Ethanol Mandates Demolish Habitats

December 6, 2013

A few weeks back, the Associated Press reported about the havoc wrecked on our environment due to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The piece brought attention to the fact that the United States is bleeding conservation lands in favor of a more lucrative crop — corn — to meet the needs of the ethanol mandate.

As conservation lands disappear, animal habitats vanish with them. According to another AP article on the problem, since its creation in 1985, the Conservation Reserve Program has boosted populations of ducks, ring-necked pheasants, prairie chickens, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and other wildlife by providing areas where they can feed and reproduce.

Since the ethanol mandate went into effect, in 2005, the Corn Belt states alone have lost 2.8 million acres from the conservation reserve program. Over the same period, pheasant harvests in those six states dropped by 44 percent, a reflection of the downward population trend, according to data collected from state biologists.

“If you're in a corn-bean rotation, you're doing little to no good for wildlife,” Josh Divan, a northwestern Iowa wildlife biologist for Pheasants Forever, told AP.

The New York Times also recently reported that increased corn production has contributed to the loss of habitat for insects, including bees and monarch butterflies.

To the average person, ensuring a home for wildlife and insects may seem like a lesser priority, but the outdoorsmen know that the loss of these habitats has huge consequences for our society.

Dr. Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, explained that a home for bugs is a matter of food security. “If the bees were to truly disappear, we would lose 80 percent of the plants,” he said. “That is not an option. That’s a huge problem for mankind.”

The unintended consequences of this failing policy continue to reveal themselves. Diverting food for fuel is no longer an option; tell Congress it is time to take permanent action to reform the RFS.