Air Date: February 23, 1996
Utah: Weighing in on Wilderness
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey both recently spoke with host Steve Curwood about their proposed legislation concerning the wild areas of Utah. The two lawmakers have two different visions for the same land. (07:00)
Utah: Red Rock Culture/ George Hardeen
Living among the best of the great American West, George Hardeen visits with individuals in Southern Utah who express their views on wilderness versus job development, and what makes Utah unique. (10:10)
Utah Testimony/ Stephen Trimble
Author Stephen Trimble reads an essay he wrote contained in a book he helped compile titled Testimony. The essay is on his encounters with the Utah wilderness and why he feels it should be conserved. (03:50)
The Living on Earth Almanac
Facts about the Audubon Society. (01:20)
Timber Salvage Logging Rider: Dead or Alive/ Ley Garnett
The Timber Salvage Rider is meant to allow for the removal of dead trees to prevent large forest fires. But another type of firestorm seems to have been kindled. Ley Garnett of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports on the controversial law that permits timber companies to take old growth forest trees, despite their presidentially protected status, due to a legal ruling. (07:21)
Ron Wyden's Victory Efforts
Steve Curwood speaks with political commentator Russell Sadler about the green strategy which won former Senator Bob Packwood's seat for Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden. Swing voters with environmental concerns were apparently the deciding factor in a very close, and closely watched, race. (04:30)
Peru Fishery Collapse?/ Jyl Hoyt
The last time Peru's fishing industry collapsed, 50,000 people lost their jobs. Jyl Hoyt reports from Peru on current reductions in fish catches and suggested efforts at preventing a repeat of the South American nation's recent history. (09:07)
The Bee's Knees/ Ruth Page
Due to recent innovations, some honeybees will be carrying pesticides that kill viruses, along with the usual pollen this spring. Commentator Ruth Page remarks on this and other notable scientific discoveries. (03:07)
Copyright c 1996 by World Media Foundation. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold, or transmitted without the written authority of World Media Foundation.
HOST: Steve Curwood
NEWSCASTER: Jan Nunley
REPORTERS: Terry FitzPatrick, Zachary Fink, George Hardeen, Ley Garnett , Jyl Hoyt
GUESTS: Orrin Hatch, Maurice Hinchey, Russell Sadler
COMMENTATORS: Stephen Trimble, Ruth Page
(Theme music intro)
CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood. The fate of some famous Western landscape is up for grabs in Congress. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch says too much of it is locked up as wilderness in Utah.
HATCH: We would like to release up the other land so that people can use them, so people can drive their 4-wheel drive vehicles into some of these areas and see them where they would otherwise not be able to. It doesn't mean development, it doesn't mean destruction of the lands. It just means better multiple use of the land.
CURWOOD: But others say Utah's red rock lands need as much protection as possible.
AUSTIN: We need some security that these lands are going to stay the way they are, in sacred ground, and we need to designate a wilderness as a way of saying thank you.
CURWOOD: This week on Living on Earth, first the news.
NUNLEY: From Living on Earth, I'm Jan Nunley. Global warming, acid rain, and the hole in the ozone layer are producing unexpected new threats to freshwater fish and plants. A study in the journal Nature reports that global warming and acid rain are reducing carbon levels in lakes and rivers. Carbon absorbs excess ultraviolet radiation from the sun let through by holes in the ozone layer. That radiation can have a lethal impact on fish and plants. Measurements at several Ontario lakes over the last 20 years show carbon levels fell by 15 to 20%, allowing radiation to penetrate 22 to 63% deeper. During that time overall temperatures rose by nearly 2 degrees, and rainfall fell by 25%.
State officials in the Pacific Northwest are scrambling to save more than 30 million baby salmon whose lives are in jeopardy because of Federal budget cuts. Living on Earth's Terry FitzPatrick reports from our Northwest Bureau at KPLU in Seattle.
FITZPATRICK: For decades, the US Government has supported hatcheries in Oregon and Washington to make up for salmon lost by construction of Federal dams on the Columbia River. However, Congressional cuts may force some of the hatcheries to close early this season and prematurely release more than one third of this year's baby salmon. Officials say the early release means certain death for 39 million fish. It also means an $11 million loss for the already depressed commercial and sport fishing industries. State officials are struggling to save the fish with emergency appropriations. In Oregon, where 8 million salmon have already been released, the governor has authorized funding to keep millions more alive until March 15. After that, their fate is uncertain. In Washington, state officials are poised to release 16 million salmon in early March, unless the legislature approves $800,000 to keep the hatcheries open. For Living on Earth, this is Terry FitzPatrick in Seattle.
NUNLEY: Northwest salmon face another threat this season: high floodwaters have inundated many hatcheries, sweeping away 15% of this year's baby salmon.
As urban sprawl consumes farm land, the key to feeding people may lie in garbage dumps, vacant lots, and other urban spaces. That's the conclusion of a United Nations report on urban agriculture, already a way of life for millions of people in the developing world. The UN says about 20,000 people farm garbage dumps in Calcutta, India, while in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum farm animals consume about one fourth of the city's refuse. The report calls for governments to promote urban farming, but adds that the stigma attached to urban farming has made many countries hesitant to explore its possibilities. New York City is also turning to a non-traditional use of its garbage dumps: tourism. Zachary Fink of WFUV explains.
FINK: For almost 50 years New York's Department of Sanitation has been dumping its trash at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island. The Sanitation Department in New York says 13,000 tons of garbage from around the city are dumped at Fresh Kills each day. As the amount of garbage grows, so does the Fresh Kills reputation. Recently the city announced that it would be offering tours of the dump to those interested. Lucien Charleston is from the Department of Sanitation. He says the idea behind the tour is to raise awareness about garbage.
