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Back Issues

The Planet
Alerts

No to Logging Loopholes
Everglades: Restore More, Sprawl Less
North Carolina's Bold Open Space Plan
Take Action

by Johanna Congleton

No to Logging Loopholes

Salmon were once abundant in Washington's Montague Creek. The state's Department of Fish and Wildlife recorded an average of 78 salmon per mile in 1970. But heavy logging along the Stillaguamish River Valley led to erosion that dumped huge amounts of sediment into Montague, choking fish and drastically altering stream flows. By 1991, the average had plummeted to one fish every two miles.

To reverse these grave consequences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to regulate aquatic contamination from the timber industry by issuing Clean Water Act permits for point-source pollution. Such pollution includes sediment from roads or "skid trails" - paths created by dragging cut trees out of the forest.

Currently, states regulate logging pollution by programs or "best management practices" that are mostly voluntary - and in many cases ignored.

But logging companies and their congressional allies have launched a counterattack that would nullify the EPA's proposal. Four bills introduced in April would allow logging companies to continue to dump unlimited quantities of sediment and other contaminants into rivers, streams and lakes.

Erosion from logged areas and logging roads clogs waterways and can smother salmon and other fish. Sediment can also disrupt the natural hydrology by changing flows and temperature.

In 1998, 32 states reported to the EPA that forestry was a cause of water-quality problems. Nationally, 20,000 miles of rivers and 220,000 acres of lakes are significantly harmed by timber operations.

"Although the EPA's proposal is limited - we wish it were broader and relied less on voluntary programs - it is still a step forward to require Clean Water Act permits to control sediment pollution from point sources," said Ed Hopkins. "It's outrageous for Congress to consider a special-interest loophole for the logging industry in the Clean Water Act."

The four bills, the Timber and Agriculture Fairness Act, S. 2139 by Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), with companion H.R. 3625 by Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), and S. 2041, sponsored by Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and its companion H.R. 3609, sponsored by Max Sandlin (D-Texas), would take away the EPA's authority to regulate timber pollution even under these limited circumstances. The timber industry has launched a misinformation campaign, claiming all logging operations would be affected.

"This simply isn't true," said Hopkins. "If a timber company is using pollution controls that work, it won't be affected."

To Take Action: Urge your senators to oppose S. 2041 and S. 2139 and your representative to oppose H.R. 3609 and H.R. 3625. Tell them not to create special-interest loopholes for the timber industry in the Clean Water Act.

For More Information: Contact Ed Hopkins; (202) 675-7908; ed.hopkins@sierraclub.org.


Everglades: Restore More, Sprawl Less

Last July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented a plan to Congress to restore the largest wetland in America - the Everglades. The $7.8 billion, 30-year project, or Everglades Restoration Plan, aims to restore the natural flow of water to the Everglades' damaged ecosystem and supply water to Florida's growing population.

To authorize the plan, the Everglades Restoration Bill, S. 2437 sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.), was introduced in April.

The Club applauds the plan's mandate to remove 200 miles of canals and elevate a major road that blocks the natural flow of water. The plan also intends to recover nearly 2 billion gallons of water that are flushed into the Atlantic daily.

"But there are no assurances that most of the recovered water will be used for restoration - not to supply future homes built on the edge of the Everglades," said John Ullman, the Club's Everglades representative.

The plan also calls for the construction of giant plastic-lined rock quarries to use for water storage at the south end of the Everglades. This would destroy up to 20,000 acres of pristine wetlands near Miami and encourage sprawl - the proposed storage sites could help supply double or triple Florida's current population of 6 million.

Club activists are pushing for a more environmentally-friendly alternative - storage without quarries in the northern Everglades Agricultural Area, which is now used for corporate sugar farming. By storing water at the top of the watershed, instead of at the bottom near Miami, water can naturally flow through the Everglades by gravity instead of pumps and canals.

Last, the bill does not call for a continuation of the Committee for the Restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, which was convened at the behest of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. The CROGEE, composed of 16 top scientists appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, provides independent input on the plan that is free of political influence. Their job is to review the proposal and recommend to Congress and the Army Corps how the plan should be implemented.

When The Planet went to press, the CROGEE was not included in the bill and was scheduled to disband in four years - 26 years before the plan is fully implemented in 2030. The bill should call for a continuation of committee meetings and input to guide the plan throughout the entire implementation process.

"The CROGEE is the best salvation for the Everglades," said Ullman. "The committee's guidance helps assure American taxpayers that their money is going toward restoration and the best possible science. Without it, the future of the Everglades could be compromised."

To Take Action: A vote on the Everglades Restoration Bill is expected as early as mid-June. Write or call your senators and urge them to include the Committee for the Restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem in the Everglades Restoration Bill, S. 2437. Also urge them to eliminate plans to construct rock quarries near Miami that could destroy 20,000 acres of pristine wetlands, and to make sure most of the recovered and stored water is used for restoration - not for new development.

For More Information: Contact Jon Ullman; (305) 476-9898; jonathan.ullman@sierraclub.org.


North Carolina's Bold Open Space Plan: Just Add Funding

When Hurricane Floyd hit last year, John Anema's home in Greenville, N.C. was flooded by 10 feet of water for two weeks, costing him his house and almost everything in it. While the stormy weather is aptly blamed for the losses experienced by Anema, chair of the Club's Cypress Group, and thousands of others, there is another indirect cause.

"Irresponsible development on floodplains and wetland loss are key reasons the storm became one of the worst disasters in our state's history," said Mary Kiesau, North Carolina's Challenge to Sprawl Campaign coordinator.

Each year, North Carolina loses 156,000 acres of wetlands, forests, farmland and open space to urban uses. By the 1980s, the state had lost half its wetlands to development and pine plantations. Wetlands are crucial to flood control - they act as a sponge by absorbing excess water and releasing it slowly.

And people just love to build on floodplains near picturesque rivers.

But the state is taking action. Gov. Jim Hunt (D) recently announced an administrative initiative to preserve 1 million acres of open space and farmland over the next 10 years. The Club and its allies have been promoting "green infrastructure" - protecting natural resources for their real values, such as flood control, and not just for scenery - to guide the state's growth. They hope the One Million Acre initiative will do just that.

"Protecting and making use of farmland, urban green spaces, floodplains and river buffers is a smart-growth strategy that will help our communities plan how and where to grow," said Kiesau.

The only obstacle is funding. While North Carolina has some good preservation programs in place, current state funding is insufficient to successfully implement the One Million Acre initiative.

One way to help pay for the plan is the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program that provides grants to states for land acquisition. The Conservation and Reinvestment Act, H.R. 701, would guarantee full funding for this historically shortchanged program. However, the bill in its current form creates incentives for new offshore oil drilling in fragile areas. The Club is supporting an amendment by Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that strikes out drilling incentives. If amended, the bill could provide permanent funding for programs like the One Million Acre initiative.

As for John Anema, he has decided to relocate - to an area away from wetlands or floodplains.

"Hopefully the One Million Acre proposal will turn my former home into a natural area or park people can enjoy," said Anema.


To Take Action

Contact Gov. Hunt and urge him to fully implement the One Million Acre proposal and increase state funding. Write: Gov. James B. Hunt, 116 West Jones St., Raleigh, NC 27603; 1million@gov.state.nc.us; (800) 662-7952. Also urge your representative to support the Boehlert/Markey amendment, H.R. 701.

For More Information: Contact Mary Kiesau at (919) 833-8467; mary.kiesau@sierraclub-nc.org.


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