Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.

— Ronald Reagan

Let’s see what tips the scales for your typical federal bureaucrat. Ah, here is an open window into the mind of one now. Let us look in.

It is March, and for nearly a year the Baker Water and Sewer General Improvement District has been trying in vain to get permission to replace its leaking 250,000-gallon municipal water tank on a tiny 30-by-100-foot tract of Bureau of Land Management-controlled land. The leak poses a threat to fire safety as well the risk of bacterial contamination of the town’s sole water supply.

But the safety and health of the 100 or so homes and businesses that use the water have been weighed and found wanting when compared to the potential perturbance of greater sage grouse, even though the Interior Department said the birds did not warrant being listed under the Endangered Species Act and are still legally hunted in Nevada.

The town of Baker must jump through hoops to assure the federal bureaucrats that anything they do to assure their own safety does not disturb a chicken-sized bird with a showy mating ritual.

This was on display at a recent meeting of the White Pine County Board of Commissioners, as recounted by The Ely Times.

The commissioners were attempting to referee between the tiny town and the mammoth and intractable federal agency.

BLM Ely District Manager Michael Herder was also present.

“We’re here to address any issues,” Herder told the commissioners and representatives of the water district.

Asked if the water district could begin construction to replace the tank by May 1, Herder’s reply revealed just where his agency’s priorities lie.

“If we meet the criteria,” he was quoted as saying. “Realistically speaking, biologically speaking, it’s in the best interest of the sage grouse if the new tank is completed and the old one removed in one season. If we can limit the time period that both tanks are in place, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Herder added under further questioning that, “Our attorneys are already looking at it. Completion in one year is very appealing. As long as there is a net conservation gain, it’s doable. We still have to do bird surveys before construction can happen, but Baker GID can qualify for exceptions to expedite the process, as long as there is a net conservation gain. We’re confident it’s not going to be an issue. After the end of the nesting season, there’s between a week and a month before construction can start.”

But in December officials said the BLM’s delays in approving the project could jeopardize its state loan under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, without which they could not afford the replacement. They also said the BLM is asking them to complete a 12-month project in only four months.

There you have it. People are an invasive species to the federal bureaucrats, encroaching on their pristine range. The health and safety of the citizenry is of no concern if it ruffles a single grouse feather.

— TM