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April 2000 Planet Main
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The Planet
Alerts!

Strange Name, Beautiful Place

by Johanna Congleton

Dolly Sods North, an area recently added to the Monongahela National Forest in the eastern part of West Virginia, looks more beautiful than it sounds. Named after the German "Dahle" family, who settled there in the mid-1800s, it is composed of huge "sods" - open areas with low shrubs - and extensive wetlands and bogs. The meandering forks of Red Creek, a prime candidate for wild and scenic river designation, also grace the landscape. Dolly Sods North, adjacent to the Dolly Sods Wilderness, is replete with miles of recreational trails, scenic overlooks and blueberry sods in the unspoiled upland headwaters of Red Creek.

Although the area is 6,200 acres and should be preserved by President Clinton's wild forest protection plan, local activists fear it will not be included.

"As of now, only inventoried roadless areas are being considered for protection under Clinton's plan," said Jim Sconyers, the Sierra Club's West Virginia Chapter director. "Dolly Sods North was not included in the last land inventory, so we are worried it will be overlooked."

To make matters worse, Dolly Sods North does not have a management plan outlining how the area can or cannot be used, meaning it's "up for grabs" and open to destructive activities such as natural-gas exploration. The Forest Service has also proposed bringing in heavy trucks and bulldozers to repair erosion and dump lime in Red Creek to counteract the effects of acid rain.

Sconyers argued the best way to protect the area from future exploitation and development is to add Dolly Sods North to the adjacent Dolly Sods Wilderness. Today, less than 9 percent of the Monongahela National Forest and only 0.5 percent of West Virginia is designated wilderness.

"By including Dolly Sods North in the adjoining wilderness, nearly 20,000 acres of the best wildlands in West Virginia will be permanently protected, as well as nearly all of the Red Creek watershed," Sconyers said.

To Take Action

Urge Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) to protect Dolly Sods North through wilderness designation. Write: Rep. Alan Mollohan, c/o Dolly Sods North, P.O. Box 95, Davis, WV 26260.

For more information contact Jim Sconyers at (304) 789-6277; jims@wvsierra.org.


Texas Turtles Snared by Shrimpers

by Johanna Congleton

The Kemp's ridleys are the world's most endangered sea turtle species. And they are washing up dead along the Texas coast.

In 1999, 95 Kemp's ridley sea turtles and 212 loggerhead turtles (federally listed as threatened) were found stranded on the coast of Texas. The vast majority had died. The cause? Shrimp-industry practices are the main culprit, according to scientific studies by the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.

Turtles easily become entangled in shrimping nets and struggle until they drown. Shrimpers are required to place flaps on their nets, called turtle excluder devices, which allow turtles to escape. But few wardens have the authority to enforce the use of these devices, making it easy for shrimpers to ignore the law. Also, sea turtles are often snared by the nets more than once and become too fatigued to escape.

In response, the Sierra Club's Lone Star (Texas) Chapter is urging the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to make its shrimping regulations more sensitive to sea turtle populations. Brian Sybert, the chapter's natural resources director, said the Club is calling for larger no-shrimping zones along the Texas coast. Shrimping should be banned in waters less than 7 fathoms (that's 42 feet deep), and restricted from Padre Island National Seashore beaches to a depth of 10 fathoms (or 60 feet) during the Kemp's ridley nesting season.

Second, the Club is pressing Parks and Wildlife to help pay for the cost of monitoring sea turtle strandings, deaths and nestings along Padre Island Seashore. Finally, the Club is pushing to increase the number of game wardens with the authority to enforce the use of turtle excluder devices.

To Take Action

Please write to the Parks and Wildlife Commission and urge the agency to implement the three measures listed above to restore endangered and threatened sea turtle populations. Contact Robin Riechers at the Coastal Fisheries Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin TX, 78744; robin.riechers@tpwd.state.tx.us. Also write to The Honorable Lee Marshall Bass, Chairman, Parks and Wildlife Commission, at the address above. For more information: Contact Brian Sybert at bsybert@igc.org; (512) 477-1729.


Utah Bill Not Wild Enough

by Johanna Congleton

There's a wilderness bill on the table for Utah, but it doesn't protect nearly enough land or keep what it does protect safe from all destructive activities.

Last October, Rep. James Hansen (R-Utah) introduced H.R. 3035, the Utah National Parks and Public Lands Wilderness Act, a bill to designate wilderness on Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service lands. Unfortunately, Hansen's proposal protects less than 40 percent of the existing 2.6 million acres of wilderness-quality land in the West Desert. To make matters worse, while he hasn't supported the Hansen bill outright, Interior Secretary Babbitt has endorsed the inadequate acreage covered by the proposal.

Not only does the bill exclude crucial wilderness-quality areas, it specifically denies water rights held by the federal government necessary to protect and sustain fragile desert wilderness. The bill would also allow the U.S. Air Force to use the wilderness lands and grant it unrestricted access to the air space above.

To Take Action

Urge your representative to oppose H.R. 3035. Express disappointment in Babbitt's support of the wilderness designation of less than half of the qualifying wilderness lands in this part of Utah. Also, call the Office of Environmental Quality at the White House (202) 456-6224 to say you oppose H.R. 3035.

For more information: Contact Lawson LeGate at (810) 467-9294; lawson.legate@sierraclub.org.


Land Fund Compromised by Oil Drilling Incentives

by Jenny Coyle

The Sierra Club has a love-hate relationship with H.R. 701, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, which may be voted on by the House as early as April.

The Club is pleased that the bill would fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a critical tool in preserving wildlands. The fund is supposed to receive revenues from offshore oil and gas leasing to be used for the purchase of wildlands, but most of that revenue disappears into the Treasury. This bill would guarantee $900 million for the LWCF annually.

The bad news is that H.R. 701 contains language that threatens sensitive marine and coastal areas, especially in Alaska. It creates an incentive to pursue off-shore oil development by allocating "coastal impact aid" to a few coastal states based largely on the amount of oil drilling that takes place off their shores.

Actions to amend the bill on the House floor are critical if we are to protect our coasts and secure important conservation funding.

To Take Action

Contact your representative and urge him or her to support H.R. 701 - with amendments that will ensure the bill causes no environmental harm. Also ask him or her to fight efforts on the floor to weaken the LWCF. Write: U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.


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