No. 340, August 9, 2003

BUSH TO VISIT TUCSON TO PROMOTE BOGUS "HEALTHY FORESTS INITIATIVE"

   

GUEST OPINION: PRESIDENT'S PLAN ONLY AIDS LOGGERS

   
VICTORY AT ZUNI SALT LAKE!
   

CENTER OPPOSITION STOPS MEGA-DEVELOPMENT NEAR JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

   

CENTER SUIT LEADS TO 53,000 ACRE CRITICAL HABITAT PROPOSAL FOR ALGODONES DUNES

   
CENTER CREATES ACTION TO MOVE USDA KILLER BEE APIARY OFF IRONWOOD NATIONAL MONUMENT

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BUSH TO VISIT TUCSON TO PROMOTE BOGUS "HEALTHY FORESTS INITIATIVE"

On Monday, August 11 the eyes of the Nation will be on Tucson as President Bush arrives to tour the Aspen fire, visit the devastated community of Summerhaven and promote his misleadingly titled "Healthy Forests Initiative."

Bush's visit to Tucson is the first in a series of stops in political swing states during the month of August. During each of these visits, the President will attempt to convince the public that his administration, one of the most anti-environmental in the history of the Nation, is working to protect our irreplaceable natural heritage. It is important that we see through the smokescreen and false rhetoric of anti-environmental proposals such as the "Healthy Forests Initiative" and "Clear Skies Initiative," and hold this administration accountable for the broad and systematic attack on the environment that it has waged.

Please read and enjoy the following editorial written by Congressional Representative Raúl Grijalva in anticipation of Bush's visit to Tucson. We applaud Representative Grijalva's commitment to environmental protections, and wish there were many more like him in Congress.

Learn more about the Center's Ancient Forest Program.
Learn more about the Center's Restoration Program.


GUEST OPINION: PRESIDENT'S PLAN ONLY AIDS LOGGERS

RAÚL M. GRIJALVA
Tucson Citizen

On July 30 I had the opportunity to visit Mount Lemmon and Summerhaven with John McGee, supervisor of the Coronado National Forest.

I want to commend the Forest Service, Pima County and all other parties for their outstanding efforts to save the structures on the mountain. Given the limited resources that were available to prevent such an event at the outset, the officials and volunteers did a truly remarkable job.

What I saw on the mountain last week solidified my belief that we must take action to fully protect our forest communities from the inevitable event of fire, and we must do so now.

In Arizona, we now have 120 communities nestled in the forest that are at "high-risk" for a catastrophic fire event. Summerhaven was on the list, but the village is now in part destroyed. We now have 119 potential Summerhavens out there, and it is a question of when, not if, fires similar to the Aspen fire will impact these communities.

On my trip with Mr. McGee, we discussed how to make communities safer. Mr. McGee stated, and I agree, that there is no 100 percent guaranteed way to protect forest communities - not even if you pave a three-mile-wide swath around them. However, there are a number of proven ways to greatly enhance the chances that lives and property will survive a forest fire.

Scientists and fire ecologists have determined that thinning of small trees and removal of brush from the immediate vicinity of communities and controlled burning in a wider circle around the thinned areas can go a very long way in protecting communities. Residents can also protect their homes and those of their neighbors by installing metal roofs, burying propane tanks and clearing their property of brush and small trees.

If this kind of work is done, is it likely that fire will burn gently along the forest floor, making it far easier for fire fighters to protect an area. John McGee showed me where thinning was done around the camps at Organization Ridge on Mount Lemmon. Firefighters had a much easier time controlling the fire that approached this area because the thinning slowed and lowered the intensity of the approaching fire.

After the Bullock fire on Mount Lemmon last summer, the Forest Service and residents requested $1 million so that they could complete similar clearing work around the village and other structures. However, the Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush administration did not appropriate the necessary funds for this work.

George W. Bush will be here on Monday to extol the virtues of his so-called "Healthy Forests Initiative." But don't be fooled by his rhetoric. His initiative would have done nothing to prevent the destruction of homes in Summerhaven or the Aspen fire itself.

Bush's initiative was designed by former timber industry lobbyists within his administration. It will facilitate logging of large, old-growth trees deep in the forest, under the guise of forest health. The initiative will also eliminate the ability of citizens to be involved in planning for fuels reduction projects in their communities or areas that they recreate in or otherwise enjoy.

Several months ago, Democrats in Congress proposed an alternative that would have focused on community protection while still maintaining citizen involvement in decision-making. But we lost our fight to win support from Republicans on this compromise legislation. Instead, a bill very similar to Bush's initiative passed the House and is now before the Senate.

