Green Watch – July 2000

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Green Watch

Vice President Al Gore promised to prohibit logging and road construction on 43 million acres of national forest lands. His pledge topped the Clinton administration’s proposal to bar road building in 155 national forests and grasslands.

The vice president also strongly hinted he would seek to preserve the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

“If I am entrusted with the presidency, it will be a national priority to preserve these roadless areas as they are — no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” he said.

• Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in North Carolina to block construction of a fiberboard mill in Montgomery County, N.C. The lawsuit was filed by the Dogwood Alliance, the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project and EarthCulture.

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“This is another example of a bunch of outsiders trying to tell local communities what is good for them,” said Bob Slocum, executive vice president of the North Carolina Forestry Association.

• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that nearly 500,000 acres in California be declared a critical habitat for the endangered Southwestern arroyo toad. The action could affect some of the most high-profile development projects in the region.

Lands in the Los Angeles and Orange county areas and stretching through Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego counties would be affected.

The declaration would affect activities that receive federal funds or require federal regulatory approval.

• A federal judge in North Carolina directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for four endangered species: the spruce fir moss spider, the rock gnome lichen, and two species of mussels.

The order was part of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project against the Fish and Wildlife Service. Proposed habitats for all four species must be recommended between October 2000 and July 2001.

• Methodist church leaders are urging Vice President Al Gore to enact a moratorium on chip mill operations in the South. They made their plea in an editorial in the Chattanooga Times.

The editorial by Methodist leaders and a contingent of Southeastern Methodist bishops cited the impact of chip mills “upon God’s creation.” They also reminded Gore of his statement while in Congress that there was “no justification for permitting even one chip mill operation along the Tennessee River.”

• The president of Home Depot pledged his support to Quebec Crees who are fighting clear-cutting on their land. “We will look into this to do whatever we can to support you,” said Home Depot president Arthur Blank.

He responded to four Crees — three trappers and a forestry expert — who attended the annual meeting in Atlanta of Home Depot, the world’s largest lumber retailer.

A Home Depot delegation will visit the Crees in northern Quebec this summer to examine clear-cutting operations, said Blank. The company plans to ask Quebec vendors to fill out questionnaires so that it can track the source of its wood and ensure sustainable logging practices.

• Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and presidential candidate of the Green Party, called for banning logging on national forests. Speaking at Boise State University in Idaho, he also advocated breaching four dams on the lower Snake River and allowing production of industrial hemp.

Nader said national forests “should be preserved, not exploited and destroyed.” Idaho stands to realize much greater economic benefit from recreation and tourism-related businesses in the forests rather than timber, he said.

• Two high-profile logging operations were shut down in California recently.

In Nevada County, protestors from Yuba Nation blocked Sierra Pacific Industries loggers from cutting in a 1,300-acre stand of ponderosa pine. One protester was in a 40-foot-high tripod that blocked a logging access road; another padlocked herself to a piece of logging equipment.

Also, the California Department of Forestry stopped logging on a half-mile section of the south fork of the Smith River in Del Norte County. The department concluded that the property owner had failed to consult with federal wildlife biologists about northern spotted owls. The 21-acre clear-cut was almost half complete when the department halted the work.

• An Idaho environmental group accused Boise Cascade Corp. of holding up a controversial proposal to protect roadless federal forests. The Idaho Conservation League says the company wants to swamp the U.S. Forest Service with requests for information that it cannot fill in a timely manner.

The league obtained a corporate e-mail memo that contained a request encouraging Boise Cascade employees to ask the Forest Service for a copy of the roadless plan. Boise Cascade has 23,000 employees nationwide. “They’re trying to manipulate the comment system to stall it out,” said John McCarthy, the league’s executive director.

Boise Cascade officials said they were simply trying to inform company workers about an important issue.

• Vice President Al Gore promised that he would convene a summit of all interested parties to come up with a solution to conserving the Northwest salmon if he is elected to the White House. The summit would resolve such controversial issues as the proposed breaching of four dams on the Snake River.

Gore made his proposal after taking a jet boat ride on the Hanford Reach National Monument, designated by President Clinton to protect the only undammed stretch of the Columbia River between Bonneville Dam and the Canadian border.

• A Washington-based pro-wilderness organization paid for a study that concluded that the federal government’s proposal to prohibit logging and road construction in roadless areas of national forests would be good for the economy.

The proposal will add economic stability to rural economies, said Thomas Power, a University of Montana economics professor. His study was funded by the Wilburforce Foundation, a private, pro-wilderness philanthropic organization in Seattle.

“I can’t see how having less jobs can help the economy,” countered Ferry County Commissioner Gary Kholer.

• Members of New York City Council joined with national environmental leaders to announce that they would introduce a Council measure to ensure that wood used in city building projects does not come from endangered forests. The proposal also would encourage the purchase of wood that has been certified to meet environmental standards, such as the SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance.

• The Dogwood Alliance launched a campaign against Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores. Members have been writing letters to Lowe’s chief executive officer, Robert Tillman.

The letters ask him to phase out the purchasing of oriented strand board (OSB) from clear-cut forests and to substitute OSB made of recycled board, wood from companies engaged in converting forests and wetlands, and wood from national forests. The letters also ask to reduce the supply and use of wood-based products in Lowe’s stores and to support local wood recycling efforts.