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  Sierra Magazine
  November/December 2008
Table of Contents
Ice Manliness Cometh
A Six-Dog-Power Engine
I (Heart) Snowshoeing
Skiing Yellowstone
Welcome Back to the World
Rotten Fish Tales
Big Fun in the Green Zone
Hey Mr. Green
Comfort Zone
Mixed Media
Last Words
Sierra Archives
About Sierra
Internships at Sierra
Advertising Information
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Sierra Magazine

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Lay of the Land

Three Strikes, You're Hired | Ten Reasons to Oppose "Fast Track" | No Net Loss? No Comment | Spreading Their Wings | Costly Corn | Deadly Winter for Monarchs | It Pays to be Popular | Honor Thy Father | Sprawl | WWatch | Bold Strokes | Updates

Web Updates

D.C. Dumps Dirty Diesel. The nation's fifth-largest bus system cleaned up in February, thanks in part to lobbying by Washington, D.C., Sierra Club members. Trumpeting a modernization initiative for the outmoded Metrobus fleet, officials unveiled 164 new natural-gas-powered buses, which emit 90 percent less soot than diesel models. The Club's next challenge: making sure the capital carries out its pledge to upgrade the city's 1,432 remaining diesel buses. (See "All Aboard," January/February 2002.)

Bitterroot Victory. A backroom deal to turn Montana's Bitterroot National Forest into a tree farm was averted in February when the Sierra Club and other environmental groups negotiated a settlement that will save 27,000 acres from the ax. Activists had filed suit after U.S. Forest Service officials circumvented the public-appeals process and approved logging on 46,000 acres in the name of fire protection. In the burned areas where logging will still occur, the Sierra Club is helping organize volunteers to monitor the cuts and minimize damage to soils and wildlife. The land preserved by the final agreement includes key watersheds and sensitive habitat for bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout. (See "Lay of the Land," March/April 2002.)

Finger-Lickin' Good? Fast food is still fattening, but chicken from McDonald's, Wendy's, and Popeyes has gotten healthier since the three companies stopped buying birds treated with fluoroquinolone antibiotics. Growing concern about this common industry practice, which may reduce the effectiveness of life-saving human drugs like Cipro, also led Tyson Foods, Perdue, and Foster Farms to announce in February that they have eliminated or reduced the amount of antibiotics routinely fed to healthy chickens. Of course, we'll have to take their word for it: no government agency keeps track of antibiotic use in animals. (See "Lay of the Land," March/April 2002.)

Bechtel v. Bolivia. With annual revenues of $14 billion, the Bechtel Corporation is almost as rich as the country of Bolivia, where the entire gross domestic product was most recently estimated at $20.9 billion. But that didn't keep the San Francisco-based construction giant from drastically raising utility rates when it took over the water system in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The soaring costs sparked mass protests that eventually forced the government to cancel its contract with a Bechtel subsidiary in April 2000. Now Bechtel has filed a November 2001 request for arbitration with the World Bank, demanding $25 million in lost potential profits from the impoverished nation. (See "Lay of the Land," September/October 2001.)

Tyson's Toxic Waste. When a huge corporate livestock operation crams 600,000 chickens in one "farm," the results aren't pretty. Just one of the nasty by-products is ammonia gas, which can cause respiratory problems when inhaled. In February, the Sierra Club announced its intention to sue Tyson Foods, the world's largest meat producer and processor, for failing to report hazardous ammonia releases from four chicken factories in Kentucky. Under the Superfund law, such information must be made available to the public, so Tyson's unfortunate neighbors can know what's blowin' in the wind. (See "Meat Factories," January/February 1999.)

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