Bush nominates 'James Watt protege' for Secretary of the Interior.
December 30, 2000 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Bush nominates 'James Watt protege' for Secretary of the Interior.

For those of you who don't remember, Watt was Ronald "trees cause air pollution" Reagan's Secretary of the Interior. He was best known for the following statements: "My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns" and "We don't have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand".

Redwoods, prepare to be chopped! Wildlands, prepare to get drilled!
posted by Mr. skullhead (14 comments total)
Whoever it is still has to be confirmed by the Senate. There are a lot of Republican senators from out West who have a lot of environmentalist voters in their states. If this guy is as radical as you say, he's probably not going to be confirmed.

By the way, James Watt wanted to open up the National Wilderness Areas to exploitation, something which had to be done before a certain deadline. That deadline has now passed and that land, at least, is now locked up. Unfortunately, they're not very large. As to exploiting National Forests or the land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, "Bureau of Logging and Mining" as it's sometimes known) there's not a great deal this guy can do which hasn't already been done. The National Forests are already in very sad shape through overexploitation even though the Forest Service gives lip service to "multiple use", and the BLM has never been interested in conservation in the least.

I get the impression, Mr. Skullhead, that you may not live in the western US where most of those lands are. If you did, you'd realize that it really can't get a lot worse than it already is.

I grew up in Portland Oregon. The main highway to Tillamook on the coast had, at one point, a sign which said Entering the Van Duizer corrider and later another sign saying Leaving the Van Duizer corrider (I think that was the name) and everyone always used to ask what the heck that meant.

We all found out when they rebuilt that section of the highway and changed its route. It turned out that the corrider in question was a band of lush forest about 300 yards wide which bracketed the highway, thick enough so you couldn't see through it. Outside of that, the whole area had been clearcut. The new route of the highway took it out of the corrider and into the clearcut area.

I've seen a satellite photograph (sorry, I can't find a link) of the Mt. Hood National Forest. If they keep it up, soon they'll call it the Mt. Hood National Clearcut. You can see from space how much they've already taken (and the picture I saw was 20 years old; it's much worse now).
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:34 AM on December 30, 2000

I found an image showing the extent of clearcutting in Oregon already.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:48 AM on December 30, 2000

Just want to remind you all that the bus for Canada for the next four years leaves on January 21st. See you there!
posted by Bag Man at 11:19 AM on December 30, 2000

Of course, there are lots of non-environmentalist voters in the Western states as well. Once you get out of the major urban areas, environmentalism drops off in favor of resource use. For one simple example, take a look at the debate over dams on the Snake River. The City Council in Seattle, hundreds of miles away, wants the dams removed; the County Commissioners in Whitman County, where the dams are used, wants them to stay.
posted by ffmike at 12:07 PM on December 30, 2000

I totally could not understand why anyone would say "Trees cause pollution", so I did a search, and found this thread. Kinda interesting, and explains why someone would say such a stupid thing, even if they were wrong.
Next Week on MetaFillter: Volcano's are destroying the Ozone layer, fact or fiction?
or not.
posted by thirteen at 12:55 PM on December 30, 2000

Mmmmmm, grilled wildlands.

Oh, you said drilled.
posted by kindall at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2000

The VanDuzer Corridor is still here, however it is on Hwy 18 and links Mcminnville & Salem with Lincoln City. This is south of Tillamook. It is a patch of timber that was preserved when the highway was built. Yes their are clearcuts here and I for one don't mind them. The nature of the timber industry today dictates that they be replanted in a timely manner. After all time is money. Trees are a crop much like corn except have a longer rotation cycle.

At present very little Federal timber is being logged and this is not likely to change any time soon. Much like the recent election, any attempt to log ends up in the courts. However the outcome in this case is stalemate. In any case if any logging were to occur it would be limited to but a small portion of Federal lands because much of the land has been set aside for one reason or another.

