs in central California.

The Pacific Institute reports not only that farming job numbers are relatively stable in the region, farm incomes for central California are on the rise. "The area’s unemployment," Laskow reports, "was primarily driven by problems in a different sector — construction, where jobs declined from 2003 to 2009." Laskow observes California saw an extraordinary boom in housing a decade ago - and in the recession, it is an amply reported fact that California is left with a foreclosure rate rivalled only by Arizona and Florida and subsequently, one of the nation's greatest surpluses in housing stock.


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