Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bye bye National Parks and Forests

There have been artists and other like-minded individuals who have talked about leaving the country on political grounds. I am now making the same gesture on the basis of our National Parks. According to these links below, I have no reason to believe the American government or the private sector believes in these natural monuments. America essentially has no plan, no guide for the environment.

I suggest our National Parks be kept off limits while the bulk of the rest of the world, unfortunately, be open range. This way we also have some semblance of a guide for consumption that the supply-and-demand world readily needs. Consumption-driven societies primarily do not believe excess can exist in the same markets they are a part of. Humanity may be at the top of the food chain, but we are not above Nature.

About National Parks

There is nothing new about politicians helping friends to raid commonly owned wealth. What is new in the past decade is the weakening of the federal agencies charged with preventing that from happening. Says Mintzmyer: "The politicians, congressmen, and executives have ... taken over the upper parts of the agency.... There is no longer any abiity on the part of the agency to protect its lower level people. They can be targeted and neutralized without real resistance."

The Forest Service is a main target. Clearcuts in the Targhee National Forest go right up to the border of Yellowstone Park, creating a straight-line edge that can be seen from outer space. Logging in many national forests is proceeding at rates well above the sustainable cuts mandated by law. Overcutting, hidden by what one Wilderness Society spokesman calls "a carefully orchestrated Forest Service coverup," is now coming to light in forest after forest.

Handouts to logging companies cost us not only our forests, their wildlife, and their protection of water tables and streams, but also our tax money. The Forest Service charges below-market fees for timber concessions and obligingly builds logging roads at public expense. The network of federal logging roads is now longer than the interstate highway system -- 6600 miles, with another 900 planned. The Forest Service earns from timber concessions 34 cents for every dollar it spends supporting loggers. In the Yellowstone area in 1990 it lost $12.6 million.

Salvage Rider affects fisherman
Salmon fishermen! Imagine -- if you can -- that Congress has just passed a bill requiring the destruction of the Northwest’s last best remaining salmon spawning areas and banning any further public participation in public lands management. Imagine also that Congress required this destruction to proceed regardless of the environmental consequences by suspending every single environmental law on the books. Imagine also that, under this new law, citizen’s will no longer have the right to appeal federal agency decisions on public lands, even though these lands were paid for by their tax dollars. Finally, while you are at it, imagine that you will be forced to help pay for this destruction, in effect using your own money to put you out of business.

You say Congress would never do any such thing in a democratic society? Think again. Congress just did! This abomination is called the “Timber Salvage Rider,” and its full effect is just about to bite you where you live.

Most salmon (and coho salmon in particular) need old-growth riparian forests in order to spawn and thrive. However, the Northwest has already lost between 90% and 95% of all its original old-growth forests as a result of a timber harvest feeding frenzy that lasted several decades, ending only in the early 90's when finally halted by court order. Just about all old- growth on private lands is long since gone. What little remains is almost entirely on public lands.

For years the US Forest Service and BLM pumped up timber survey figures to show far more available old-growth timber than was really there, and violated their own laws to make sure as much as possible was cut regardless of the consequences to old-growth dependent fish and wildlife. After seeing species after species go extinct as whole watersheds were literally strip- mined of old-growth, concerned citizen’s in the Northwest finally filed suit to stop this wave of extinctions -- and to their surprise, they actually won! The species that finally caused the courts to draw a line in the forest duff was a small little bird called the “Northern spotted owl.”

These court victories became the “spotted owl” cases, now used perpetually by timber industry propagandists to press for the total repeal of the Endangered Species Act. Yet none of these cases were ever based on the ESA -- the injunction that from 1990 to 1993 closed down most public timber harvesting west of the Cascades in the Northwest and Northern California was won on the basis of agency violations of their own laws, the National Forest Management Act (16 U.S.C 472a et. seq.), not the ESA. The spotted owl was only the indicator species anyway -- its plunge toward extinction was merely an indication that something was very, very wrong with public forestland management. In fact, what was going on was simply not sustainable. In the 80's public forestlands were being cut down at about 8 times what we now know to be a sustainable rate.

One of the tragic results of these decades of overcutting was the decimation or extinction of quite a number of the region’s best salmon runs, particularly coastal coho salmon (the most dependent on federal lands). Fishermen are literally the victims of years of illegal agency timber giveaways fueled by bottomless timber industry’s greed and a pliant Congress.

After the owl injunctions, President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan was finally adopted in 1993 and approved by the court as a (barely) legal plan. What the federal court (Judge Dwyer) actually said in the owl case injunction was that no more public timber giveaways could proceed until a legally acceptable plan for a sustainable harvest was adopted. The timber industry, of course, screamed bloody murder -- and still does today. They have devoted much of their efforts in Congress and in the courts to turning back the clock to the “good old days” when Congress, rather than scientists, set timber harvest targets based on timber lobbyist clout rather than the biological needs of salmon and other forest dependent creatures.

