Pensacola Citizens Gain Safer Ground
Four years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency identified 66
Pensacola, Fla. families living within a mile of two dangerous
Superfund sites for relocation. Local activists, including Sierra Club
environmental justice volunteers, said that wasn't enough -- they
demanded that all neighboring residents be moved.
The pressure paid off. On Oct. 3, the EPA announced it would relocate
all 358 families to safer ground -- 292 more than it originally
"This is a big win considering no community of color has ever been
moved before," said John McCown, Southeast grassroots organizer.
The former Escambia wood treatment facility in Pensacola had saddled
its neighboring, largely low-income African-American community with a
toxic legacy comprising 250,000 cubic yards of arsenic- and
dioxin-contaminated soil. (According to a national inventory, most
hazardous waste sites in the United States are located in poor and
Following the EPA's 1992 discovery of the Escambia site, local
residents formed Citizens Against Toxic Exposure to counter failed
containment efforts causing cancer, respiratory problems and other
ailments. The Club's Southeast environmental justice activists
contributed to CATE's relocation effort by sponsoring advocacy
workshops and media trainings (see June Planet).
While McCown said he is extremely proud of the significant support role
played by Club volunteers, he emphasized that full credit for success
belongs to CATE. "Working with low income and people of color on
environmental justice issues has made us more relevant and accessible
to these communities than we have been in the past."
The EPA-ordered relocation will be supervised by the Army Corps of
Engineers; once all residents have been moved out of the area, the
contaminated soils will be cleaned up and eventually the land will be
available for industrial development. CATE President Margaret Williams
said the actual relocation date hasn't been confirmed, but that she
will be meeting with the regional EPA administrator to discuss the
particulars. "We'll be pushing to move in the shortest time possible,"
For more information:
Contact John McCown in the Southeast office at
(205) 933-9111; e-mail:
Quiet in the Canyon
There's still time to make your voice heard, before the roar of
sightseeing airplanes drowns out the peace and quiet of the Grand
Canyon. The Federal Aviation Agency is proposing new rules to control
air tours over the canyon that may also serve as a precedent for other
national parks (see October Planet).
"The FAA proposal is a pound of prevention but only an ounce of cure,"
notes Sharon Galbreath, conservation chair for the Grand Canyon
Chapter. "The law mandates substantial restoration of the Grand
Canyon's natural quiet, but the FAA admits its own failure to do that."
The agency has recommended that the most heavily used tour routes
remain virtually unchanged, and their proposed cap on tour numbers is
set at excessively high levels. In their own words, even with these
changes there will be, "no appreciable change in aircraft noise
levels." The FAA's decision for flights over the canyon could greatly
influence new rules for Rocky Mountain National Park, which are also
To take action:
Contact President Clinton before Dec. 31, 1996. Ask him
to support a permanent limit on the number of flights over the Grand
Canyon and to reduce them to at least 1987 levels (when Congress
mandated protection for natural quiet there). Ask him to also ban
overflights above Rocky Mountain National Park and to establish
guidelines that preserve the natural quiet and serenity of all our
Dolphin Death Bill Defunct for Now
"We've won this round, but the fight for dolphin-safe tuna is far from
over," said Sierra Club marine volunteer Shirley Taylor, regarding the
defeat of the International Dolphin Conservation Program Act.
In 1988, the United States banned imported tuna that had been caught by
purse seine nets that encircle and kill dolphins and the tuna that
school below them. The bill, which was passed by the House and
supported by the president, would have weakened the 1988 law by
allowing tuna harvesters to put the "dolphin-safe" label on tuna caught
in purse nets as long as no dolphin deaths were observed during the
catch Ð even though this method of fishing harasses dolphins and leads
to dolphin deaths (see March Planet).
Due to filibuster threats by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the
"dolphin-death" bill died in the Senate this fall. But just weeks after
the 104th Congress ended, Pres. Clinton renewed his commitment to
reintroduce similar legislation next year.
"Make no mistake, we'll be seeing this issue again in the 105th
Congress," said Taylor. "But we feel confident that with the help of
activists across the country, we can have a dolphin-safe label that
really means no dolphin deaths."
For more information:
Contact Larry Williams at (202) 675-6690 or Shirley Taylor via e-mail at
Club Exploits All Options to Save Ancient Groves
Unhappy with the compromise deal between Pacific Lumber owner Charles
Hurwitz and federal negotiators to "protect" the Headwaters Forest in
Northern California, the Sierra Club is pursuing every opportunity to
save the last unprotected Ð and most vulnerable Ð ancient redwood
groves in the world.
