June 14, 2011

Desert tortoise comes under fire from 'Sheriff' Biden

Federally funded website dedicated to reptile "a waste"

There are nearly 2,000 federal .gov domains, according to the White House (AFP/File, Saul Loeb)


WASHINGTON — As part of the White House's recently launched Campaign to Cut Waste, Vice President Joe Biden says one of his first wasteful spending targets is a website dedicated to the desert tortoise.

Biden, who was named by President Barack Obama to head up the campaign designed to identify and eliminate wasteful federal spending, said Monday that one example of such waste was a federally funded website dedicated to the desert tortoise, a threatened species.

In a message on the White House website entitled, "There's a New Sheriff in Town," Biden addressed potential cuts to spending.

"And I bet you didn't know that your tax dollars pay for a website dedicated to the Desert Tortoise. I'm sure it's a wonderful species, but we can't afford to have a standalone site devoted to every member of the animal kingdom," Biden wrote in the message also sent via email to supporters. "It's just one of hundreds of government websites that should be consolidated or eliminated."

The new campaign comes as the president and Republicans in Congress are engaged in difficult negotiations over the national debt and budget deficit.

There are nearly 2,000 federal .gov domains, according to the White House. Under many of these domains are smaller sites that result in an estimated 24,000 websites, and the White House said the redundancy creates confusion and wastes money.

Another website that drew criticism from the White House was a federal domain devoted to foresters who play the fiddle, but all that remained of www.fiddlinforesters.gov on Monday was a dead link.

"This kind of waste is just unacceptable. Particularly at a time when we're facing tough decisions about reducing our deficit, it's a no-brainer to stop spending taxpayer dollars on things that benefit nobody," said Biden.

The site identified by Biden, www.deserttortoise.gov, is managed by the Mojave Desert Ecosystem Program, a database about a desert area that spreads into California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to saving the taxpayers' money. At the same time, we will continue to work with all agencies involved to protect all endangered species," agency spokeswoman Vanessa Kauffman told AFP.