The Coastal Post - November, 1997

Trees And Politics

BY EDWARD W. MILLER

Giselle Stavert, in the IJ's July 18th "Soapbox" described the forestry bill (HR868 by Rep. Wally Herger), called the Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997, as "democracy in action," and a "pilot program with rigorous, science-based assessment...to safeguard resources." Giselle was totally inspired by this example of "people taking responsibility."

However, after reviewing the Senate version (S1028), talking with members of the Sierra Club, Paul Spitler of the Western Ancient Forests Group, and reading the testimony of Felice Pace (Klamath Forest Alliance) before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, it became obvious that rather than "democracy in action," Giselle was describing another catastrophic onslaught upon California's environment, engineered by big business and big politics. In the Anderson Valley Advertiser in July, Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn had already pulled apart the House version of the Bill, exposing not only the expected environmental damage, but the vacillating behavior of Carol Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club in dealing with Senator Feinstein who has been threatening to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Sierra Club members were furious with Pope's unwillingness to take a stand on the Quincy-Library issue.

A major goal of California's Green organizations has been to stop all logging in our National Forests. There is plenty of timber, and timber of higher quality, available on private land. The National Forests were set aside for recreation only, and with an ever-expanding population and an increasingly polluted atmosphere, it is vital they not be plundered.

Big lumber, however, likes to cut in National Forests despite lower quality lumber for many reasons: The taxpayers build and pay for the access roads and pay for overseas advertising of lumber sales, a form of corporate welfare. Some companies bribe the Forestry Service to log as they see fit, damn the public.

Lumber companies have used jobs as their excuse for cutting in our national forests, but many of these forest titans simply sell the raw-cut logs overseas, so the good-paying jobs in finishing, furniture, veneer and other wood products requiring hands-on skills are lost to this country. Some companies have even moved their sawmills south to Mexico.

The Quincy Library giveaway will, in fact, not only double the logging in three national forests-Lassen, Plumas and Sierra-but permit cutting the few remaining virgin areas along steep peaks and canyons where bull-dozing for access roads and clear-cutting will wreak irreparable havoc upon thin topsoil, forest creatures and the head-sources of small streams. A worse scenario is difficult to imagine. Passage of this Bill may well open the way for increased logging in our other National Forests.

One Quincy Library excuse for all this was firebreaks (largely to protect the homes of the wealthy plus the casinos). However, firebreaks along ridgetops-nature's firebreaks-are wasteful, and the proposed fire control swaths one-quarter mile in width will quickly fill in with even more flammable brush.

Any hiker in the Sierras knows that on a hot summer day moving thunderstorms may ignite as many a 200-300 forest fires along the whole Sierra chain. Most die out and the few which risk human habitat are managed by our Forestry Service. Checkerboarding the Sierras with the proposed devastating cuttings is not the answer.

The Quincy Library corporate welfare bill was steered through Congress by Dianne Feinstein with Boxer in tow. For these two, like Reagan, that green color in a tree is seen as money. "If you've seen one tree, you've seen 'em all," Ronald used to say. Senator Boxer, who is on the Department of the Interior Appropriations Committee, is already feeling the heat generated by this bill. Since Barbara has started her campaign for re-election, Marin votes should write her office and suggest she reconsider her stand on this environmentally-disastrous corporate giveaway.

"All things are connect like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

-Chief Seattle, 1854

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