This week CNS News reported that the government spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars to "translocate" a single bush that stood in the way of a $1 billion highway improvement near San Franscisco. The plant, a rare "in-the-wild" Arctostaphylos franciscana, or Franciscan manzanita as it is commonly called, was growing in the median strip of the to-be-improved highway in the Presidio (park) area of the city. The project was largely funded by US citizen's tax dollars, provided to California through President Obama's shovel-ready stimulus program.
The Fransciscan manzanita was once a common plant in the Bay area, but botanists came to believe that, excepting the Presidio specimen, it no longer existed in the "wild". Therefore, in true government fashion, experts from the the California Department of Transportation, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Department of Fish and Game developed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for saving this one bush from the highway project. The MOA somehow failed to predict the associated costs.
The plant's actual relocation expenses included $100,000 for the digging, transporting, and replanting, $79,470 for the "establishment, nurturing and monitoring" of the shrub, and $25,605 to cover the cost of the government's reporting requirements on the plant's progress over a 10 year period following relocation (yes, that is all true).
Now, some might say that the cost of transporting this single bush, while exorbitant, is justified by the rarity of the specimen. But there is one more little detail that adds to this story. It turns out the Franscisan manzanita is a common ornamental plant in the Bay area. It can be purchased on-line or at many local nurseries for less than $20 (yes, that is true also)!. (Hmmm - could a bird have "planted" that wild specimen)?
A rational person might ask "What makes this particular manzanita so precious?" Thanks to some sleuthing by TMZ, the truth is now out.
Congresswoman and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been found to be a frequent visitor of the bush. According to a hidden reporter who spied on Pelosi just prior to the transplanting, "As she approached the bush, she dropped reverently to her knees, and began to quietly out in a weird chant for some kind of guidance. And get this - her pleas seemed to be directed to the spirit of Karl Marx! The bush itself did not glow nor appear to have any special supernatural aura, but Mrs. Pelosi wore a pair of deeply (rose) tinted glasses during her genuflection. After a few minutes, she began to tremor. Her eyes bugged out, and the skin on her face tightened to the point where she could not even blink. It was really frightening. It sounded almost as if she was making or confirming some kind of Faustian bargain with the bush."
Mrs. Pelosi has refused to comment on her personal attraction to this particular manzanita. When asked how she could support such a ridiculous expense to move a single bush that is commonly found in homeowner's yards within her district, she simply said "It was like all the work I am associated with - it was shovel-ready. That's all we need to know".
Shovel-ready indeed! "Lassie, here Lassie."