Some stimulus projects draw criticism

February 13, 2009 7:35:25 PM PST
Despite passage of the stimulus, there is still partisan sniping over what is in it. One such item is restoration of Bay Area wetlands, the habitat of an endangered mouse.

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The 1-inch-tall salt marsh harvest mouse is an endangered species living in Bay Area marshes. The federal economic stimulus plan calls for $30 million for wetland restoration that will help, among other things, the little mouse.

Thursday, stimulus plan opponents charged the money was put there by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as a pet project, but it was not; instead, the $30 million was the total amount the California Coastal Conservancy recommended to various federal agencies a month ago and there is no guarantee the mouse will get any of it.

Stanford University ecologist Paul Ehrlich hopes it does. He thinks the bill should have included more items just like it.

"You have got to remember that the human economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of nature's economy, if we let it go down the drain there's nothing at all we can do," Ehrlich said.

Projects like wetland restoration offer short and long term benefits, Erlich said. "Number one, you create a lot of jobs and number two, you save our seafood. What people don't seem to understand it isn't a mouse in a wetlands, it's the wetlands that serve as a nursery for our fisheries."

Other controversial items include $12 million for supporting native Hawaiian birds and fish $37.5 million for renovation of the Blair House - the White House guest quarters.

"Spending is spending is spending, whether you help Blair House or help the marsh mouse or fix the pothole," retired University of San Francisco economist Michael Lehmann said. The controversial items are a fraction of the whole package, according to Lehmann, and a small price for getting a deal passed. "As long as you do the spending and it's spent here in this country, let's say, not on imported roller skates or something, it helps the United States."

Republicans on the House appropriations committee still want federal agencies getting the money to provide more details of exactly how they will spend it.

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