LOS ANGELES – From otters to insects, the Endangered Species Act protects America's animal and plant life ... often to the detriment of humans.
In Klamath Falls, Ore., environmentalists used the act to rob farmers of their water, awarding 100 percent of it to the fish instead.
"We weren't just defeated," said farmer Marty Macey. "We were devastated."
Another farmer, Pug Smith, likened the decision to that of a nuclear attack.
"They could have hit us with an atomic bomb and it would have not have done more damage than taking the water away from us," he said.
Now people, politicians, and even some conservationists are praying for divine intervention.
"We are doing everything we can by trying to involve the 'God Squad'," said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif.
The highly controversial Endangered Species Committee, or so-called "God Squad", is composed of seven people — the secretaries of interior, agriculture and army; the chairman of the president's council of economic advisors; the director of the EPA; and a representative from the affected state.
Armed with the authority to decide whether a species lives or dies, a "God Squad" decision can deliver a death sentence to entire communities or critters or people.
"If those folks are making the decisions, it's goodbye wildlife," said Keiran Suckling of The Center for Biological Diversity.
"But I will tell you what, I also think it's goodbye George Bush because the American public is not going to stand by and let Bush drive species extinct," he said.
Bob McLandress of the California Waterfowl Association points to the life or death power of the "God Squad" as one reason why he believes the Endangered Species Act is so dangerous.
"We need to look at ways of offsetting the power of the act," he said.
Along with hundreds of farm families, 430 species depend on the water in Klamath Lake. Yet under the act, sucker fish got it all. Downstream salmon get no water for spawning. Millions of migratory birds get no water for wetlands. Neither do the farms that provide more than half of their food.
"The farms themselves provide a tremendous food base for waterfowl and may other critters in the Klamath Basin," said McLandress.
Since the Endangered Species Act went into effect 29 years ago, the "God Squad" has only convened three times.
It is now up to the administration and Interior Secretary Gale Norton to decide whether to convene a meeting on the future of Klamath Falls. But given the whipping Pres. Bush has been getting from environmentalists, this may be one battle even the "God Squad" doesn't want to fight.