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April 2000 Planet Main
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  April 2000 Features:
Sequoia Protection At Hand
Club Leader Wins Right to Speak
Livestock Antibiotics Can Threaten Human Health
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The Planet

by Jenny Coyle

Fish Looked Good Enough to Eat - But It Wasn't

Grilled salmon with a garlic beurre blanc. Whitefish poached in white wine with fresh herbs. Salmon sauteed with red peppers.

Makes your mouth water, doesn't it? These were among the dishes prepared for reporters who covered a Sierra Club event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in January.

Yet, no one took a single bite.

That's because it was a "toxic feast." Next to the platters was a list of chemicals found in each of the Great Lakes where the fish were caught and where dangerous amounts of mercury, PCBs and other contaminants still pour in from nearby industries and abandoned dumps.

"Everyone was invited to sample the fish, but no one took the bait," said Emily Green, director of the Club's Great Lakes Program. "The fish didn't look so appetizing once we finished talking about contamination in the lakes."

The Sierra Club held a similar "feast" 10 years ago. Green told reporters that the lakes are still toxic after all these years.

"Fish that swim in this toxic soup are contaminated and pose a particularly insidious threat to the health of pregnant women, children and subsistence fishermen," she said. Cancer risks from these contaminants are 4,500 times above the Environmental Protection Agency minimum "acceptable" level for some populations. Fish consumption advisories have been posted around the lakes. For instance, Michigan recommends avoiding ciscowet fish over 18 inches long or lake trout over 30 inches long.

Speakers at the event praised the Clinton administration for directing the EPA to develop a multimillion-dollar cleanup plan for the lakes. But they also offered an alternative to the plan - crafted by a coalition including the Sierra Club -- to clean up one or two key sites first.

For more information on the Great Lakes Program, contact Emily Green at (608) 257-4994;

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Squirrel Costumes

Dean Whitworth matter-of-factly describes how Tennessee Chapter forest activists bring poorly planned U.S. Forest Service timber sales to a screeching halt.

"There's nothing flashy about it," Whitworth says. "We never get arrested. We break no laws. We don't wear costumes or wave signs. We are all mature adults, and in fact some of us are downright elderly. We work within the system, and we stop bad sales when we point out that commercial logging as currently practiced does not follow either the spirit or the letter of the law, and that the agency is vulnerable to litigation."

Last year, activists got their first clues about another round of destructive forest practices when the Cherokee National Forest published its "schedule of proposed actions." Eighteen timber sales were planned on the northern half of the forest.

When the decision notices about the sales went out, chapter members fired back with Freedom of Information Act requests.

"The inaccurate maps, nonexistent transportation plans and inadequate biological evaluations that had been used to justify the decisions were demanded," says Whitworth. "The agency began to realize that we knew where the fatal legal and environmental flaws were, and that we were prepared to resist the clearcuts by attacking those weak points."

To date, one timber sale has been withdrawn and reissued with the clearcuts, herbicide treatments and roadbuilding eliminated from the proposal. Group members are considering legal action on five other sales and are awaiting Forest Service responses to well-researched objections they raised about the remaining dozen.

This 'Babe' Needs A Cold Shower

While we in the United States debate the proper disposal of hog waste from factory farms, lawmakers in Denmark are arguing about which pigs deserve a cold shower on hot days. At issue is whether the minimum weight to warrant a wash should be raised from 44 to 66 pounds, a move that would cut costs for farmers.

"The bill is designed as an animal-welfare measure," Reuters quotes a National Pig Production Committee member as saying, "Sweaty pigs love being showered in the sticky summer heat."

Pass the towel, please.

Take Note

We failed to give credit where credit was due in the story "Volunteers Honored" in our November 1999 issue. We told you that the new One Club Award went to Mary Evanson of the Maui Group, and that the Newsletter Award went to the Georgia Sierran (Georgia Chapter), Toiyabe Trails (Nevada Chapter) and It's Our Nature (Fox Valley Group). What we didn't tell you is that Dr. Joseph Barbosa contributed the $1,000 prizes for those awards. He also provides the $2,000 prize for the Joseph Barbosa Earth Fund, which honors Club members under the age of 30. Sierra Student Coalition activist Elizabeth Hagan won it last year.

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