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The Planet
Alerts

by Jenny Coyle

A grizzly bear foraging for food in the mountains of Wyoming won't stop short if he sees a fully loaded berry bush across the state line in Idaho. Nor will a bull trout hesitate to cross from Idaho to Montana to reach a pool with a cloud of mosquitoes overhead.

Animals don't recognize political boundaries - nor does the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (H.R. 488), a visionary bill that recently gained its 106th co-sponsor in the House of Representatives.

NREPA would give various levels of protection to a total of 20 million acres of public land and 1,800 miles of river in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington. It would designate new wilderness areas, national parks, wildland recovery areas, preserve study areas, wild and scenic rivers and biological connecting corridors.

"This bill offers the best chance of protecting important wildlife habitat, pristine drinking-water supplies and valuable recreation opportunities in the northern Rockies," said Jennifer Ferenstein, a member of the Sierra Club Board of Directors. Ferenstein also chairs the Northern Rockies Task Force, a Club entity that brings together activists in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to work across borders and to protect wildlife and wildlands.

"There's no other place in the lower 48 states where essentially every species encountered by Lewis and Clark is still there," she said. "Some are hanging on by a thread. What wildlife needs to survive in the long term are large chunks of habitat that are diverse and undisturbed. In the Northern Rockies, that kind of terrain is threatened by logging and other destructive activities."

Ferenstein said the bill would save wildlife - and it also makes sound economic sense for two reasons. First, the majority of timber sales in the Northern Rockies lose money. "The public pays for the logging, the restoration and the long-term damage to species survival through tax dollars," she said. "An economic analysis shows that the best and highest use of this land is to preserve what we have."

Second, NREPA includes a wildland recovery component that helps put people to work restoring the woods, thereby easing the strain on timber-dependent communities. The work includes tree planting and ripping out old roads that bleed sediment into nearby waterways. It also includes work such as re-contouring hillsides, which would create higher-paying union jobs for those who would otherwise be using their heavy equipment to build the roads required for timber sales.

In May, Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) became the 100th sponsor of NREPA, and six more representatives have signed on since. That means one out of every four House members is a co-sponsor.

For more information: Contact Jennifer Ferenstein; 326 E. Spruce, Missoula, MT 59802; jen@wildrockies.org.


Logging Company Plans Large-Scale Clearcuts in California

by Johanna Congleton

Who rivals only Ted Turner for the title of "largest private landowner in the United States"?

Appallingly, it's Sierra Pacific Industries - a timber company.

Sierra Pacific is owned by billionaire and Forbes 400-listee Archie Aldis "Red" Emmerson. His company has accumulated 1.5 million acres of California forest, a full 38 percent of the state's private-industrial forest land.

And what does Emmerson have planned for this land? Clearcuts - lots of them.

In fact, timber-harvest plans show that SPI plans to log 70 percent of its land over the next generation, mainly by clearcutting. Clearcutting on SPI-owned property has already skyrocketed by nearly 2,500 percent in the past seven years. Lands on the logging docket include 900 acres adjacent to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a haven for wildlife and some of the world's last giant sequoias - the largest trees on earth.

Clearcutting has reached such a frenzy in some areas that the Sierra Club has found itself working with unexpected allies.

Residents of Arnold, Calif., a conservative town formerly dependent on logging, are infuriated by clearcutting above a local reservoir and near Big Trees park. Area politicians and residents - who have supported the timber industry in the past - and the county water district worry that heavy logging will choke waterways with silt and contaminate drinking-water supplies with herbicides.

"We are seeing Republican retirees picketing," said Warren Alford, a Sierra Club California conservation organizer. "Little old ladies are offering to chain themselves to logging machinery. And the granddaughter of the former mill owner has spoken out against SPI's clearcuts."

Even Calaveras County Supervisor Marita Callaway declared, "This is not a Sierra Club kinda town, but we're with them on this issue."

In response to the deluge of public criticism SPI has faced from local residents and the Club, the company declared a 30-day moratorium July 28, during which it will re-evaluate its clearcutting near Arnold.

Alford and other Club activists sounded the alarm after studying timber-harvest plans that delineated where and what SPI planned to cut. He found that SPI owned a monstrous patchwork of land interrupted by publicly owned national forests.

"This means wildlife that need large, old trees for habitat will shrink back into little fragments of uncut Forest Service land," said Alford. "Endangered species such as the pacific fisher, American marten and especially spotted owls - which are plummeting at a rate of 7 to 10 percent a year - will continue to spiral downward."

Another ax SPI wields with a heavy hand is political influence. Emmerson is generous when it comes to political donations. His frequent financial gifts to both Democrats and Republicans - totaling $231,500 in 1999 - have won SPI a governor-appointed seat on the California Board of Forestry and more access to politicians than environmentalists have ever had. Between 1998 and 1999, SPI gave $35,000 in direct contributions to California's current governor, Gray Davis (D), and hosted a fundraiser that netted the governor nearly $130,000. Davis has been spotted at SPI events, but has yet to meet with environmentalists.

Davis will soon receive a 49-block quilt sewn by Arnold retiree Bunny Firebaugh and three other local stitchers - one patch for each clearcut planned near their town.

"The temporary moratorium near Arnold is a chance for Davis to take the lead in public discussion and begin redrafting forest rules to make sure they address industrial clearcutting and its impact on those who live in California, especially in the Sierra," said Alford.

Traditionally, the Club has focused its efforts on ending commercial logging on public lands. The options for stopping damaging timber operations on private lands are limited, unless the cutting has broader consequences like contaminating public water supplies or contributing to species extinction. Club activists continue to push Davis and the California Board of Forestry to adopt tougher forest regulations, but huge campaign contributions from SPI and other timber companies have made enactment and enforcement of such laws difficult.

SPI is also rewarded with public subsidies. Taxpayers underwrite the cost of roadbuilding and logging in California's national forests.

"We're paying SPI to log our public lands, which is what we have been fighting nationally through our Campaign to End Commercial Logging on Federal Lands," said Alford. "And they're using the profits from that to buy more private land they can clearcut under California's inadequate forest rules. If you trace any problem California has had with its forests, you can generally find SPI at the heart of it."

To Take Action: Contact Gov. Gray Davis and ask him to protect California's forests by directing the Board of Forestry to adopt new rules that would end clearcutting on all lands in California. Write Gov. Gray Davis, State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814;
(916) 445-4633.

For More Information: Contact Warren Alford at (916) 557-1100; warren.alford@sierraclub.org or Alex Rate (415) 977-5500; alex.rate@sierraclub.org.


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