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The Planet

Follow Up

The Planet, December 1995, Volume 2, number 9

Updates on Sierra Club Campaigns

  • Congress Slows Wolf Recovery
  • Big Sugar Poses Everglades Threat

Congress Slows Wolf Recovery

Conservationists celebrated a major victory this spring when 14 gray wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park. However, that celebration may be cut short by yet another congressionally driven budget cut.

Wolf recovery is an essential part of the Sierra Club's efforts to restore ecological balance in Yellowstone and other wilderness areas [see November 1994 Planet, page 6]. "Wolves are critical to the health of the Yellowstone ecosystem," said Betsy Buffington, conservation assistant in the Club's Northern Plains field office. "Their absence has resulted in overgrazing and resource destruction."

According to the federal plan designed to recover wolf populations in the Northern Rockies, the reintroduction of wolves last spring was to be the first of five releases. But wolf advocates contend that the current political shenanigans of Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), a longtime opponent of wolf recovery, threaten future releases as well as the ability of federal agencies to protect the wolves already introduced.

In an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill, Burns cut critical funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's already pinched budget and may stall the recovery process entirely. Buffington said the agency probably won't reallocate funds for reintroduction unless it receives public pressure to do so. "This budget cut could prevent wolf recovery in Yellowstone," she emphasized.

To take action: Contact Mollie Beattie, director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at (202) 208-4717; fax (202) 208-6965 and demand that reintroduction continue until enough wolves are in Yellowstone to ensure successful recovery.

For more information: Contact Betsy Buffington at the Northern Plains Field Office at (307) 672-0425.

Big Sugar Poses Everglades Threat

Everglades advocates are struggling to get Florida's heavily subsidized sugar industry to help reverse some of the damage it has done to the Everglades.

In an attempt to evade the strong directives of a 1991 federal court ruling that cracked down on water pollution, sugar growers helped draft the flawed Everglades Forever Act passed by the Florida Legislature in 1994 [see June 1995 Planet, page 1]. Environmentalists did not support the act because it impairs federal oversight and will result in the destruction of critical Everglades habitat.

"The act weakens state water quality standards by suspending pollution reduction goals," said Sierra Club regional representative Theresa Woody. "And the delay could be deadly for Florida's endangered species."

Meanwhile, Florida activists have filed legal briefs urging the U.S. District Court to hold sugar growers to stricter federal provisions, and have called publicly for the state's congressional delegation -- and specifically Sen. Bob Graham (D) -- to stop the assault on clean water. Environmentalists say Graham reneged on a deal to secure a two-cent-per-pound assessment on Florida sugar growers to help fund Everglades restoration and that to date, Big Sugar's contribution will cover only 23 percent of projected cleanup costs.

"We've called upon Graham to secure more money from polluters," said Woody, "but the 104th Congress seems unable to reform the sugar price support program because it can't wean itself from the campaign contributions it receives from the industry.

"Overproduction of sugar undermines Florida's economic and environmental future," Woody added. "Our elected representatives need to stop backing sugar's interests and start backing the rest of us."

To take action: Contact your representative and senators and urge them to support an assessment of two cents per pound on Florida sugar barons to increase the industry's contribution to stopping pollution.

For more information: Contact Theresa Woody at the Florida regional office at (407) 689-1380; or Craig Diamond, Florida Chapter Everglades issue chair, at (904) 422-2910.

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