Our air, water and lands remain under relentless pressure from polluters and their allies in Washington. And there is little doubt that 2006 will be our most challenging year to date.
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They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but try telling that to Alaska Representative Don Young and Senator Lisa Murkowski, whose now infamous "Bridges to Nowhere" have become embarrassing example of fiscally irresponsible pork-barrel spending projects.
Young bragged that he stuffed the 2005 federal transportation bill "like a turkey," with $223 million for the proposed Gravina Island bridge from Ketchikan to an island of 50 people, and the proposed Knik Arm Bridge, from Anchorage to a sparsely populated port. But due to mounting criticism and a backlog of existing roads and bridges in need of repair, especially along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, Congress removed the "earmarks" for the bridges in mid-November. (The ferry, pictured above, which would be "replaced" by the proposed Gravina Island Bridge, takes seven minutes to go from Ketchikan to the airport.)
And now, as the result of some sleuthing by Ace Detective Carl Pope, a.k.a. the Sierra Club's exective director, Senator Lisa Murkowski faces ethical scrutiny because her family owns 33 acres of undeveloped land on Gravina Island three-quarters of a mile from where the bridge would touch down.
Local Sierra Club groups in Anchorage and Juneau have been fighting these proposed bridges for almost as long as Young and his allies have been touting them. Sierra Club's Knik Group, based in Anchorage, has opposed the Knik Arm Bridge since the 1980s.
Mary Grisco, at right, a longtime volunteer from Anchorage, says the Knik Arm Bridge "is a really stupid idea, but you have to keep reminding people how stupid."
Find out more in Tim Lesle's story in the Planet.
In the last edition of the Insider, we asked readers to vote for the biggest turkey in Washington, D.C. The winner, Congressman Richard Pombo, grabbed more than a third of the 3,700 votes cast. (But Tom DeLay made a respectable second place showing.)
Speaking of turkeys, Pombo's latest scheme was to sneak a provision into the budget bill that would open 270 million acres of public lands to mining interests. He says it's to raise revenue, but because these lands, as Carl Pope says in his blog, "are essentially given away to mining companies, this is akin to trying to balance your household budget by selling a Rembrandt at a garage sale."
Tell your representative to oppose this massive giveaway of public land giveaway to the mining industry.
While they're recovering and rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina, residents of the Gulf Coast are also creating a new language.
Check out volunteer Ellis Anderson's colorful dispatch from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, about "Katrina Patina," the man sleeping in her driveway, and more in one of the dozen-plus reports in our Gulf Coast Update.)
View previous editions of the Sierra Club Insider at the Insider Archives.
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