The history of the State & Federal Endangered Species Act Reform Committee dates to 1994, when a Taiwanese farmer was accused of plowing under more than 300 acres of Tipton kangaroo rat habitat in Kern County.
Fresno County officials refer to it as the 1994 Tipton Kangaroo Rat incident, and it led to the new committee's formation. But now, county officials say, the committee — which was created for a specific issue — hasn't met in a decade and should be disbanded.
It's not the only one.
Fresno County has — or is part of — 91 boards, commissions and committees, and after a review, officials say it appears that more than one-in-five either has trouble generating a quorum or has outlived its existence. In the case of a few boards, there is not a record of them ever meeting.
The county's recommendation? Dump them all.
"Many of these organizations provide a very important service, but sometimes they run their course," Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas said. "Eventually, you have to clean up your books."
It was Borgeas who, back in January, made the initial request to identify all the boards, commissions and committees. He was new to the board at the time, and one of his first tasks was to make appointments to a "whole host of groups I knew nothing about — some of which hadn't been in operation."
The end result of the county staff's work found that 19 of the 91 boards, commissions and committees no longer need to be on the books.
One is the Fresno County Ambulance Authority, which was established in 1985 to "provide oversight for ambulance service operations and management practices."
But the Fresno County Emergency Medical Care Committee has taken over those responsibilities and the Ambulance Authority hasn't met in more than 20 years.
Still, every supervisor except Borgeas lists the Ambulance Authority as one of their committee memberships.
Another — the San Joaquin Valley Resource Conservation & Development Area Council — just seems to be a victim of bad initial timing.
Still, it held on for more than a decade before folding last year.
Fresno County farmer Phil Erro was part of the council from the start in 2001, and said its mission was natural resource conservation and economic development.
But it missed getting U.S. Department of Agriculture recognition and funding. Grant money was slow in coming.
The organization struggled for years until members — which include counties from Stanislaus to Kern, except Madera, which declined to join — decided to disband.
"We just couldn't make a go of it," Erro said. "Stewardship is a hard thing to sell."
By comparison, the Yosemite/Sequoia Resource Conservation & Development Council continues to go strong. It is also part of Fresno County's list of 91 boards, committees and commissions, but is listed as "status quo."
Erro said that council — which has the same concept as the San Joaquin Valley one — got started earlier, and so it received adequate funding. It also was authorized by Congress.
Also slated for the bureaucratic ax is the Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Committee, even though it still appears to be somewhat functional.
It was a committee that last met in December, and has a duty to advise supervisors on Fresno County compliance with the federal law.
But county officials say reality tells a different story.
In the past few years, the committee has suffered from low attendance. Last year, only two of the six meetings were held, and one was canceled for lack of a quorum. In 2011, three of six meetings were held. One was canceled because it didn't have a quorum, and others were called off because of a lack of agenda items.
County staff's recommendation: Dissolve it.
Others on the chopping block include committees or boards such as the Biological Diversity Task Force (defunct for seven years), the Water Well Appeals Board (around since 1977, but officials say it has never been convened and has no active members), the Wastewater Advisory Committee (no evidence it ever met), the Blue Ribbon Business Committee, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Home Rule Committee.
As for the State & Federal Endangered Species Act Reform Committee, Supervisor Phil Larson is a member, but county officials say in documents that it "hasn't met in the last decade or so."
But the incident that spawned it was major news for months in 1994 and 1995.
It started in April 1994 when Taung Ming-Lin plowed the kangaroo rat habitat on his farm near Taft. Charges were brought against Lin under the 1973 Endangered Species Act.
Farmers rallied to Lin's defense. A private property rights group organized a rally. Angry farmers drove tractors and two high school marching bands played outside during one of Lin's court appearances. Local political candidates campaigned on reforming the Endangered Species Act.
Federal prosecutors eventually agreed to drop the case, Lin was hailed as a hero — and the State & Federal Endangered Species Act Reform Committee was formed to, well, reform the Endangered Species Act.
But, like so many other casualties of the county's cleanup effort this year, the committee's official end was recommended because it hasn't met in a decade.
Beyond such real-world reasons for killing off some committees, however, Borgeas thinks a bigger problem is the sheer numbers of committees, commissions and boards that exist.
"We shouldn't have 91 committees," he said.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6320, firstname.lastname@example.org or @johnellis24 on Twitter.