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The Planet
March 1999 Volume 6, Number 2


The Roadless Moratorium Not Taken

You could practically hear Scott Anaya shaking his head in frustration. He was calling from Alaska, and he was talking about the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest - his glorious backyard.

"The Tongass is America's largest national forest and the heart of the continent's coastal rainforest," said Anaya, a member of the Club's Wildlands Campaign Committee. "It's got gigantic spruce trees, brown and black bears, and salmon runs so prolific that the streams turn bright red when the fish return to spawn. Tourism brings in money for the small towns near the forest. But clearcutting jeopardizes this in many parts of southeast Alaska."

What frustrates Anaya is that, as expected, the Tongass and some other national forests were not included in the 18-month roadbuilding moratorium announced by Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman on Feb. 11.

The moratorium is nearly identical to a plan that was proposed - but never implemented - by the Clinton administration in January 1998. It temporarily blocks roadbuilding on roadless parcels of 5,000 acres or more in about 33 million acres of national forests, until a permanent long-term strategy is developed.

But the proposal exempts the Tongass and 25 other national forests that are managed under existing forest plans, leaving 15 million acres of forests susceptible to road construction. Also, the moratorium applies only to roadbuilding, so it continues to leave all roadless areas unprotected from mining, logging and other destructive activities.

"The moratorium is full of political loopholes that will leave tens of millions of acres of America's forest wilderness wide open to damage," said Sean Cosgrove, the Club's forest policy specialist. "The loopholes must be closed or we will lose our last truly wild places to development. About 440,000 miles of roads already criss-cross our national forests. We want the administration to permanently protect all roadless areas of 1,000 acres or more from roadbuilding and all other destructive activities - with no exceptions."

Roadless areas are the source of some of the country's clearest, cleanest rivers and streams, which provide high-quality habitat for sensitive fish species and are essential sources of clean drinking water, he said.

"Our task now is to make sure Vice President Al Gore is paying close attention to this process," said Cosgrove. "The short-term policy is a good start, but it leaves too many of our wild areas at risk. The immediate and permanent protection of these valuable roadless areas is a sound step toward achieving our goals of ending commercial logging on national forests and protecting and restoring wild ecosystems."

To Take Action: Write a letter to Vice President Al Gore or send a letter like this one.
For More Information: Contact Sean Cosgrove at (202) 547-1141;

When the View Ain't So Grand

There are days so clear in the Grand Canyon that one's view is limited only by the curvature of the earth.

And then there are days so hazy that it's impossible to make out any detail in the opposite canyon wall - and that's only 10 or 12 miles away.

Rob Smith, the Club's southwest staff director, said those dirty-air days happen when humidity is high and the wind blows from the direction of tailpipe-heavy Los Angeles - and the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev. The power plant burns coal slurried in by pipe from the Black Mesa Mine located on the Navajo and Hopi reservations in northern Arizona.

"A year ago we filed a lawsuit against the four companies that own the plant for violating the federal Clean Air Act," said Smith. "Among the emissions we sued over was sulfur dioxide - a producer of haze. No other single smokestack contributes more to pollution in the Grand Canyon than the Mohave plant."

The Grand Canyon isn't the only national park with a haze problem.

"Air pollution caused by power plants, smelters, cars and a host of other sources has spoiled the views in many national parks and wilderness areas," said Ed Hopkins, conservation assistant on the Club's Environmental Quality Team. In Big Bend National Park in Texas, for example, visibility has plummeted due to sulfur dioxide and particulates from power plants in the state and across the border in Mexico.

Hopkins said that in the West, air pollution has cut visibility by about one-half to two-thirds. The problem is even worse in East Coast parks, where visibility is about one-fifth of that under natural conditions.

The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to address visibility in national parks. In July 1997, the EPA announced a proposal that would require states to revise their pollution-control plans to reduce air pollution in parks and wilderness areas not only in their states, but in downwind states as well. Cleanup plans would include measures like retrofitting old power plants with pollution-control equipment, closing dirt roads to cars and limiting agricultural burns. The requirements would also establish a standard to determine whether the measures work.

"But under the EPA's current proposal, it would take over 200 years to clean the air in parks like Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains," said Hopkins.

The agency sent the final rule over to the Office of Management and Budget the first week of February, and now the OMB has 90 days to comment.

"President Clinton must make sure the rules don't get weakened during the approval process," Hopkins said. "The EPA rule should set a clear requirement for states to clean parks within 60 years. Also, a substantial amount of park pollution comes from old, dirty power plants and other facilities that have not had to comply with new controls required under the Clean Air Act. The new rule must ensure that these sources clean up their acts."

"And the Mohave Power Plant should be the first in line to add pollution- control equipment," said Sharon Galbreath, Grand Canyon Chapter conservation chair. "They've run dirty for 20 years while others have cleaned up. Now it's their turn."

To Take Action: Tell President Clinton to make sure the EPA's rules set a clear, enforceable level of visibility improvement, and that they make faster progress. And tell him to clean up old, dirty pollution sources like the Mohave Power Plant. The EPA must ensure that these major sources take responsibility for their contribution to the pollution that clouds our national parks.
Write to: President Clinton, White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20500.
For More Information: Contact Ed Hopkins at (202) 675-7908;

Go on to the next article, "House Flunks First Environmental Test."
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