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The Planet

By Kim Todd

Does the Arctic Concern the North Poll?

Melanie GriffinMelanie Griffin, Sierra Club lands program director, was wary when she was invited to appear on Oliver North's radio program. North, the gap-toothed darling of the Iran-Contra scandal, and his show are notoriously right-wing.

"I figured I'd get hammered and everyone who listens would be very conservative and a big Bush supporter," she says.

But the day before Griffin's appearance in mid-February, North's Web site ran a poll about drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge. The results were enough to make you want to wrap yourself in a flag: 68 percent checked the box that said, "Increased oil drilling in the U.S., especially in ANWR, is environmentally irresponsible and a bad idea."

As a result, the talk-show host, while he asked industry-fueled questions, didn't press Griffin very hard and even asked to chat with her when the show was done.

"When he came on he said he enjoyed it and wanted me on the show again. It was very surreal," Griffin says.

Now Griffin is continuing her exploratory outreach efforts, switching from Contra-supporters to Watergate conspirators. In April, she spoke at a Christian conference, sponsored by the Wilbur Force Forum, Chuck Colson's group. Colson, one of Nixon's top aides in the White House, plead guilty to a Watergate-related charge in 1974.

Meanwhile, her influence may still be reverberating through North headquarters. A month after she appeared, 77 percent of loyal listeners checked the box saying of the administration's about-face on carbon dioxide emissions: "This is a terrible mistake by the Bush administration that will exacerbate global warming."

Take a trip to the "North Poll" at

Does This Hard Hat Clash With My Power Tie?

Lobbyists for the National Association for Manufacturers appear to be taking "casual day" a little too far.

In March, in a call for people to attend a rally in support of President Bush's proposed tax cut, the organization urged members to dress as blue-collar workers, even if they normally wore suits and ties.

The memo, published in The Washington Post, expressed a desire to create a "sea of hardhats" and mentioned, "If people want to participate - and we do need bodies - they must be dressed down, appear to be real worker types, etc. We plan to have hardhats for people to wear."

Lucky the television cameras didn't do close-ups. They might have caught a Palm Pilot or two tucked in the pockets of those overalls.

If a Tree Falls and There's No Public Comment, Does It Make a Sound?

As Richard Whiteford, a conservation organizer for the Northeast, headed toward the firehouse in the middle of Sheffield, Pa., his heart sank. The snow was only growing heavier and the road to the location of the meeting wasn't even plowed.

"I was sure no one would be there," he says.

But he was greeted by a group of 92 activists - more than two-thirds Sierra Club members - who had braved the weather to voice their opposition to plans for the Allegheny National Forest.

clearcutsThe plan, which would require 15 miles of new roads, calls for 8,600 acres of logging, including 3,000 acres of clearcuts. In addition, the Forest Service aims to spray herbicides over another 3,500 acres, killing the native plants so they can be replaced with genetically altered black cherry trees.

Despite more than 150 requests for a public hearing, the Forest Service had refused to hold one on its controversial Allegheny plan.

Frustrated by the Forest Service's lack of response, the Club and the Allegheny Defense Project decided to hold their own hearing. People came from Erie, Pittsburgh and even as far away as Philadelphia to speak out for the record, even though the Forest Service wasn't there. A videotape of the three-hour proceeding, in which no one approved of the plan, aired on cable television in Titusville, Pa., and was hand delivered to the Allegheny National Forest manager.

"The Forest Service looked the other way and we held a meeting without them," Whiteford said. "They got a hearing whether they wanted it or not."

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