Not just whales, but endangered birds and so forth. Why bother?
Now look, I'm not in favor of wanton destruction, but I think every decision we humans make about how we manage our planet should revolve around what's best for us. If it's best for us to protect some certain type of endangered animal, I want to know why.
Pure aesthetics? That's fine, I can understand that, but I don't think it's a valid use of public funds. If you think gnatcatchers are pretty birds and don't want them to die, go buy up the land they live on and leave it in its natural state. Form a group, collect money, and save the animals yourself. (Whales may be a bit harder, but I'm sure something could be worked out. They're easy to tag and track, so they could be bought.)
In comment on my earlier post, John Callender comments and quotes Henry Beston who writes:
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.But again I say, who cares? From a purely irreligious point of view, it's absurd and counterproductive to care about animals that are being weeded out of the biosphere for being uncompetitive. As a Christian, the passage is factually wrong because God explicitly placed mankind above the rest of his creation and charged us to bring it under our dominion.
Giving nature inherent value apart from its utility to mankind is ridiculous and irrational. As I wrote, it's perfectly valid to want to save something because you find it aesthetically pleasing, but it's really monstrous to use governmental force to protect animals at the expense of other humans.
In my opinion, the real motivation behind most environmentalism isn't a love of nature, but a hatred of humanity. Mr. Beston's reference to "mysticism" reveals the essence of environmentalism: it's a religion -- a religion devoted to elimination of civilization as we know it. We must use this planet and its resources wisely, but we're fools if we allow the insidious cult of environmentalism a voice in the debate.