CHARLESTON: The point of having people really see the daily operation and the vastness of it and the tremendous volume that's there is to give them a real idea of the cost of waste disposal, the amounts. It hits home, really, the message of recycling, telling people to reduce and reuse. So you know, it's like a visualization of what a lot has been talked about really hits home.
FINK: The tours will not formally begin until the spring, although some have already gotten a sneak preview. Young women from a private high school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan recently visited Fresh Kills and its 75,000 gulls on a class trip. The environmental chemistry teacher who brought the students to the dump says the trip was part of a unit on the chemistry and economics of recycling, although most of the waste at Fresh Kills never gets recycled. For Living on Earth, I'm Zachary Fink in New York.
NUNLEY: California air quality authorities plan to take the Ku Klux Klan to court, claiming that cross burnings violate pollution standards. Police say they had no reason to arrest Klan members after they burned a 30-foot cross on farm land near Modesto earlier this month, but local officials plan to file a civil complaint, seeking $50,000 in fines and an injunction to prevent future cross burnings. Officials say landowners can only burn agricultural materials on their land, and crosses don't qualify. Bill Albers, the Imperial Wizard of the American Knights of the Klan claims the cross burning on his land was part of his birthday party and no more polluting than big rig trucks
That's this week's Living on Earth news. I'm Jan Nunley.
(Theme music up and under)
CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
(Man: "Oh, Bessie, Brownie, Bill! Good bye!" Western music plays.)
CURWOOD: Ah, the American West: big, bold, and beautiful. And when Hollywood filmmaker John Ford directed his famous westerns, he headed for the gorgeous red rocks of Utah's southern counties. You can still see the land today in all its splendor, where John Ford made She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers, and perhaps his most famous film, Stagecoach.
(A scene from Stagecoach plays.)
HINCHEY: The landscape is absolutely unique. There is nothing like it anyplace in this country, and perhaps nowhere else in the world.
HATCH: We have everything from sand dunes to high Uinta in the mountains, with lakes and streams, and down to pure desert, beautiful rocks and cliffs and canyons. It's unbelievable.
CURWOOD: Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Representative Maurice Hinchey of New York both agree on the beauty of wild Utah. They're in conflict over how to protect it. We'll hear their views in this half hour along with others.
The Federal Government owns 22 million acres in southern Utah. Right now the Bureau of Land Management treats much of it as wilderness, but this temporary arrangement is coming under increasing pressure. Senator Hatch and others say the present deal locks up too much of the land. Beyond the boundaries of the present national parks and monuments, says the senator, another 2 million or so acres of Utah's wilderness should be preserved, but more than that isn't practical.
HATCH: Problem in this particular situation is that some of the pro-wilderness groups want low-lying sagebrush lands along the highways cutting off the long-time roads and access routes and so forth. And you know, those lands aren't to be designated wilderness, and that's where we get into some of the difficulties.
CURWOOD: Senator Hatch's Utah Wilderness Bill has drawn fire from a coalition of wilderness and environmental advocates, as well as the Clinton Administration. These critics say they prefer a measure sponsored by Congressman Hinchey.
HINCHEY: What we are seeking to do is to declare 5.7 million acres of that 22 million acres as wilderness, so that future generations will be able to enjoy the unprecedented beauty that exists in southern Utah.
CURWOOD: Opponents of your bill say that this additional land is low-lying sage brush, and much of it is in fact roaded and it's not really wilderness quality land. Is that true?
HINCHEY: No, that's not true. It is unique in its diversity, extraordinary in its brilliance and beauty, and a place that is utterly and totally deserving of protection.
CURWOOD: Present law allows for hiking, camping, and some grazing within Federal wilderness areas. But Senator Hatch's measure would also allow some roads, cars, and even some mineral, coal, and water development in wilderness areas under what he calls pre-existing rights.
HATCH: So yeah, we would allow some of that. But the fact is, what we don't want to do is cut off pre-existing rights that really should be protected. This is does not mean that we're going to permit a ripping off of the wilderness in areas where rights don't exist, and should not exist. It's just a reasonable approach to try and resolve some of the problems that exist.
HINCHEY: Well that may be what is in his mind, but it is not what is in the bill.
CURWOOD: Again, Representative Hinchey.
HINCHEY: The language of the bill certainly would allow various kinds of activities, construction of dams, roads, communication towers, things of that nature. Now obviously, those kinds of things are not consistent with the idea of wilderness as it's set forth in the '64 legislation or any other wilderness area currently existing in the country. And certainly I don't think not consistent with the idea of wilderness in the mind of citizens of the United States. When we think of wilderness we think of a place that is wild, that has not been subject to the activities of man.
CURWOOD: Then there's the rest of the 22 million acres, land not formally designated as wilderness under either measure. Mr. Hinchey's bill, in keeping with current law, allows the Federal Bureau of Land Management to choose what additional land might be treated as wilderness. But Senator Hatch objects. His bill would take this power out of the Agency's hands. Mr. Hatch says in a state where 70% of the land is Federally owned and carries restrictions on its use, it's important to make as much land as possible available for what he calls reasonable uses.
HATCH: We would like to release up the other lands so that people can use them. We're great believers in multiple use out in Utah, so people can drive their 4-wheel drive vehicles into some of these areas and see them where they would otherwise not be able to, people with disabilities will be able to see. Where young kids and older people will be able to enjoy and participate. It doesn't mean development. It doesn't mean destruction of the lands. It just means better multiple use of the land.