Also the US Forest Service is administered by the Department of Agriculture not the Interior. BLM land is in the Interior. So it is not likely that we will be revving up the chainsaws to attack Federal land anytime soon.

posted by 101jim at 2:00 PM on December 30, 2000

But hey, if she was involved with a group backed by Sen. Chenoweth-Hage, she's got to be sane and reasonable, right?
posted by snarkout at 2:05 PM on December 30, 2000

profilesGale Norton

posted by 101jim at 2:49 PM on December 30, 2000

So long, ANWR. The Clinton administration was the only thing keeping it closed.
posted by D.C. at 3:17 PM on December 30, 2000

If indeed they did do a decent job of replanting and caring for the area, then trees would be a renewable resource. But part of the problem is that a lot of the clearcutting is being done on terrain which is inappropriate. The trees are cut down, then dragged by a bulldozer down to a road where they can be loaded onto a truck. All of this is often on the side of a steep hill, and it leaves deep gouges and completely disrupts the root systems which hold the soil in place. This is particularly a problem in the Cascades in the Mt. Hood and Willamette National Forests.

The next winter, the rains come. (It has been known to rain in Oregon.) And a lot of the topsoil washes away, down into the streams. Any seedlings which were replanted get washed away, too. In the meantime, a lot of those streambeds are spawning grounds for salmon, and the soil kills them. It's a double loss.

The seedlings are gone, a lot of the soil is, too, and the streams get fouled. The clearcut is left to itself to regenerate, and that's a very slow process.

The reality is that for a long time now they have been taking lumber out of the national forests a lot faster than it regrows. They haven't been farming it, they've been mining it. I'm glad to hear that they've largely stopped logging the National Forests; it's overdue. But the reason that they've stopped logging a lot of that land is that they've already taken out about as much as they think they can. And the trees won't regrow for at least fifty years (and in some cases more like 200). It's going to be a looong time before they can begin again.

Reforestation is possible and Oregon itself proved it, by reforesting the "Tillamook Burn". But the effort involved was a lot more serious and substantial than anything the Forest Service is doing in the National Forests. And it was in the Coast range, not in the Cascades; they're geologically a lot different. The Coast range is perfect for "tree farming". The Cascades are not.

It's interesting to observe what a clearcut in a National Forest looks like 2 years afterwards compared to a clearcut in land owned by Crown Zellerbach or Weyerhauser. They are treating that land (which they own) as a valuable asset, and they don't do it the same way. They spend a lot more money on rehabilitation than the Forest Service does.

As to where that corrider was, it's been 20 years since I lived in Oregon, and my memory begins to grow a little dim about those kinds of details.

FFMike: Maybe Seattle disagrees with Whitman County. Which one has more voters in it? Which one would a Senator be more interested in pleasing? (Yes, I know they're probably in different states, but the principle holds.)

That's been a factor in Oregon politics for a long time; Portland-metro and Salem and Eugene have more people than the entire rest of the state combined; when environmental issues like land-use planning come up, this being a democracy and all, the "utilize it" crowd in the Cascade towns and on the coast have been losing. And they'll keep losing. They cover a lot of terrain, but you don't vote by square mile.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:57 PM on December 30, 2000

"Where the dams are used" is in the urban northwest, where industry has been making use of dirt-cheap electricity for decades. I'm sure Whitman County likes their dams, but the primary users are far away.
posted by rodii at 6:07 PM on December 30, 2000

You cannot replant a forrest. Trees can be replanted, but not forrests. Additionally, not all areas can even be "re-treed." This problem is much more severe than most people think. Whenever an area is logged, it is replaced with an entirely different ecosystem. Clinton and Carol Browner understood this; Bush and Christy Whitman do not. Whitman has proven herself not only anti-environmental, but incapable of running a large organization. My father, who works for EPA, has had this to say about her being chosen:

"At least she's not running our state any more."

My sentiments exactly.
posted by Ptrin at 1:07 PM on December 31, 2000

Let's not forget James Watt's best quote:
"I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent."
posted by peterme at 8:02 PM on January 1, 2001

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