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CONSERVATION REPORT, May 90 Storm Petrel

My speech to Society of American Foresters: some may be tried as ecological war criminals. Earth Day1 becomes corporate celebration.

Speech to Oregon Society of American Foresters

I was invited to address this group. My basic message was that since their job seems mainly to consist of cutting down forests and planting tree farms and plantations that they are basically engaged in deforestry and should rename themselves accordingly as "deforesters" or perhaps "tree plantationeers" or "tree farmers." I suggested that some of them will no doubt be put on trial in the future as ecological war criminals. I reminded them that recent research into fire history shows that tree plantations are very fire prone losing sometimes 80–90% in forest fires compared to the 30% that is lost when fire goes through old growth. Further that they are probably constructing a fire trap out of the state (especially considering global warming) and that they would know this if any of them kept up with the literature of their profession which I said it looked like most of them didn't.

Further that if they were a "real" profession they would speak out on the trashing that is going on out on private lands and take the lead on reforming forestry practices on private lands.

Of course I was careful to note that many foresters are truly concerned about their stewardship role and that there are many of them that we respect and whose opinions we highly value. One "forester" told me afterwards that he felt like he had been "punched in the stomach".

Congressional Testimony before Joint Public Hearing

Last month I went to Washington to testify at a hearing into the implementation of the infamous Sec.318 or the "Hatfield Rider."2 I was one of three west coast "enviros" (that's what they call us in DC).

This was pretty much the same old story with the witnesses divided between the timber industry who predictably dragged out the women, children and families which they hold as hostages in the deforestation frenzy they have managed to trivialize as a mere jobs vs. owls conflict.

The environmentalists on the other hand reasonably and logically explained that the advisory boards and other mechanisms which 318 created have merely given a patina of legitimacy to longstanding and continuing violations of law and regulations. This was the same hearing at which the "Thomas Report" on the Spotted Owl was released. I also participated in a press conference and met with some congressmen to give our position on various issues.

It is hard to convey the way scientific information is abused and converted into misinformation and disinformation in the attempt to portray clear cut logging as not only benign, but actually beneficial to the environment. Destroying wild fish runs, converting our forests into tree farms, and looting the resources of the next generation are being sold as giving mother nature a helping hand, building a positive American family structure and part of a high and noble calling.

Jontz Bill Introduced

When I was in DC I worked on securing co-sponsors for the Ancient Forest Protection Act (HR.4492), which was introduced that same week. It now has 74 co–sponsors. Essentially this bill makes all Ancient Forests in Oregon, Washington and Northern California off limits to logging. Audubon is having the local chapters in every congressional district contact their congressmen to find co–sponsors for the bill.

We have had very good response as most of the congressmen and the rest of the country view the deforestation of Oregon and Washington in the same category as we view the logging of the tropical rain forests. This issue has been nationalized and is no longer the exclusive business of the Northwest delegation.

Earth Day

Although the chapter participated in Earth Day (E.D.), we felt along with many other environmental organizations that it was co-opted by the same corporate polluters that helped make it necessary in the first place. In most cities they bought their way into the local planning committees and organizing groups through contributions, then used their influence to keep local groups from focusing on any problems that might embarrass local companies or people. This was accomplished by downplaying controversy and stressing green consumerism. The end result of E.D. was more likely a march on the local K–Mart with a checkbook in one's clenched fist than a march on the local pulp mill.

Enlightened consumption is of course one aspect of ecological concern, but the transformation of E.D. into a major marketing opportunity was a testimony to America's genius for shaping public opinion. In any case the threat that this once–in–a–decade constellation of public environmental concern would be directed at any specific local problems (or God forbid any actual polluters) was elegantly avoided. In many communities corporations paid for and hosted the activities thus insuring that the entire event would remain out of focus, safely diffused and suitably vague. In many cases, "environmental" literature was produced which only served as corporate whitewash.

The extractive industries, mining, and logging for example, actually incorporated the words "Earth Day" into their slogans. The Oregon Logging Conference now sports the logo "Every day is Earth Day to the Forest industry". (in green ink!) "Earth First" actually declared parts of California "Earth Day Free Zones". We saw displays where the handouts available were simply industry propaganda. In some cases awards were given to people who are actually creating environmental problems. Major polluters are using sponsorship of environmental projects and programs to launder their corporate image. This phenomenon is the subject of a number of articles in the current environmental press.

The best thing we saw coming out of "Earth Day" happened in Ashland. One day on KSOR we heard a Ms. Suzanne Pardee of Ashland's E.D. Committee explain that they would not let the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) participate in their proceedings because BLM was one of the worst offenders in creating environmental problems. [My experience with BLM has convinced me that they have almost completely abdicated their stewardship responsibilities. Most environmentalists in Oregon hope that BLM lands are turned over to the Forest Service whose record is incomparably better. BLM's latest caper is to obfuscate the fact that they have falsified their computer records to conceal gross over cutting on O&C lands by blaming the impending collapse of timber "harvest" in some of their districts on the proposed Spotted Owl Conservation areas; thus attempting to use environmentalists and the poor owls as scapegoats for their own malfeasance.]

In any case I was proud of Ashland and their position. Well, wouldn't you know, the next day another spokesman came on the same program explaining that Ms. Pardee's statement was certainly not the position of the official organization and that in fact all were welcome in their festivities. I think Suzanne was absolutely right. Inviting the BLM to an E.D. celebration makes about as much sense as inviting crack dealers to set up shop at a conference on inner city drug problems. In fact its even worse because as bad as crack dealers are, you can't accuse them of betraying any fiduciary responsibilities, they are just ordinary criminals.

A final note

The "CAN CRUSHER" symbolizes America's approach to E.D. This device crushes soda cans, mounts on the kitchen wall, costs &24.95, and is "thoughtfully engineered". The question that begs an answer is, "Why anyone would pay for six month old canned sugar water that had been trucked from hundreds of miles away?" If you didn't buy it you wouldn't have a recycling problem in the first place. Recycling of the empty containers is the most trivial aspect of this problem. Additional concerns are the energy to mine and fabricate the aluminum; produce the liquid; ship, store and handle the cartons; produce and dispose of the plastic that packages the six pack; and transport the cans to and from the home and back to the can fabricator.

These were the kinds of questions that should have been discussed on Earth Day and weren't ...so remember...if you want to be good to mother,

JUST SAY NO! TO COKE, AND PEPSI

  1. Plan to reform earth day.
  2. Researcher Note: the odious process of using legislative riders or timber riders to suspend laws and allow federal forest clearcutting despite court orders and federal laws that forbid them, had a variety of names including: Hatfield Riders; Section 318; 318 riders or Sec. 318 sales; or after their implementing processes e.g. Advisory board; Timber Advisory Boards; Forest Service or FS Advisory Board; BLM Advisory Board; or their local names i.e. Siskiyou Forest Advisory Board or Coos Bay BLM Timber Advisory Board. Articles concerning my experience with these boards: forced sales, timber quotas, advisory board abuses, 1995 Rider, Rider local effects, my congressional testimony about them from April 90

#52,(v 1.3) 3/13/11

©1990 Jim Britell
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