CURWOOD: But opponents say Senator Hatch's bill isn't so benign. They say for one thing, it would allow mining of a huge coalfield beneath the Kaiparwits Plateau, one of the largest unbroken wild areas left in the country. Most of it lies outside of Mr. Hatch's proposed wilderness boundaries. Congressman Hinchey.
HINCHEY: So that land, in effect, would be lost forever. The ability to protect it would be gone as a result of this so-called hard release language. Now that language is unique to this bill. So for that reason alone, it is a very bad idea.
CURWOOD: And according to some recent surveys and polls, the largest fraction of the public both inside and outside Utah thinks it's a bad idea, too. Senator Hatch says these surveys don't reflect the needs and views of those most directly affected.
HATCH: Every once in a while I think we ought to consider the needs of human beings, too, and especially those who live in the area. What are their needs for jobs? What are their needs for something as vital to them in the second driest state in the Union as water? I think we have to have some reason in these things, and we've got to balance the rights of human beings and the rights of the public as a whole in those areas, and even throughout the country.
CURWOOD: A House version of Senator Hatch's measure has passed committee. But with the election year now underway and a backlog of budget bills clogging Congress, it's not clear when the matter will come before the full House and Senate for debate. What does seem clear is that passions on this are high, and both sides feel that they are the keepers of the best of the Great American West.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: We meet some folks living on Utah's southern range just ahead on Living on Earh. Stick around.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: The breathtaking topography of southern Utah just north of the Grand Canyon is known to many of us through Lake Powell, as well as Capital Reef, Zion, Arches and Bryce Canyon National Parks. The region may be an environmental battleground today, but a century ago few people saw or wanted this harsh, unforgiving land. We sent producer George Hardeen to the area to find out why people care so deeply about this place and what's at stake for their future.
(Cows lowing, a man yelling)
HARDEEN: There's little this unforgiving landscape of deep endless canyons and huge, high plateaus will give up, other than some grama grass or side oats. The soil of southern Utah is too rocky, too dry for large-scale farming. So to survive, generations of Mormon ranchers have relied on cattle to make their living. Cows are hauled in from the range to corrals near the highway, where waiting semis load up.
(A car beeper beeps. A motor starts.)
HARDEEN: Rancher Carla Johnson says those who run cattle here don't like talk of setting limits. While it's public land they've leased for grazing, they feel like they've earned the right to call it their own.
CARLA JOHNSON: This is now the third generation in the family, this land. You'll see how beautiful this land is and how well taken care of it's been, and you'll see why we get upset when people come in and say well now, we're here to tell you how to take care of it. When the only reason it's still in this good condition is because we've taken care of it. People take care of the land because they love it.
(The sounds of chains, a motor)
HARDEEN: We're about 50 miles east of Zion National Park. Except for the highway, not a manmade structure has been visible for miles. A rutted dirt road takes us to the Jepson homestead, owned by Carla's father in law, Calvin Johnson. Even before saying hello, he asks me if I'm an environmentalist. Environmentalists promoting wilderness are not welcome in these parts.
CALVIN JOHNSON: We definitely do not believe in wilderness. This whole area through here, northern Arizona, southern Utah, do not believe in wilderness.
HARDEEN: Any wilderness. Not even the smaller amount proposed in the Hatch bill, which would leave millions of acres open to possible development: dams, coal mining, roads, power lines. Mr. Johnson says this land doesn't need outside protection. It still looks much like it always has: an empty, ancient place of exposed rock carved into tortured shapes by wind and rain. Countless stairstep mesas in shades of white, tan and rust, stretching to the horizon.
CALVIN JOHNSON: This is all horseback country. Now we go back down here 10 miles, we go back of those whites up there and to the Arizona line, and then we go over as far as you can see, that white pinnacle over there? That's where your Paria Creek comes down and we go to the Paria Creek. And we go right up under, we're just a few miles under Bryce Canyon up there.
HARDEEN: Mr. Johnson has ranched here for more than 50 years. It's been a difficult life, he says, but once you get the land's sand in your boots you can never get it out.
CALVIN JOHNSON: When you're out here like we are today, you know, you're at peace, see. But it's a way of life that very few can become adapted to.
HARDEEN: Mr. Johnson's pioneer ancestors settled this rugged, inhospitable, but awesome region nobody else had wanted. Now, he says, the government and environmentalists seem intent on boxing them in and locking them out.
CALVIN JOHNSON: We're afraid of the government, we're afraid of the states and Federal people that want to do this, see? So we build up a defense. And if they would come into this area, let live and experiment and want us to all join in and make it look like we all want to live together and we all want to have a life together, why it'd be the best thing can happen.
NOEL: Probably even goes back to the Mormon pioneers.
HARDEEN: Mike Noel, an environmental specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, has been here for 22 years.
NOEL: God sent them here to use the land and to use the resources of the land. It even goes back to, you can go as far back as the Garden of Eden.
HARDEEN: Mike Noel says distrust toward the government and outsiders is practically part of Southern Utahns' heritage. The Mormons were chased from Illinois into the untamed wilds of the west. Mutual distrust between them and the rest of the country resulted in Utah being one of the last states to join the Union. More recently, fallout from nuclear testing in the 1950s led to thousands of cancers and heightened the sense of betrayal. Now, residents here have seen laws like the Endangered Species Act shut down the forests and close saw mills, throwing their top wage earners out of work and forcing hundreds of families to move away. Mike Noel says the last thing these people want now is for the government to change how they use public land and how they earn their living.
