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  Sierra Magazine
  March/April 2004
Table of Contents
 
  FEATURES: Wild America
Our Great Estate
Land Lingo
The Assault on Wild America
Beneath Wyoming Stars
Stuck on the Desert
Deep in the Georgia Woods
In the Rockies' Wild Heart
 
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Experts Agree!
Interview: Yvon Chouinard
 
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One Small Step
Lay of the Land
Profile
Good Going
The Sierra Club Bulletin
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Lay of the Land

WWatch: Keeping tabs on the Bush administration

Science Under Fire | For the Record | By the Numbers | A Better Way

Science Under Fire

Government scientists, beware: If you can’t tell the Bush administration what it wants to hear, you’d better keep quiet. In October 2003, a team of Fish and Wildlife Service biologists learned this lesson the hard way. After a decade of study, they had devised a rescue plan for the Missouri River’s endangered pallid sturgeons and least terns and threatened piping plover. But just when the biologists were about to publish a final report calling for changes in the amount of water released from the river’s dams, they found themselves yanked from the project. Under pressure from the Army Corps of Engineers and congressional supporters of the barge industry, Interior Department assistant secretary Craig Manson

replaced the original scientists with an out-of-state "SWAT team." Their second opinion, released after just 45 days of study, called for smaller changes in water flow than the original team had recommended for recovery of spawning fish and nesting birds.

According to Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, many professionals with "inconvenient" messages have been reassigned in Fish and Wildlife Service offices throughout the country. And the problem isn’t limited to one agency. The Bureau of Land Management recently announced plans to transfer 20 Boise, Idaho, staffers to a remote office. Ruch characterized the move as a "targeted political payback" to local ranchers who oppose BLM interference in their affairs.
Jennifer Hattam

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For The Record

"If we are saying that the loss of species is inherently bad–I don’t think we know enough about how the world works to say that."

—Craig Manson, the assistant secretary at the Interior Department who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act.

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A Better Way

Make Polluters Pay

One in every four Americans lives within four miles of a Superfund site, the nation’s most dangerous repositories of abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste. The Bush administration, however, doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to clean them up. Oil and chemical companies are responsible for the majority of Superfund sites, but the White House opposes reinstating a tax on those industries that has helped pay for cleanups at "orphan" sites (those where the parties that dumped the waste cannot be identified or have gone out of business). The General Accounting Office estimates that the trust fund created by these taxes will run out of money by the end of this year, and Bush thinks taxpayers should now foot the entire bill.

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) have a better idea: Last year, they sponsored legislation to extend the corporate tax until 2014 to make polluting industries pay the bulk of the cleanup bill. "The heart of the Superfund law is under attack," Boxer said when she introduced the Toxic Clean-Up Polluter Pays Renewal Act. "These companies make millions on their sales. This fee is a small price to pay for a healthy, safe environment." —Jennifer Hattam

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By the Numbers

• Number of major environmental standards set by the EPA during the first three years of the Clinton administration: 30

• Number set by the Bush EPA: 3

• Number of those standards that were required by court order: 2

• Amount donated by the electric-utility industry to George W. Bush and the Republican

National Committee in the 2000 campaign: $4,800,000

• Number of electric-power-plant investigations for violations of the Clean Air Act dropped by the EPA late last year: 50

• Estimated amount that the industry will save as a result: $10,000,000,000

• Number of streams nationwide at high risk of pollution by the weed-killer atrazine, according to the EPA: 1,172

• Number of streams that the EPA is requiring atrazine manufacturers to monitor: 40

• Number of endangered and threatened species on military lands: 300

• Acres of military lands Bush has exempted from habitat-protection provisions of the

Endangered Species Act: 25,000,000

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