While there is no doubt that it was pretty hard on innocent mill workers caught up in the sudden forced closures, even today nobody gives much thought to the thousands of salmon fishermen whose livelihoods have utterly disappeared as a result of widespread clearcutting of important salmon habitat in these same forests. Salmon too are an old-growth dependent species. When the mills took away most of the old-growth, they took away wild salmon as well. Today between 90% --95% of the original old-growth is gone, more than 106 major salmon runs are extinct, and another 214 (more than 90% of the remainder) are facing extinction in the near future unless things change. Over the past 30 years, the salmon fishing industry in the Northwest has lost an estimated 47,000 family wage jobs due to the collapse of coastal salmon stocks alone (i.e., outside the Columbia Basin).

While I feel empathy for out of work timber workers and wouldn’t wish a layoff on anyone, the companies they work for and the agencies that allowed it to happen had no right to extinguish the very existence of the salmon which supported the families of fishermen. Douglas fir trees can grow anywhere, but once a river’s irreplaceable wild salmon runs are extinct, they remain extinct forever.

Salvage Rider facts
On August 22,2002, President Bush released a new plan he said would address the issue of wildfire. Instead, the plan appears to be a resurrection of the disastrous 1995 Salvage Rider. Pro-timber industry Senators are planning to attach similar language to the Interior Appropriations bill, up for debate on September 3.

Bush Plan and Salvage Rider: Striking Similarities

In July 1995, following widespread forest fires during the previous summer, Congress enacted the Emergency Salvage Timber Sale Program (Salvage Rider) as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations and Rescissions Act (P.L. 104-19).

The Salvage Rider was written principally by Mark Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist who was then an aide to Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and is now the Bush Administration’s top forest policy official.


Like Bush’s so-called “Healthy Forest Initiative,” the Salvage Rider temporarily exempted salvage timber sales on federal forest lands from environmental and wildlife laws, administrative appeals, and judicial review.

The Salvage Rider directed the Forest Service to cut old-growth timber in the Pacific Northwest that the agency had proposed for sale but subsequently withdrawn due to environmental concerns, endangered species listings, and court rulings. Bush’s initiative also aims to increase logging of old-growth trees in the Pacific Northwest.

The Salvage Rider expired at the end of 1996, and Congress made no effort to extend it. Vice President Al Gore subsequently stated that approving the Salvage Rider was the worst mistake the Clinton Administration made during its first term.

President Bush’s new forest plan bears strong resemblance to the Salvage Rider. Both seek to exempt timber sales from environmental laws, administrative appeals, and lawsuits. And both aim to allow timber sales of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest that have been protected due to wildlife concerns.

The "Salvage Rider" -- A Subversion of Democracy

-- The "Emergency Salvage" timber rider was stealthily attached
to and signed into law by President Clinton as part of the 1995
Rescissions Bill, legislation supposedly designed to reduce
federal expenditures. The "salvage rider" is probably the most
far-reaching, anti-environment legislation in the history of this
We, the people, are paying dearly for it: in terms of
actual dollars; loss of critical wildlife habitat, endangered
species, and the last bits of our intact ecosystems and ancient
forests; and in the precedent it sets for lawmaking and the
separation of powers in this country. Utilizing the rider process
means virtually no process at all. Senators Mark Hatfield (R-OR)
and Slade Gorton (R-WA) subverted democratic lawmaking by
promoting the "salvage rider." The Rider bypassed the proper
channels of debate and analysis in Congressional committees, and
its actual text was still being withheld from members of Congress
when they were asked for an initial vote. Other individuals
instrumental in the passage and broad interpretation of the rider
include Senators Craig (R-ID) and Murkowski (R-AK), and
Representatives Dicks (D-WA), Taylor (R-NC), Young (R-AK), and
Roberts (R-KS). These decision-makers, as well as all those who
voted for the Rider, along with those who acquiesced to its
becoming law (President Clinton included), must be held

Suspension of Laws

-- The "salvage rider" has put logging outside the law. It
suspends the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Forest Management
Act (NFMA), three other major laws, and finally, as a catchall,
"all other applicable Federal environmental and natural resource
laws," such as the Clean Water Act. Three decades of
environmental legislation succumb to timber industry greed.

-- The public is blocked from the legal process through which
decisions affecting their public forests are made. All sales
under the "salvage rider" are exempt from the administrative
appeal process, and judicial review is essentially non-existent,
as it is severely limited to sales deemed "arbitrary and

1 comment:

James White said...

Not wanting to rain on any parades, and not necessarily disagreeing with your general point, but there really is no such thing as a riparian old-growth forest. Active channel processes dynamically create and destroy successive bands of various types of vegetative cover (often Populus sp.). Riparian vegetation is often the very least desirable for harvest, and clearing of those areas is often more caused by agriculture or "development."