NOEL: People in this area here do not want to be the bed makers and the toilet bowl cleaners and the service people, for people back East or New York or wherever to come in here and take care of them. They want to be able to stand up and be the people they were. Now, you have another group of people that mainly come from the environmental community that feel like this is the last remaining vestige of pristine lands in the continental United States, and they want to see it preserved and left exactly like it was when God created it.
BIMSTEIN: I'm Philip Bimstein. I'm the Mayor of Springdale, Utah. And I'm also a composer of alternative classical music.
HARDEEN: In many respects, Philip Bimstein is as different from Calvin Johnson as one could get. Raised in Chicago, educated, immersed in the arts and music. But he says he loves southern Utah as much as any native born here.
BIMSTEIN: I think what it is, is it's the color of the sandstone, the Navajo sandstone, the slick rock. And the green against that. It's really a visual, aesthetic kind of thing. When I came here about 7-and-half years ago and saw this house for sale up on this hill overlooking Zion National Park I just couldn't resist and I just did it.
HARDEEN: Rather than a livelihood, Mr. Bimstein draws inspiration from Utah's remote desert lands; and rather than moving livestock from the back of a horse, he manipulates cattle digitally in a computer-assisted composition titled, "Garland Hersey's Cows."
(Music plays; a cow lows)
BIMSTEIN: As you look out my windows here, or step outside, you know, you can't help but be impressed by the feeling of space here. And I think that seeing these canyons off in the distance and these mountains and right now we have a little bit of snow at the top of them, you have this enormous feeling of space. And that gives me a feeling of potential. And it gives me a lot of room creatively to move around in.
HARDEEN: Mr. Bimstein says pristine, untouched view scapes represent the future. They attract visitors and their wallets to his town. He supports wilderness designation from here clear through where Calvin Johnson runs his stock. About 100 miles across the canyons from Springdale is the settlement of Boulder, Utah. It's home to Mark Austin, a former contractor who moved here with his family a year and a half ago and built an upscale lodge. With just a handful of residents, Boulder is barely a town.
(Frying on a skillet)
AUSTIN: Well, Willy's our head chef, right. So anyway, he was getting the small town blues the Boulder bore, and decided that he was going to head up to the Salt Lake, the big city for the weekend. So he's gone and I'm flipping spuds.
HARDEEN: Mark Austin's lodge will appeal to tourists, but he thinks ranches and cattle should not be driven out. Grazing is compatible with wilderness, he says, but some other uses of the land are not.
AUSTIN: You know, we can't just destroy the wilderness and turn it into a strip mine or whatever, and quite frankly, you know, it's really worth preserving because we can't recreate it. Boulder, Utah, is an amazing place. It's like an oasis on the, in the red rock canyons of southern Utah. It's great expanses of green, alfalfa fields and pastures. There's a lot of water here. There's a lot of cattle here. There's just not very many people here.
HARDEEN: Like cattlemen, Mark Austin wants to preserve the ranching lifestyle that's been a way of life here for well over 100 years. But he also wants to see southern Utah's incomparable landscape preserved and protected for the future. In the balance, he says, is man's redemption.
AUSTIN: We need some security that these lands are going to stay the way they are and that the encroachment of man is minimal and it's really the soul, you know, and sacred ground, and we need to designate a wilderness as a way of saying thank you.
HARDEEN: For Living on Earth, I'm George Hardeen in Boulder, Utah.
TRIMBLE: My name is Stephen Trimble. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, though I think of most of the West as my home. I am one of 20 writers who contributed to a collection of essays called Testimony. Last fall, we presented this book to Congress, a way for writers of the west to apply our skills at articulating our feelings about the Utah wilderness to a political debate.
My place of refuge is a wilderness canyon in southern Utah. Its scale is exactly right. Smooth curves of sandstone embrace and cradle me. From the road, I cross a mile of slick rock to reach the stream. This creek runs year round, banked by orchids and ferns. Entering the tangle of greenery I rediscover paradise. The canyon is a secret, a power spot, a place of pilgrimage. I found this canyon in my youth 20 years ago. I came here again and again. I brought special friends and lovers. When my wife and I met, and I discovered she knew this place, I felt certain she knew a place deep within me as well.
On those early trips I rarely saw other people. Once in the velvet light before dawn, I awoke, sat bolt upright, and looked past my sleeping bag into a lone ponderosa pine, a tree that brought the spicy scent of mountain forest to this desert canyon. A few seconds later, a great horned owl noiselessly landed on a branch and looked back at me with fierce eyes. The owl flew down canyon, searching for unwary mice. I lay back, fell asleep, and awoke again when the sun warmed me.
I bathed in plunge pools, and waded along the stream, learning to pay attention. Looking for reflections and leaf patterns and rock forms to photograph. Details I would not see if the canyon had not taught me to look. Never before had I spent so much time alone on the land. Here I matured as a naturalist and photographer and as a human being. This wilderness canyon made me whole. It still can restore me to wholeness when the stress of my life pulls me thin. It bestows peace of mind that lasts for months.
These landscapes nourish and teach and heal. They help keep us sane. They give us strength. They connect us to our roots in the earth. They remind us that we share in the flow of life and death. We encounter animals in their native place, and they look into our eyes with the amalgam of indifference and companionship that separates us from and unites us with other creatures. A garden can connect us with wildness. Wilderness connects us with our ancestral freedoms even more powerfully. We need to preserve every chance to have such experiences. In doing so we demonstrate our trustworthiness, our capacity to take a stand on behalf of the land.
