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Sierra Magazine
Inside Sierra: Postcard Power

In this issue of Sierra, you'll find a postcard that offers you a chance to help determine the fate of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. We've been tucking such action cards into the magazine for three years now, with ever larger responses each time. Some 9,000 of you mailed cards demanding a strong global-warming agreement in Kyoto in 1997. About 16,000 weighed in against pollution from factory farms in early 1999. And, a year ago, a whopping 20,000 rallied to the defense of the Maine Woods, Sequoia National Forest, and the Great Bear Rainforest.

Speaking with one voice, 20,000 people have no trouble making themselves heard. The Great Bear cards had particularly gratifying results. Bolstering a long-term campaign led by Rainforest Action Network, the cards asked the world's largest home-improvement store, Home Depot, to help protect the Great Bear Rainforest from logging by removing old-growth wood products from its shelves. A few months later, Home Depot agreed to do just that by the end of 2002. The growing roar from consumers was also heard by British Columbia's logging industry, which in the spring of 1999 agreed to a short-term logging moratorium in 40 intact valleys in the Great Bear, the most sweeping voluntary moratorium in British Columbia history. By year's end, Time magazine's international edition declared the Great Bear Rainforest the number one environmental topic of 1999.

It all goes to show that people who are willing to work together can shake things up. Novelist and angler David James Duncan defended fish once before in our pages with "The War for Norman's River" in 1998, about a mine menacing the Big Blackfoot in Montana. This issue, his focus is broader—the Pacific Northwest, where four anachronistic dams on the lower Snake River are leading to the extinction of the West's inland salmon. In a story that begins on page 30, Duncan reviews the strong scientific arguments for removal of these dams—and passionately warns us of the biological, cultural, and spiritual price we'll pay if we fail to act.

What happens next is up to us. The federal government released an environmental impact statement on removing the Snake River dams in late December and will be accepting public comments until the end of March. "The timing is perfect," according to Bill Arthur of the Sierra Club's Northwest office. So go ahead: Prove once again the power of the postcard.

By Editor-in-Chief Joan Hamilton


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