State Program Director
As the Bush administration races backwards, much responsibility for
protecting public health and the environment falls to the states.
Sierra Club chapters have long been active in state legislatures and
before state environmental agencies fighting for habitat protection,
sound urban planning, clean air and water, and more. Some recent highlights:
Roads v. Trails in Washington State—And the Trails Win!
Supporters of a proposed loop road through Mount St. Helens National
Monument are blaming environmentalists for Governor Gary Locke’s
(D) March veto of a $400,000 state budget item to study the road proposal.
"It doesn’t make sense that the Sierra Club has more power
than the state legislature," fumed one paid lobbyist and road
supporter. Gifford Pinchot Forest Supervisor Claire Lavendel says
building a road across the unstable pumice plain would be unsafe and
expensive, and would disrupt scientific research in the Mount St.
Helens blast zone. The Sierra Club and the Washington Trails Association
lobbied lawmakers and encouraged their members to call Locke opposing
the road. The governor also signed a bill reforming the state’s
off-road vehicle program by reducing gas tax-generated funding for
ORV areas while increasing funding for non-motorized trails. The Cascade
Chapter has been working on these reforms since 1991.
Sprawl-Fighting Progress in New Jersey
The New Jersey legislature passed a Transfer of Development Rights
bill that the New Jersey Chapter has been working on for two years.
The new law will allow towns and cities to steer development into
designated growth areas while forcing builders to shoulder the cost
of saving open space. "It’s going to give local governments
the ability to say ‘you can build here but you can’t build
there,’" said a spokesman for Governor James McGreevey
Chapter Director Jeff Tittel said the measure will allow municipalities
to protect farms in exchange for giving developers rights to build
at higher densities elsewhere. "Towns will be able to set growth
boundaries," Tittel said, "setting aside some areas for
preservation and allowing growth in others."
Wolf Killing in the West
Sierra Club chapters in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are working to
protect resurgent wolf populations from state-sanctioned moves to
resume killing them off. As the wolves have re-established themselves
in the Northern Rockies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes
to remove wolves in the region from the Endangered Species list if
all three states adopt management plans that are acceptable to the
Fish and Wildlife Service. While some "take" of wolves will
be approved, the states are being lobbied by cattle interests to allow
indiscriminate killing. Montana’s and Idaho’s plans have
already been approved, but the Idaho Chapter opposes its state’s
plan because it allows wolves to be killed for even harassing livestock.
At the bottom of the heap and (thankfully) holding up the whole show
is Wyoming, which proposes to classify wolves as a Trophy Species
and basically institute open season on them. Wyoming’s plan
did not receive federal approval, and the state has appealed that
decision by filing suit against the federal government.
North Carolina Governor Leads the South Towards Cleaner, Healthier
At the direction of Governor Mike Easley (D), North Carolina filed
a petition in March calling for the U.S. EPA to require major reductions
of air pollution from 13 upwind states. "We’ve already
taken unprecedented steps to reduce emissions in North Carolina, but
air pollution does not respect state boundaries," Easley said.
"The time has come for EPA to level the playing field and make
other states take responsibility for their contributions to this problem."
In 2002, the state enacted the landmark Clean Smokestacks law, requiring
North Carolina power plants to reduce by three-fourths their emissions
of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide during the next five to ten
Georgia to Address Water Needs
Concluding a four-year struggle, the Georgia Chapter, as part of the
Georgia Water Coalition, pushed the state to develop a State Water
Plan by 2008. Equally important on the water front is what did not
happen this year. As the result of well-organized environmental opposition
in the Georgia legislature, bills were defeated or gutted that would
have cashiered the state’s requirements for vegetated buffers
on streams; allowed any stream under a certain annual flow rate to
be piped rather than protected in its natural course; and facilitated
inter-basin water transfers to feed Atlanta-region sprawl.
Iowa Fights Hog Factory Pollution
In April, the Iowa Chapter and its allies celebrated an air quality
victory, particularly for those living near hog-raising operations,
when Governor Thomas Vilsack (D) vetoed a bill approved by the legislature
to set pollutant standards for hydrogen sulfide and ammonia at 50
times the level proposed by the state’s air quality agency.
The governor came out strongly for tougher standards.
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