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  November/December 1996 Features:
Native Environmentalism
First People, Firsthand Knowledge
Return of the Sinkyone
Native Tongues
Saying the World Alive
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Sierra Club Bulletin
Last Words

Sierra Magazine

Boise in Guerrero

We at Boise Cascade are deeply disturbed by the article "Treasure of the Costa Grande" (July/August), which makes reckless and irresponsible allegations concerning Boise Cascade's wood products operation in Mexico. Among author John Ross' deceptions is his failure to mention that the ejidos (Mexican communal families from whom we and others buy logs for processing) own the timberland he wants to place off-limits to harvesting. They also are obligated to practice sustained-yield forestry under the supervision of the Mexican forest service.

However, the most outrageous of the many inaccuracies is the suggestion that, somehow, Boise Cascade's presence in Guerrero was a motivating factor in the atrocious killings of 17 people by government troops last year. In fact there is neither reason to assume nor evidence to suggest that the protests that led to the deaths were related to logging in the region. The Reuters news agency reported that those killed were "members of the left wing Southern Sierra Peasant Organization" and said, "State police accuse the group of links with former leftist guerrillas in the region, which has a long history of political violence." Those who are familiar with Mexico know that social conflict in the region is chronic and appears to be related to economic policy and alleged human-rights violations rather than forestry operations.

In contrast to being a contributor to social unrest in Mexico, we believe our presence in Guerrero will be constructive by providing employment, training, wages, and technical assistance in an otherwise depressed local economy. We also believe that John Ross owes the people of Boise Cascade and the members of the Sierra Club an apology for his utter disregard for the truth.

Richard B. Parrish, Senior Vice President, Boise Cascade, Boise, Idaho

The editor replies: We stand by John Ross' story. It stated that Boise Cascade had rights to buy timber from local forestry ejidos; if Boise Cascade can buy it from them, it goes without saying that they own it. It also stated that the dispute that led to the Aguas Blancas massacre was precipitated by a lumber company "owned by local lumber baroness Isabel Calderon, not Boise Cascade." The article did quote several people on the scene directly linking logging in the region to the protests, but that is the whole point of the story: large-scale logging in Guerrero spawned by the North American Free Trade Agreement is an example of Mexico's destabilizing economic policy.

Unsafe Silence

I have experienced the emotions that Stephen Lyons described in "Crossing Borders" (July/August). While reading his essay, however, my first thought was that his actions were foolish. Slough Creek is not a zoo. It is natural habitat. Bears feed on elk carcasses and will defend their meals against threats. The "instinct to become quiet" when he found fresh grizzly droppings is contrary to common sense.

Joe Moore, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Tree Savers

Bravo on the article about alternative building materials ("Shopper, Spare That Tree!" July/August). In this country it should be illegal to build with wood where steel or other suitable materials can be used.

Robert Wallace, Seattle, Washington

Making wood an unattractive choice on economic grounds through reduction of subsidies and enforcement of existing environmental laws will be the only way to change things. We will then build houses that will last, reducing social dislocation as well as home maintenance.

Michael Roddy, Long Beach, California

I am confused about the benefit of straw-bale building technology's use of "agricultural waste," which poses "major disposal problems." This "waste," consisting of straw and stubble, is never burned or hauled to landfills in the rural area where I live, but rather is plowed back into the ground to increase the organic matter and nutrient level of the soil, as it has been around the world for centuries.

Judy White, Ashland, Ohio

Author Vince Bielski replies: In California's Sacramento Valley, Oregon's Willamette Valley, Washington's Spokane Valley, and in North Dakota, Texas, and Manitoba, farmers do not plow their waste from rice, flax, rye, bluegrass, wheat, and other crops back into the ground for a variety of reasons, including high costs and increased risk of crop disease. Instead they burn the remains of their harvest, causing severe air pollution problems. This is why farmers, environmentalists, and businesses are looking for alternative uses for the waste-paper, wallboard, and straw-bale homes.


James Martin Davis (D) has earned the Sierra Club endorsement for Nebraska's 2nd congressional district (not Nevada's, as stated in September/October's "A Chosen Few"). Ken Poston (D) is our endorsed candidate from Georgia's 9th district. Ross Anderson (D) is our choice in Utah's 2nd congressional district.

"Ten Things You Can Do" (July/August) suggested asking for scrap wood at construction sites to burn in one's wood stove. A cautionary note: pressure-treated, coated, or engineered wood contains chemicals that should not be burned.

Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794; e-mail:

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