For we have reached the end of the Gold Rush. This wild country is our home, not simply one more stop on the way to the next boomtown. The wilderness canyons of Utah belong not to an elite cadre of backpackers. Not to the cattle raising families of Escalante and Kanab. Not to the Bureau of Land Management. They belong to all citizens of the United States. In truth they belong to no one. They are a magnificent expression of the powers of the Earth, and we Americans hold Utah wilderness in trust for all humans and all life on our planet.
CURWOOD: Writer Stephen Trimble is based in Salt Lake City. He helped compile the book Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness.
(Music up and under: country western)
CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation, in cooperation with WBUR, Boston, and Harvard University. Special thanks this week to KUER, Salt Lake City. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer.
(Music up and under)
ANNOUNCER: Major funding for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment; the Ford Foundation; the W. Alton Jones Foundation for reporting on environmental ethics; and the Joyce Foundation.
(Music up and under)
NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: Coming up in the second half of Living on Earth, the newest US Senator campaigned on an environmental platform. What will that mean when he votes in Washington.
(Theme music up and under)
CURWOOD: It's NPR's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: One hundred years ago, high fashion ran to opera gloves and ornate hats embellished with feathers. The more feathers, the better. Then one day, Boston Brahmin Harriet Lawrence Hemenway, a plumed hat wearer herself, happened to read an article detailing the devastation that feather hunters inflicted: heaps of skin, dead birds left to rot, and orphaned chicks left to starve. Aghast at this fashion statement that was killing 5 million birds a year, Ms. Hemenway organized her fellow blue bloods. A century ago this month they formed the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Other states followed, and eventually there was a national Audubon Society. The original Massachusetts organization now has more than 50,000 members; the national society has 10 times that number. Ms. Hemenway's society was named for the renowned bird painter, John James Audubon. Ms. Hemenway would have to find a different name if she were addressing the same issues now. It is the small fur-bearing animals that are hunted for today's fashion demands. In particular, river otters, red foxes, and raccoons are in fatal vogue.
CURWOOD: Under pressure from Congress last summer, President Clinton signed a bill which temporarily waived environmental laws covering certain tracts of old growth national forest in the west. Supporters claimed it was supposed to allow the one-time harvest of dead and damaged trees, so called salvage logging. Critics said it would open up some crucial old growth stands to wholesale logging. And so far the critics seem to be right. Logging companies have gotten a green light to go ahead with at least 11 timber sales that had been canceled to protect fish and wildlife. Now the salvage logging law has become the biggest environmental battleground in the Northwest, and it's bubbling back up in Congress as well. Ley Garnett of Oregon Public Radio reports from Portland.
(A chainsaw runs.)
GARNETT: At an office in downtown Portland, leaders of several environmental organizations are viewing a videotape of recent logging operations in the Northwest. Among them is Rick Brown. He's with the western office of the National Wildlife Federation, and as he watches large old growth trees fall to the chainsaw, Brown has a sick look on his face.
BROWN: I think what this video footage demonstrates, it really just gives you a glimpse of some of what we're already seeing and what we're going to see to a much greater extent over the course of the next year and a half if this rider stays in effect.
GARNETT: The rider Brown refers to is called the Timber Salvage Logging Rider, an amendment attached to the budget bill passed by Congress last July. The salvage rider exempts timber sales from most environmental laws. It's opened up for logging old growth forests thought protected under the President's 1992 Northwest Forest Plan. At several sites across the country, cutting is once again underway, and so are protests.
(Protesters shouting: "Repeal the salvage rider! Repeal the salvage rider!")
GARNETT: The salvage rider has re-ignited the war over the Northwest's forests. At logging sites, acts of civil disobedience have led to the arrests of hundreds of people, including one 67 year old woman who attached her head to a logging truck with a bicycle lock to prevent it from hauling trees away.
(Protesters keep shouting.)
GARNETT: At this protest, one of several held recently in Oregon, several dozen students marched from their high school to the Federal Building in Eugene. Student organizer Molly Keogh.
KEOGH: It's senseless logging. It's cutting old growth. It's cutting things that are perfect healthy, and it's totally ridiculous.
GARNETT: Ending the march at the Federal Courthouse was symbolic. Environmentalists say decisions from Federal Judge Michael Hogan have made the salvage law more sinister. Hogan, appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, is considered the most conservative Federal Judge in Oregon. He's largely sided with the timber industry in court battles over forest issues. And late last year, Hogan sparked controversy by ruling that the salvage rider applies to all timber sales since 1990, regardless if the trees are dead or alive. The decision shocked environmentalists. But Chris West of the Northwest Forestry Association, a leading timber trade group, says anyone who followed the debate knew all along that green trees were included in the rider.
WEST: This issue was, and provision, was debated heavily in committee and on the floor of both the House and the Senate. The Administration tried to negotiate changes to the specific provisions. So members of Congress and the Administration knew specifically what was in this legislation.
GARNETT: West says salvage logging would prevent a reoccurrence of the catastrophic fires that raged through western states in 1994. With another dry season approaching, dead wood from Northwest forests has to be removed, West asserts, but he says lawsuits from environmentalists have held up sales of timber tracts.
WEST: If the Forest Service had been required to go through the lengthy review processes and be subject to appeals and litigation, the chances of salvage sales being acted on in a timely fashion was very unlikely.
GARNETT: In Washington, DC, efforts are underway to repeal or amend the salvage rider. In a White House press release, President Clinton said he wanted Congress to correct what he called the extreme results of court decisions expanding logging to ancient trees. On a recent visit to Portland, the President told reporters that the salvage rider has gone too far.
WOMAN: Repeal the salvage rider.