I am adamantly opposed to the Bush initiative and its companion legislation. Instead, I am proposing the following five-point plan to address safety in forest communities:

  • We must provide for immediate and comprehensive funding for fire safety measures to protect communities before fires sweep through them. Our efforts must focus on the places where people live and work, not on the forest at large.
  • We must create opportunities for communities to work to protect themselves. We should foster public/private partnerships and micro business creation that would employ community residents and put people to work thinning and clearing around homes and structures.
  • We must include citizens in the forest planning process.
  • We must undertake a comprehensive and independent study of the Aspen fire immediately so that we may determine which fire safety measures worked on Mount Lemmon, which did not, and exactly how much funding would have been necessary to fully protect the community.
  • We must allow natural fires that do not threaten communities to burn. As a natural and necessary occurrence, fires can assist in clearing out the forest of flammable materials and making the forests healthier overall.

Keep in mind that Bush's initiative is about lining the pockets of the timber industry, not about protecting communities. Instead, let's focus on community protection and start getting the job done before another Summerhaven-like disaster happens.

Raúl M. Grijalva is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of representatives representing Arizona's Seventh District.


VICTORY AT ZUNI SALT LAKE!

In an astounding victory for environmental protection and preservation of sacred sites, Phoenix-based utility Salt River Project (SRP) has announced that it is abandoning its plans to develop the proposed Fence Lake coal strip mine in western New Mexico. SRP announced on August 4th that they will relinquish permits and coal leases acquired for the mine, which would have provided electricity for SRP’s customers in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The Center has been involved in the struggle to save Zuni Salt Lake and defeat the Fence Lake Mine since the mid-1990’s, when CBD joined with the Pueblo of Zuni in challenging the original state permit granted to operate the mine, objecting to federal environmental analysis concluding that the mine would have no impact on the Zuni Salt Lake, and applying public pressure on SRP to abandon its plans. In 2001, CBD again joined with the Pueblo of Zuni in challenging the state’s renewal of SRP’s mining permit.

Learn more about this victory, and the Center’s Mining Program.


CENTER OPPOSITION STOPS MEGA-DEVELOPMENT NEAR JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

Saying resistance from environmentalists doomed the Joshua Hills project, Coachella Valley developer Dick Oliphant recently cancelled plans for a 7,000 home, 12 golf-course mega-development on 9,000 acres next to Joshua Tree National Park. This Sonoran desert area of southern California is home to several endangered species, including the desert tortoise, Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, Coachella Valley milkvetch, flat-tailed horned lizard and desert pupfish. The Center strongly opposed this project, sparking national media and citizen scrutiny during Oliphant’s first press conference in February 2002 by asking tough questions. The golf courses alone would have used 6 million gallons of water daily.

This victory is a part of the Center’s campaign to protect the California Desert Conservation Area, fight unneeded urban sprawl.


CENTER SUIT LEADS TO 53,000 ACRE CRITICAL HABITAT PROPOSAL FOR ALGODONES DUNES

On August 5 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed 52,780 acres – nearly one third – of the Algodones (Imperial) Dunes be designated critical habitat for the Peirson’s milkvetch (Astragulus magdalenae var. peirsonii). FWS is taking public comment on the proposal until Oct. 6.

The proposal is in response to a legal victory by the Center and California Native Plant Society. Species with designated critical habitat are less likely to be declining, and twice as likely to be recovering than those without.

The Bush administration is set to finalize a BLM plan (RAMP) later this summer that would open 50,000 acres of currently protected dunes habitat. Parts of that plan are already being challenged in court by the Center. FWS stated in the proposed rule, “Species specific management needs and measures for Astragulus magdalenae var. peirsonii are not addressed in the RAMP.”

Learn more about the Algodones Dunes and the Peirson’s milkvetch.


CENTER CREATES ACTION TO MOVE USDA KILLER BEE APIARY OFF IRONWOOD NATIONAL MONUMENT

Working with a USDA whistle-blowing scientist, the Center successfully exposed a dangerous invasive species threat, and helped BLM push USDA to remove a killer bee apiary from the Ironwood Forest National Monument west of Tucson. Non-native Africanized “killer” bees often attack people and displace native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, doves and other important native pollinators, disrupting ecosystem function. USDA had thirteen colonies at the apiary, with each colony having 10,000 to 40,000 “killer” bees.

Learn more about the Center’s program to protect deserts.


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