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Tuesday,  May 27 12:01 AM EDT

US Nose Ring Population in Serious Decline Faces Extinction

By Bill L

Washington D.C. - The nose ring, once a proud symbol of American individualism, bandwagon-hopping, and tastelessness, has in recent months decreased in numbers so dramatically that many wonder if its beauty and majesty can be preserved for future generations.

Although plentiful in recent years, as many a 90s scenester can attest, as the decade moved on, nose-ring numbers plummeted due to the destruction of its natural habitat as Generation-Y-ers graduated, moved into their mid-20s, and needed to find regular jobs. Today, the nose-ring's very existence is threatened in the lower 48 states where they once roamed from the Pacific Northwest to the malls of Dixie. In the Midwest, they seem to have favored areas near Dairy Queens, Gaps, and Orange Julius, where they could benefit from maximum exposure and shock-value, whereas in the Northeast they favored coffee shops, nightclubs, and rehearsal spaces. However, between 2001 and 2003 nose-rings were eliminated from 95% of their original range, with extirpation occurring earliest on the Northeast and later in remote wilderness areas such as Wisconsin.

Because of this dramatic decline and the uncertain status of nose-rings in areas where they had survived, their populations in the contiguous United States were listed as threatened under the Endangered Fads Act in early 2003 where they joined propellor caps, mood rings, and springy antenna headbands. Nose-rings persist as identifiable populations in only four areas: suburban New Jersey, the Binghamton New York area, greater Milwaukee, and Orange county California.

To restore nose-rings to their once far-flung ecosystem, the EPA has developed the innovative Citizen Management Plan which enjoys the support of Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Under the plan, these four populations will become designated recovery areas, where they receive full protection of the Endangered Fads Act.

Recent research into peer pressure and imitation among teens has produced growth and size estimates for these nose-ring populations. Since many nose-rings exist only in the smog covered, traffic ensnarled southern California ecosystems, we have only rough estimates of size for US nose-ring population. These studies required the tracking, darting, and tranquilizing of the few remaining nose-ring wearers in order to fit them with a satellite-link collar because without the aid of radio tagging, it is even more difficult to directly count or otherwise monitor nose-ring populations in their extensive, typically suburban, ranges.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service published a final Record of Decision regarding nose-ring restoration in April 2003. This decision called for reintroduction of nose-rings to the Texas-Fort Worth Galleria as an "experimental" population directed by a 15-member "Citizen Management Committee". The plan calls for release of a minimum of 25 nose-ring wearers into the Galleria and its environs over a period of five years. If successful, this program could pave the way for the reintroduction of nose rings into other urban areas and with some luck, the numbers of nose-rings could sufficiently increase just in time to become "retro."

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Not all, however, welcome the nose-ring's return. Dirk Kempthorne, the governor of Idaho, has filed a lawsuit against the government because he says the rings pose a serious threat to "family values, health, and decency." Kempthorne said: "I oppose bringing these hideous, flesh-tearing, family destroying, godless, secular-humanist, barbaric, un-Christian, disfiguring, satanic contraptions into Idaho. This is perhaps the first federal land-management action in history likely to result in injury to or discomfort to members of the public. Maybe they're fine for the eggheads back east, well, let them have them on their daughters and see how they like it. Next thing you know those Washington beltway insider bureaucrats'll want us to have to share water fountains with nose-ring wearers."

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