This win-win approach decreed that in a face-off between coastal developers building condos on endangered gnatcatcher territory, the builders would get the housing sites and the golf courses and the gnatcatcher would get a few acres of cliff face politely called "habitat" and that--at least for the gnatcatcher--would be that. Similarly, despite many a verbal flourish about conservation, Clinton's Option 9 plan for the old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest allows so much logging to take place that even the government's own scientists now say that the spotted owl and the marbled murrelet cannot be saved from extinction. Another victim of the win-win compromise is the gray wolf, which the Clinton administration recently reintroduced to the Northern Rockies as "a non-essential, experimental population," meaning that such wolves can be shot on sight by any rancher claiming that his livestock is in danger.

Thus, by such administrative fiat, the gnatcatcher, spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and gray wolf are already on the road to doom, even though the present Endangered Species Act is still in force.

So much for bait and switch. But we are also seeing the wholesale hostile takeover of such resistance as remains in the environmental community. Led by former Indiana congressman Jim Jontz, a coalition of grassroots groups waging an effective guerrilla campaign against the gutting of the Endangered Species Act has now been bought up by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a foundation that gets its dough from Sun Oil and Oryx Energy and which gives out nearly $20 million a year in environmental grants.

The Pew people offered $1.5 million to the big national groups that had been sponsoring this grassroots effort. But the money came with an ominous rider, namely that the Jontz team be dumped and replaced by a Democratic Party insider called Phil Clapp, a former aide to Senator Tim Wirth of Colorado, who now holds a position in the Clinton administration. (Connoisseurs of this particular maneuver will remember in the ancient forest battle how Pew hired another Democratic Party hack, Bob Chlopak, to perform the same function.) Clapp's first act has been to hire Democratic political organizers to work in the state of Iowa. Why? Because this is where Republican candidates will be gathering for the presidential caucus. And it's where Clapp and his accomplices can tout Clinton's unflinching defense of endangered species.

Pew's money is not designed to buy survival of the present Endangered Species Act, but to help elect Bill Clinton to a second term by undercutting any resistance to a "moderate solution" to the Endangered Species Act problem. Thus Clinton will be able to boast in his '96 campaign that he did indeed reach an honorable compromise and save the best bits of the Endangered Species Act.

So we see a win-win solution for all the political players involved. With the South lost to the Republicans, Clinton's only hope is the West, and his strategists are convinced there are millions of votes to be won in New Westerners--urbanites driving 4-wheelers--content with a president trumpeting his prudent management of natural resources.

When the compromise bill goes through, the big green groups--having already raised millions supposedly fighting to save the Act--will then raise millions more by claiming victory. Because a fiction still known as the Endangered Species Act will be around, the pro-industry Wise Use Movement will still be able to raise money to fight it. As for the corporations: If they log, mine, or build on public lands they will still receive billions in taxpayer subsidies and if they choose not to log, mine, or build on their own properties they can claim ecological harm or a "takings" and get millions more in compensation.

How bad is this saga? So bad that some DC environmental lobbyists are openly praising Newt Gingrich, former Sierra Club conservation chair and lover of zoos, for coming to the aid of the so-called moderate solution.

There you have it. A win-win solution for everyone except the spotted owl, gray wolf, grizzly, salmon and all those other species soon to disappear from the face of the Earth or be preserved in test tubes in some genetic zoo.

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