CLINTON: Oh, we're trying to. We're doing our very best to do it. And I think there's a lot of -- you know, I think even some of the people who were for it now realize all they did was create a lot of legal tangles. I hope we can get some progress on it. It's interesting you said that, just yesterday I had a meeting about it. We're working on it.
GARNETT: New Jersey Democrat Bill Bradley and California Democrat Barbara Boxer will introduce a measure in the Senate to repeal the salvage rider altogether. It's modeled after a House bill filed by Oregon Democrat Elizabeth Furse, who says Congress was misled about the scope of the rider.
FURSE: First of all, Congress was told this was an emergency measure to get out dead and dying trees. We were told it was such an emergency that it was stuck on a bill at 10:30 at night, a bill to fund the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.
GARNETT: Meanwhile, some Northwest Republicans appear to be reacting to charges of environmental insensitivity. Washington Senator Slade Gorton, a strong proponent of the salvage law, is reportedly discussing a toned down version of the rider as an amendment to an upcoming Interior bill, which would reduce the extent of old growth logging. On the other hand, Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho is proposing what he calls the Forest Health Bill. The Legislation would essentially extend the salvage rider past the end of this year, when it's scheduled to expire. The prospect of continued cutting of old growth trees scares the National Wildlife Federation's Rick Brown.
BROWN: Lots of big green trees, marble murrelet habitat, spotted owl habitat, salmon habitat, going down without proper environmental considerations. A whole lot of destructive of logging happening in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, Idaho and Montana, in particular under the guise of salvage.
GARNETT: As the Northwest mountain snow packs melt, more and more tracts of timber will become accessible to loggers, and some environmentalists say they won't wait to see if the salvage rider can be overturned in the courts or repealed in Congress. A spring offensive, they say, will happen, including acts of equipment sabotage. Chad Hanson is a member of the militant splinter group of the Sierra Club calling itself The John Muir Sierrans.
HANSEN: Collapses of entire civilizations have followed intense deforestation. This is something we rely upon for fresh water, clean air, and everything, just our basic survival. I think that it's perfectly appropriate for people to put their bodies on the line to block these timber sales.
GARNETT: Most mainstream environmental groups don't want to go beyond demonstrations of civil disobedience, but even some moderates say the salvage law has turned back the clock, and if the political system doesn't work for them, they seem willing to revert to the streets or the woods. For Living on Earth, I'm Ley Garnett in Portland, Oregon.
CURWOOD: If the salvage rider repeal comes up in the Congress, environmentalists will be watching carefully to see where the newest US Senator will cast his vote. Ron Wyden of Oregon was sworn in in early February, after winning a narrow special election over Republican Gordon Smith. The environment played a key role in the race, and environmentalists say they put Mr. Wyden over the top. Now, it's payback time, and Oregon political commentator Russell Sadler says Senator Wyden will have to make some tough choices, and quickly.
SADLER: Ron Wyden has a history of being a fence sitter. His position on environmental issues has been really no fault, because his Congressional district is the smallest in the state coming from the center of densely populated Portland. All Portland is green, including the suburbs. So he could vote for environmental legislation and there was no price to pay. Now he represents a state that is terribly diverse: cattle ranching and all that stuff and the vast majority of space on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, southern Oregon, forestry, also cattle raising, those kinds of issues. If he's forced to make a decision, now, he can't sit on the fence, and it's going to be a problem for him. He's going to have to make some decisions that he has been unwilling to make in the past.
CURWOOD: Tell me about the role that environmental groups played in getting Senator Wyden elected.
SADLER: The environmental organizations played a very large role in getting Wyden elected.
CURWOOD: For instance?
SADLER: I'm a registered Independent, Steve, and I was called 4 or 5 times in the last 2 weeks by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, OLIVE. And they were these, we're not with any candidate thing, but here's Ron Wyden's stance on the environment; here's Gordon Smith's stance. Please vote for the environment And they called and called, they had the busiest phone bank in the state.
CURWOOD: They called you 4 or 5 times?
SADLER: As an independent voter, yes. In 2 weeks time, making sure that my mail ballot was in and all of those. They were very active among people who were considered swing votes. So in my opinion, Wyden indeed owes his election in large part to environmental organizations which took their own money and went to bat.
CURWOOD: During the campaign Wyden was really tough in his attack on Gordon Smith, the Senate president, and the frozen food company that he owns. But he didn't talk much about other environmental issues. I'm thinking of course of timber and wildlife and water. And he also, I understand, doesn't know that much about the environment; there's a quote in the Oregonian that we have in front of us that says he's going to have to spend more time on these issues now. How does Wyden get educated, and by whom on these issues?
SADLER: (Laughs) Well, I want to tell you, the line at his door is long.
CURWOOD: (Laughs) Okay.
SADLER: There are industry trade association people knocking, there are the environmentalists knocking. And the environmentalists because of the time and money that they spent with phone banks trying to help get him elected think that they ought to be first through the door, and they have a short list headed by repeal of the timber salvage rider that they want him to vote for in order to show his devotion to their cause.
CURWOOD: Russell, we understand that Senator Wyden might put forth a compromise on salvage logging, that is, that would split the state in half. But on the western side, on the Portland side, there would be no salvage logging; but on the eastern side, there would be.
SADLER: There's a certain amount of common sense to such a compromise. It may not please the environmentalists who want a triumph of symbols as well as of substance here. The industry tricked them with the salvage rider at the last minute; in fact the industry tricked them so thoroughly that the industry is gloating in public over it. And I think the environmentalists want total repeal to show the industry that they, too, can engage in, in your face politics.