"We're broadening the base of public support for Headwaters'
preservation and doing everything we can to take the salvage card out
of Hurwitz's hand," said Associate Regional Representative Elyssa Rosen
of the Calif./Nev./Hawaii office. That includes working to influence an
upcoming decision to fill an open seat on the state Board of Forestry,
pursuing legal challenges, attempting to secure an endangered listing
for the coho salmon and pressing Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and
President Clinton for permanent protection.
A Pacific Lumber holding, Headwaters Forest encompasses 60,000 acres
and is home to the threatened coho salmon and endangered marbled
murrelet and northern spotted owl, among other species.
In September, closed-door negotiations with Hurwitz and state and
federal government representatives ended with a tentative agreement
that Pacific Lumber would suspend salvage logging of ancient redwoods
in the Headwaters and Elk Head Springs groves while the government
raised $380 million for their purchase and agreed to approve a Habitat
Conservation Plan to safeguard endangered species. While the pact did
appear to constitute a temporary logging reprieve for those groves,
environmentalists maintained its terms were more to Hurwitz's benefit
and didn't constitute a long-term preservation plan for the 60,000 acre
(see November Planet).
By early October, conservationists' fears were confirmed when Pacific
Lumber began salvage operations in three of four unprotected ancient
groves and informed the Department of Forestry that it was not going to
stop logging at the onset of winter, as it originally had planned.
While negotiators Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Deputy Interior
Secretary John Garamendi criticized Hurwitz in the press for violating
the spirit of the agreement, Club activists pressed forward on
Environmentalists had hoped that listing the coho as endangered would
provide protection for Headwaters, but the National Marine Fisheries
Service announced in October that it would delay its decision to list
the species in Northern California and Oregon until April 1997 due to
"substantial scientific disagreement" over its remaining numbers and
threats to its survival.
The Sierra Club has joined the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's
Associations in blasting the agency's decision as politically
motivated, rather than biologically based. "It's laughable to say there
is any disagreement of substance when coho are down to 1 percent of
their former population in California," said Rosen. "By allowing timber
companies to continue logging at unsustainable rates, the agency is
choosing to let this species go extinct."
To take action:
Urge Deputy Interior Secretary Garamendi and Sen.
Feinstein to do everything they can to ensure the Pacific Lumber
Habitat Conservation Plan is scientifically sound and contributes to
the recovery of endangered species. Call Deputy Secretary Garamendi at
(202) 208-6291 and Sen. Feinstein at (202) 224-3841. Urge President
Clinton and Interior Secretary Babbitt to preserve the Headwaters
forest by supporting an endangered listing for the coho salmon in
Northern California and pursuing a debt-for-nature swap for all 60,000
acres. Call the president at (202) 456-1111 and Sec. Babbitt at (202)
For more information:
Contact Kathy Bailey at (707) 895-3716; e-mail:
or Elyssa Rosen (510) 654-7847; e-mail:
New Parks Win Approval, Tongass Gains Reprieve
On one of its last days in session, the 104th Congress passed an
omnibus parks bill that contained a number of nationally significant
conservation initiatives, including protection for Sterling Forest in
New Jersey and New York (see April Planet), Presidio National Park in
San Francisco and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Kansas.
The bill passed despite the efforts of Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska),
who tried to add numerous anti-environmental provisions, including a
sweetheart corporate deal that would have continued clearcutting in the
Tongass National Forest in his home state (see September Planet).
While the parks bill signed by the president has many positive
components, and most major anti-environmental provisions were dropped,
it is not without flaws. The new law contains provisions that will
allow increased development in Florida's fragile coastal areas, the
construction of a new reservoir near Utah's Zion National Park with no
environmental review, and preferential real estate deals favoring
developers in a number of states.
When Murkowski failed to obtain a 15-year logging contract extension
for Tongass National Forest timber, Louisiana-Pacific announced that it
would close its Ketchikan pulp mill in Alaska next March. Closure of
the mill ends Louisiana-Pacific's 50-year monopoly contract for
taxpayer-subsidized Tongass timber and will stop the company's massive
clearcutting of the world's last healthy temperate rainforest.
"The avalanche of comments that came in from the Club's call for public
comment did double duty," said Pam Brodie, associate representative in
Alaska. "Not only did it build the case for improved administrative
management of the Tongass, but it also sent a message to President
Clinton that he needs to stand firm against Murkowski's attempts to
exploit Alaska's natural resources."
The future of the Tongass is definitely brighter, but the question of
long-term protection remains. The Forest Service is revising the
Tongass Land Management Plan, and despite overwhelming public support
to reduce logging, there is no guarantee it will take this opportunity
to do so.
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