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The Planet
May 1999 Volume 6, Number 4


Free Trade. At a Price.

Talk about special interest groups.

Seattle is hosting the November summit for the World Trade Organization, which mediates trade disputes between nations. And the Seattle Host Organization has hit upon a clever way to raise the necessary $9 million. It will offer corporate sponsors access to top trade officials from more than 130 countries in exchange for fees of up to $250,000. The Sierra Club has blasted this fundraising scheme, concerned that trade associations such as American Forests and Paper could use this opportunity to buy access to officials. The industry group could then clinch an agreement on global timber trade, a blow for already weak controls on imported forest pests.

"The WTO is like a dark alley where transnational corporations quietly strangle innocent environmental laws," said Dan Seligman, Responsible Trade campaign director. In an ongoing campaign to expose the WTO, the Club has secured national press coverage exposing this trickery.

Birds Beat Planes

Last April, we reported on the novel alliance between the Lone Star Chapter's Houston Group in Texas and the National Rifle Association. They'd teamed up to protect the Katy Prairie - a major stop for migratory birds - 1,500 acres of which were the proposed site for an airport. On March 10, the Houston City Council voted 11-3 to designate the land as the preferred site to be protected in exchange for land that will be lost due to the expansion of Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The Katy Prairie site is owned by Houston's Aviation Department. As part of the deal, the city would create wetlands, establish a wildlife refuge and ensure public access to the area. Houston Conservation Committee Chair Marge Hanselman called the vote a major victory. "They're not usually environmentalists, but they saw that thousands and thousands of people - and not just tree huggers - wanted to protect the prairie. Between us, the NRA and other groups, we must have sent 10,000 postcards to the city council."

But Texas Club members and NRA shooters can't put down their pens and pistols yet; the decision to permanently protect the Katy Prairie land will not be final until the environmental impact statement for the airport is complete.

Go on to Club Beat.

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