CURWOOD: Now I understand that Senator Wyden is trying to get a seat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Of course, that has jurisdiction over endangered species and anti-pollution laws. Will he be hurt if he doesn't get this appointment?
SADLER: Yes he will. Environment is a big issue in Oregon, politically, and for you Easterners you need to know that these natural resource issues are the warp and the woof of domestic politics out here. The biggest problem, of course, out here in the Northwest is that Oregon has lost an enormous amount of seniority with Packwood's fall from grace and Hatfield's retirement. And I think Wyden will have his hands full just protecting Oregon from the predators on the Potomac who are prepared to take what goodies they can from this state now that it has no seniority.
CURWOOD: Russell Sadler is a syndicated political columnist and commentator at Ashland, Oregon. He spoke with us from member station KSOR in Ashland. Just ahead on Living on Earth: learning the limits of fisheries, again.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Anchovies. You may not like them on your pizza, but those tiny pungent little fish make up one of the world's most important fisheries. Millions of pounds are caught off the coast of Peru in South America, bringing in more than a billion dollars each year in foreign revenues. Twenty years ago, Peru's anchovy fishery abruptly crashed, the victim of over-fishing and environmental conditions. Similar fishery collapses have followed around the world, most recently in Canada and New England. Over time, Peru's anchovy population came back, but today many worry that history is repeating itself. Jyl Hoyt reports.
(Milling of people)
HOYT: Local residents often call Chimbote, a northern port along Peru's 1,500 mile Pacific shoreline, the Anchovy Capitol of the World. For thousands of years Indians caught the tiny silver fish in cold ocean currents that run 20 miles offshore. Their protein-rich diet contributed to a prosperity whose heritage is still visible today. In the 1950s a modern fishing industry began here. Juan Pacherrez Valverde, a labor organizer for Peru's Fishermen's Syndicate, looks at fishing boats of all shapes and sizes in Chimbote Bay. He's seen a lot of changes in his 35 years here.
VALVERDE: (Speaks in Spanish)
TRANSLATOR: When I first came to Chimbote from my home town, the boats were tiny, between 30 and 80 tons. But now they weigh 300 and even 400 tons. And they're much better equipped. They have much bigger nets and electronics. Radar, machines to take soundings, stronger radars, and boat motors are so powerful they can zoom from one fishing site to the next.
HOYT: A larger fleet equipped with the latest technology means Peruvians can capture more and more fish. That same high tech advancement shows up in seaports around the world, pushing fish stocks to or past their limit. Seagulls and pelicans swoop over fishermen as they unload mounds of anchovies from their grimy, brightly painted boats. Most of the catch will be ground into fish meal, then exported and used as animal feed. Peru's fish meal industry is now the second most important economy in the country. Peruvian fishermen caught 11 million tons of anchovies in 1994. The government and the private sector have invested heavily in Peru's fishery, so much so that now the fleet can bring in 4 times as much fish as the government recommends. There is strong pressure to make good on these investments, and that worries fisherman David Bravo.
BRAVO: (Speaks in Spanish)
TRANSLATOR: They're building all these new plants, all these new ships. That means now they have a lot of financial obligations to pay off all their new investments. It's obvious. In the future they'll have beautiful plants, marvelous boats, and not one single fish left.
HOYT: It's happened before. Over-fishing was one of the culprits in Peru's 1973-74 anchovy collapse, one of the worst in the world because of the number of fish lost. Almost overnight, 50,000 Peruvians lost their jobs.
(People mulling, machinery)
HOYT: Peru's effort to prevent a repeat of that anchovy collapse is embodied in a single research vessel. Today, oceanographers ride a motorboat out to the scientific ship. They plan to leave the next day on a biannual two-month cruise up and down Peru's coast.
(Man speaks in Spanish as the boat is prepared)
HOYT: Scientists test for nutrients and temperature and try to determine fish populations. They also hope to predict the arrival of El Niño, a warm Pacific current that pushes anchovies so far out to sea oceanographers don't know where they go.
HOYT: El Niño comes and goes every few years and played a major role in the 1973-74 anchovy collapse. Peruvian environmentalist Antonio Bernales Alvarado says being able to understand and predict El Niño is crucial.
ALVARADO: (Speaks in Spanish)
TRANSLATOR: El Niño is a phenomenon that will always happen. So we have to plan and organize for it. Not only for fish, but for all life in the coastal zone.
HOYT: For example, Mr. Bernales says the health of Peru's anchovy fishery is directly tied to the health of its export fertilizer business, once one of the most profitable in the world. Sea birds feed on anchovies. They leave droppings on rock islands. And those droppings are eventually harvested and used as fertilizer.
ALVARADO: (Speaks in Spanish)
TRANSLATOR: But during the El Niño phenomenon that started in the 70s, not only did the fish industry fall, the bird population did, too. Neither the birds nor the fertilizer economy they produced have recovered.
HOYT: And some observers worry El Niño will become more unpredictable due to human induced changes in the global climate. The Peruvian government says it understands that the ebb and flow of El Niño makes the anchovy fishery even more vulnerable to the dangers of over-fishing. Chief of Peru's Institute of the Sea, Jorge Zununaga says the country is doing what is necessary to protect the resource by strongly enforcing annual fishing seasons to protect juvenile and spawning fish.
ZUNUNAGA: (Speaks in Spanish) TRANSLATOR: We place a lot of importance on protecting fish that haven't reached maturity. By doing this we are ensuring the fish population will reproduce itself. That's important for a sustainable resource.
HOYT: But critics say that's not anywhere near enough to protect Peru's fishery. World Bank fisheries advisor Eduardo Loayza, himself a Peruvian, says without limiting the number of permits or the number of boats, fishing seasons can do little to relieve pressure.
