Blackflies, Caribou, and Conservative Talking Points

If Republicans claim that oil pipelines are good for caribou, I wonder what they’ll make of the blackfly outbreak in Maine. About the first half of the previous sentence–that’s not hyperbole. Really (by way of Digby):

During a radio interview on Wednesday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) attempted to argue that drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) would be beneficial for Arctic wildlife. Bachmann claimed that drilling would cause not only an “enhancement of wildlife expansion,” but that the area around oil pipelines would also “become a meeting ground and ‘coffee klatch‘ for caribou”:

“Some suggestions are that perhaps we would see an enhancement of wildlife expansion because of the warmth of the pipeline,” she said. […] The pipeline has now become a meeting ground and “coffee klatch” for the caribou, she said.

Bachmann is not alone among conservatives in pushing this narrative of drilling being good for caribou. Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show last week that “the caribou have multiplied ’cause they like the warmth that surrounds the pipeline.” On Tuesday night, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg made a similar argument on Fox News:

GOLDBERG: People don’t realize that at Prudhoe Bay, where they have been drilling for 30 years, the central Arctic caribou herd has increased fivefold since they started drilling up there. Some people say it’s because they get to hide from the bugs. It’s a little easier for them. But people say it’s because of the lack of hunting. But it is not dangerous to the caribou up there.

Now this is the full-throttle batshit lunacy I’ve come to expect from conservatives. So, keeping that in mind, I wonder what they would make of this story about blackflies and water pollution (italics mine):

But there are now more black flies in more places in Maine, and the reason may be surprising: It’s the success of the environmental movement.
Many species of the gnat-sized insects are sticklers for cleanliness. When Maine’s rivers were filled with contaminants from paper mills and other industries, only the hardiest black flies laid eggs in them. Now, rivers and streams are progressively cleaner, providing ideal breeding grounds for the annoying pests.
It’s an unintended barometer of good ecological health, but Maine officials are adamant they will not mess with nature in any way to provide relief….
The flies have been a pesky nuisance for centuries in New England. Some of the earliest attempts at control took place in New Hampshire in the early 1900s when officials poured diesel oil and kerosene into rivers, according to Adler. Chemical insecticides were later used, but paper mills, raw sewage, and other pollution probably did a better job at knocking the fly down: By the middle of the last century, black fly populations were reduced in polluted Maine rivers and streams.
The federal Clean Water Act, which passed in 1972 and required the cleaning of waterways, helped bring the black fly back, according to entomologists. Today, dozens of species in Maine are thriving in places they were rarely seen in the past, such as around the Penobscot and Kennebec rivers. Scientists say there are black flies in places they haven’t been before. And in places where they were, there are even more.

You probably think I’m being a wiseass, but movement conservatives are this crazy. At this point, assuming that the crazy doesn’t go to eleven, well, that’s nuts.

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4 Responses to Blackflies, Caribou, and Conservative Talking Points

  1. Obviously drilling for oil is messier and more environmentally damaging that setting up a pipeline, but I was curious about the pipeline story.
    I’ve heard the oil pipeline being good for some article animals by creating a bit of warmth many times. While the evidence for it seem week (only sighting one species), I’ve never heard it challenged or debunked before (and couldn’t find anything during my requisite 5 minutes on Google either).

  2. Andrew says:

    Does this mean the republican party will be pushing for the installation of outdoor heaters across alaska? Apparently that would be great for caribou! 🙂

  3. Karl says:

    For much more on batshit-crazy Bachmann, head over to

  4. Luna_the_cat says:

    The bit about how caribou love the pipelines is complete bullshit, and I say this as someone who (a)has been to Alaska, and (b)used to work for BP. But don’t ask me, ask the people who actually study the caribou.
    Trying to convince people to do or allow something by lying to them about it is disgusting, and the people who do that disgust me.

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