Green Watch – December 1999

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Summary of news about environmental issues.

A federal judge in California has dismisseda lawsuit that sought a nationwide injunction against timbersales. The lawsuit brought by environmentalists sought aninjunction until the U.S. Forest Service issued an assessment of renewable resourceson forest and range land that was due in 1995.
The draft assessment generated controversy in 1995 because of theemphasis on recreation in national forests, and the agency never issued the final version.

The court ruled that failure to issue the assessment, primarily becauseCongress withheld funding, was not an agency action subject to judicial review.

• White House officials interfered and leakedsensitive information to environmental terrorists in Oregonduring a stand-off with law enforcement officers over a timber sale, according to apublished report.

Local authorities made plans to arrest the environmentalists, butformer White House chief of staff Leon Panetta ordered them to “stand down”and not to arrest the radicals, the Washington Times reported. Theincident occurred four months before the last presidential election.

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The House Resources Committee also found evidence of a “backchannel” of information from the White House Council on Environmental Qualityto the eco-terrorists, the report said.

• The Rainforest Action Network praisedHome Depot for deciding to stop selling products made of old-growth wood.

The environmental group, which campaigned against Home Depot for twoyears in an effort to stop the sales, also threatened other home-improvementcompanies that continue to sell wood from old-growth forests.

The company took out ads in the New York Times andsingled out Home Base, Menard’s, Payless Cashways, 84 Lumber, and Wickes.

“Time is running out for these companies,” saidRainforest Action Network’s Michael Brune. “Unless they take decisive action toeliminate their egregious supply of old-growth wood, they’ll become the target of amassive public campaign.”

• A federal judge in New Mexico ruled in favor ofa program to reintroduce the Mexican wolf, dismissing an attempt by the NewMexico Cattlegrowers Association to halt the program.

Defenders of Wildlife president Rodger Schlickeisen hailed the rulingas a victory for the wolves and also conservationists who are battling efforts of theAmerican Farm Bureau Federation to reverse wolf reintroduction programs in the Southwest.

The presiding judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Fish and WildlifeService and a dozen interveners, including Defenders of Wildlife.

• U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski of Alaska was unable todeter Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt from his position that the federal takeoverof fish and game management on federal lands will be seamless and benign.Murkowski insisted during a hearing on the federal takeover that Alaskans will facean escalating series of conflicts as a result.

Babbitt told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: “Ihave an optimistic view of human nature in Alaska. I think this is a manageableissue.”

The federal takeover will cost $11 million this year and grow to$18 million in 2001. Much of that money will be spent on hiring up to 119 newworkers.

• The U.S. Forest Service allowed several timber salesin North Carolina to go forward after initially halting them because of thediscovery of the presence of the Indiana bat, an endangered species. The decision affectedfive timber sales and parts of seven others.

“We surveyed each of these timber sale units and found noIndiana bats,” said John Ramey, supervisor of national forests in NorthCarolina.

The service also reviewed the designs for each sale and determined they would notadversely affect potential future habitat for the Indiana bat, he said.