Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet

Trouble in the Tongass

A 50-year timber company monopoly in Alaska has been chipping away at the world's largest intact temperate rainforest, resulting in clearcuts and silt-choked streams. Now that that monopoly is under review, activists are working to stop the destruction.

Louisiana-Pacific's Ketchikan Pulp Company is seeking to add 15 years to a logging contract on the Tongass National Forest that is due to expire in 2004. Extension of the contract, the only one of its kind in a national forest, is closely linked to the revision of the Tongass Land Management Plan. The U.S. Forest Service normally revises forest management plans once every 10 to 15 years; in the case of the Tongass, it proposes to continue logging at current levels. Richard Hellard, Alaska Chapter conservation chair, and other Club activists are lobbying the Forest Service to cancel the contract and reduce the damage.

"The Tongass can't take the abuse that Ketchikan Pulp is dishing out. If we want to see a healthy forest in 5 to 20 years, the forest service is going to have to drastically reduce the allowed cut," said Hellard.

With one felony and 13 misdemeanor convictions for dumping toxic sludge into Southeast Alaskan waters, KPC is one of the Northwest's worst polluters. It's also been convicted of illegally conspiring to drive other Tongass logging operations out of business.

Two-thirds of the logging in the Tongass goes to feed the voracious appetite of the KPC pulp mill. Not only is it causing erosion and ravaging streams, it's also costing American taxpayers millions of dollars. A 1995 U.S. General Accounting Office report showed that between 1992 and 1994, the Tongass timber program lost more than $102 million.

"President Clinton is the key decision maker -- he can cancel the contract, and veto an extension bill if one is introduced," said Pamela Brodie, Alaska Rainforest Campaign Office associate representative. "He has made the Tongass a high-priority environmental issue and vetoed the Interior Appropriations bill last year because of bad Tongass provisions, but we need to keep the pressure on so he doesn't waver."

To take action: Contact President Clinton and ask him to terminate Louisiana-Pacific's Ketchikan Pulp Company Tongass contract and reject any extensions of the contract that come across his desk. For more information: Contact Pamela Brodie at the Sierra Club's Alaska Rainforest Office at (907) 235-2896.

Banking on Wetlands

When it comes to wetlands protection, banks -- as proposed by Congress -- are a bad investment. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) has introduced H.R. 3692, the Wetlands Restoration and Improvement Act of 1996, a bill that would actually promote wetland destruction through "mitigation banking." Under the mitigation banking approach, developers are allowed to destroy a natural wetland if they pay to restore, preserve or create a wetland somewhere else -- even if that other wetland is already protected by law.

Wetlands are valuable because they purify water by filtering out sediments, provide habitat and serve as a buffer to flooding. The United States has lost over half of its original wetlands and continues to lose more than 290,000 acres of wetlands each year. Now Jones wants to make it even easier to destroy what remains with his damaging bill.

Not only would H.R. 3692 accelerate the loss of wetlands by awarding developers "credit" for preserving those currently protected, it would let developers destroy natural wetlands before requiring a mitigation banker to complete restoration elsewhere. It would also allow such wetland credits to be traded across state lines. Pam Goddard, associate representative in the Washington, D.C., office, said that amounts to allowing developers to destroy a wetland in Ohio if they pay to "save" an already protected wetland habitat in Florida. "This will help the developers, but not the Ohio homeowners or the Florida flamingos," she said.

Developers and big business are trying to sell bank mitigation to legislators as the best way to protect wetlands. But Ed Harrison, North Carolina Chapter wetlands chair calls the bill, "a shameless industry-backed giveaway."

To take action: Write your representative and senators and ask them to protect our nation's remaining wetlands for clean water, safe homes and fish and waterfowl. Urge them to oppose Rep. Jones' Wetlands Mitigation Banking bill and any other attempts to authorize wetland destruction.

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