LOAYZA: It's like a car race or anything similar. You, the fishing season comes up and everybody runs to see who catches first. And so it's kind of a struggle to who gets the fish first, and you've got to get it before the others do. So that turns the whole thing into a messy situation which is taking the fishery nowhere.
HOYT: Critics also charge that the government does little to address problems like bycatch, in which ships haul in more than their allotment and throw back extra fish, dead. Or illegal catch, in which ships haul in too many fish and keep them anyway. Instead of defined fishing seasons, Loayza suggests Peru sell fishing companies long-term rights to certain percentages of each year's catch. He says this would encourage them to take less in the short term, so there would still be fish to catch in the future. Others say the government should force boats to install refrigeration. Now, only 2% of Peru's fleet has coolers. That means up to one quarter of the catch rots before it's processed. Peruvian environmentalist Antonio Bernales Alvarado also wants Peru to charge tariffs on the size of fishing boats and the power of their motors.
ALVARADO: (Speaks in Spanish)
TRANSLATOR: If there is not adequate regulation, the tendency to overfish in Peru's sea will continue. This is a phenomenon that not only happens in Peru, it has occurred all over the world. The drama is that Peru knows this is happening to almost all the fisheries on the planet. Yet Peru has not learned any lessons from them on how to prevent that from happening here.
(The sea shore: birds, waves)
HOYT: Peru's government insists the fishing industry is not in danger. But Mr. Bernales and other independent observers think Peru's anchovies are being overfished. They fear if government doesn't start better managing the fishery, they could eventually see a permanent bust, like the North Sea herring population that collapsed in the 1940s and still hasn't returned. For Living on Earth, I'm Jyl Hoyt.
(Waves; Peruvian music up and under)
PAGE: While you and I worry about the potential human health costs of pesticides and herbicides being sprayed on crops, farmers worry about the high cost of the chemicals and the delivery system: less than precise hand held sprayers, or low-flying airplanes.
CURWOOD: Living on Earth commentator Ruth Page.
PAGE: Finding a way to lessen both danger and cost would be, in my mom's expression, the bee's knees. Funny she should say that, because a new technique for delivering a bug control to crops is the honeybee express: USDA employees have invented an addition to the beehive entrance, so that when bees plunge out for a pollen picnic, their exit floor is covered with virus-laced talc. The powdery stuff clings to bees' legs and feet, but doesn't harm them. It's a natural bug control. When a bee sips nectar from a flower, she leaves behind a powder trail that kills only the pests targeted by that virus. The inventors first tested the new technique with a virus that kills corn earworm and tobacco bugworm caterpillars. The dusty bee visits killed up to 85% of those larvae in the field.
There's also a better way to clean up after using dangerous chemicals. If you focus ultrasound at an intensity of several million Hertz into a liquid, the vibrations cause tiny bubbles to form. In micro-seconds, the bubbles superheat, expand, collapse. Temperatures in the bubbles can hit 5,500 degrees Celsius. That makes complex molecules in the fluid break up, and who can blame them?
Michael R. Hoffman, a chemist at the California Institute of Technology, calls the process liquid incineration. It doesn't leave any polluting residues. For example, Hoffman has found the noise-tormented bubbles can break down a frighteningly dangerous and persistent pesticide called parathion in 30 minutes. He hopes he can use this bubble ploy to help get rid of chemicals like PCBs, and some of the polluting solvents used in industry.
Then there's the story of an inveterate golfer's solution to what he considered a problem. Some golfers like to hit balls off the decks of cruise ships, lest they get withdrawal symptoms when away from the home course. In 1990 an international treaty was signed to halt the practice of dumping any plastics, and that includes golf balls, into the ocean. Too many sea animals thought they were dinner and were damaged or killed after swallowing them. California inventor and golfer Patrick E. Kane couldn't bear the new ruling. He spent 2 years creating and environment-friendly golf ball. He combines ground citrus peel with the animal protein collagen and calls the ball Aqua Flight. It's a natural food for fish. So if you're at the beach or on shipboard and hear a shout of "Four!" don't panic. It's just a golfer feeding the fish.
CURWOOD: Ruth Page lives in Burlington, Vermont. She comes to us from Vermont Public Radio.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Our comment line is 1-800-218-9988. That's 1-800-218-9988. Or try our e-mail address, LOE@NPR.ORG. That's LOE@NPR.ORG. Our postal address is Living on Earth, Box 639, Harvard Square Station, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02238. That's Box 639, Harvard Square Station, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02238. Transcripts and tapes are $12.
CURWOOD: Senior producer for Living on Earth is Chris Ballman. Our editor is Peter Thomson and our director is Deborah Stavro. Our production team includes George Homsy, Kim Motylewski, Constantine Von Hoffman, Jan Nunley, and Julia Madeson. We also had help from Christopher Knorr, Mark Borrelli, Susan Shepherd, Liz Lempert, Michael Argue, Emily Atkinson, and Catherine Bennett. Our engineers in the WBUR studio are Frank DeAngelis and Mark Navin. Our Harvard University engineers are Larry Bouthellier and Jeff Martini. Michael Aharon composed our theme. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer.
(Music up an under)
ANNOUNCER: Major support for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation for reporting on science in the environment; the Ford Foundation; the W. Alton Jones Foundation; and all-natural Stonyfield Farm Yogurt -- whether supporting worthwhile causes or producing healthy foods, Stonyfield's goal is to make you feel good inside.
NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
This Week's Books
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.
Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.