Quislings, losers, quitters, and cowards: all these words have a despicable
ring to them. And those who desecrate the natural world are now using those terms
to label environmentalists. Americans have always relished those who stand behind
their principles and fight to achieve them. Robert F. Kennedy told us, “ Only
those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Despite having the best interest of children at hand, equipped with irrefutable
science and the moral high ground, the big green team knowingly plays a game of
pragmatic defeatism. Why are they afraid to ask for what they want, battle to
the bitter end, and let the collective chips fall where they may? The collective
silence from National Audubon, Sierra Club and other mighty greens on Senator
Tom Daschle’s frontal assault on the nation’s forests will only embolden the despoilers
of nature to take on these lightweights. And our grandchildren will not look fondly
Daschle, the Senate Majority Leader, and proclaimed friend to the Sierra Club
and other eco-groups, slipped “a special exemption” into a defense supplemental
bill, that would allow cutting of forests to occur in the Black Hills, found in
his home state, while disregarding current environmental law. A lapdog to the
Democratic Party, the environmental community believes that any Republican who
threatens the health of nature is to be scorned. Yet, a Democratic Judas is left
with no rebuke or public demands to atone.
South Dakota’s Black Hills’ forests most imminent danger may not be fire, but
the forest mismanagement dictated by those who see forests as nothing more than
paper and pulp, using any excuse to achieve their conquest. Daschle’s move will
only open “Pandora’s box” with republican leaders now suggesting that his model
be used nationwide as well. Forests will fall, environmentalists will wring their
hands, and our protective environmental laws will be left toothless.
Instead of addressing clear cut logging, the replacement of native forests
with overcrowded rows of mono-cultured trees, the outright liquidation of the
precious and small acreage of virgin forests left in this nation, Senator Daschle
joined the Republican mantra: let’s act like Medieval barbers and cut the forests
back into health. Those who now run the bureaucratic eco group are silent, claiming
that they are seeking consensus, the “middle ground” and Senator Daschle is usually
a friend. Yet the “middle ground” position has left the national forests strewn
with clear cuts, or as my wife Trish calls them, “stump graveyards.” And if Daschle
is supposedly a friend, I fear him more than the enemies of environmental laws.
Giving away the moral ground on forest issues is not a new phenomenon for environmentalists.
Back in 1989, then Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon orchestrated the Section 318
rider or sufficiency language, where national environmental laws were neutered
to help timber barons.
The Sierra Club and Audubon Society actually supported the decision in the
name of political correctness, and the results were devastating. Over 8 billion
board feet of timber were cut, the habitat of endangered species was sacrificed,
and native forests, known for their ability to withstand wildfires because of
their thick bark shields, were sheered into oblivion and replaced with sterile
rows of trees. Keep in mind that less than 4% of our nations’ forests are virgin
and native. Add the policy of putting out all forest fires and the time was ripe
for nature to try to recover balance in the woods.
The time is well past for timber companies to provide the nation’s wood and
paper supply from their privately managed tree farms, and let the national forests
stand as untouched ecosystems fulfilling the nation’s need for clean water, wildlife
corridors and bastions of biological evolution.
Could you imagine “sufficiency language” enacted for one year to circumvent
the First Amendment? Maybe that will come next under Mr. Bush’s new world disorder,
but whoever thought his co-conspirers tarnishing the environment would be liberal
Even with victories at hand, the inept green team fears asking for what is
right. Early in the 1990’s Judge William Dwyer (a Ronald Reagan appointee on the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) found the Forest Service had violated national
environmental laws and was ignoring the fate of hundreds of sensitive species.
Millions of acres of public forests were put off limits by a scathing injunction:
mind you, this occurred during a republican president’s tenure: President George
Bush (senior). When pseudo-friend of the environment took office, President Bill
Clinton, he begged his green colleagues to back off some of the blocked timber
sales. He was a new centrist democrat, and didn’t want to rock the corporate boat.
Clinton even threatened to use sufficiency language to overturn environmental
laws, claiming the environmental community had to “give back a little” so that
his administration could forge a “forest plan”. And forge they did, a deal with
the devil, and nature paid the price. Ancient forests began to fall, as much as
40% of the existing old growth forests in the nation were on the chopping block,
and many in the environmental community claimed victory! Despite a call from many
“grassroots greens” to fight and not give in, the Washington greens now claimed
they were “FOBs” or “friends of Bill”. Once again the once powerful protectors
of the earth would grovel, and tough grassroots leaders were marginalized as radical.
Clinton’s dedication to forests only came to life in his waning days, and even
then, environmentalists acted like an abused spouse in a troubled marriage.
When Muhammad Ali stated, “Champions are made from something they have deep
inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision” he obviously wasn’t thinking about the
green beltway boys. Sierra Club visionaries like John Muir and David Brower must
be in heaven looking down sadly at the dismantling of nature with the aiding and
abetting by its’ own proclaimed stewards.
The current fires in our national forests have been the result of politics
over science; common sense cashed in for profits and a total disregard for the
“way” nature constructs a forest ecosystem. 400,000 miles of roads have invaded
our national forests, fragmenting a once proud cloak of green into tatters of
its’ once proud self. Like so many acres of corn, native forests have been converted
in fiber farms, where habitat, water storage and natural diversity have been forgotten.
Earlier this summer, republicans tried to blame environmentalists for appealing
timber sales, stating that as many as 40% of these appeals targeted fire reduction
plans. The actual number was less than 1%! Lies and prevarications from those
who want to cut taxpayer owned ecosystems, yet no apologies, no national discussion
on forest use and the public looked to the environmental organizations for leadership.
And what they found was nothing more than a scare of the month envelope in the
mail, as if the subscription to a glossy magazine will save nature from fools.
Audubon will claim that they are centrists, but are there any birds to see in
a forest minus the trees? Sierra Club members will say they don’t want to alienate
their “democratic friends” in the Senate. Yet, is there a single champion of the
environment in the Senate, democratic or republican? Fighting republicans like
Senators Orrin Hatch or Frank Murkowski is easy, they are cro-magnons on environmental
issues. But the likes of Senator Daschle are supposedly friends to nature, not
charlatans dropping out of a Trojan horse.
The last time this nation cut trees to help forest health was in 1995. Attached
to a bill to appropriate money to the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing victims,
the “salvage rider” was intended to clear forests of their thick underbrush and
density of trees. President Bill Clinton signed this “logging without laws” legislation,
and the timber industry had an orgy. The only problem was that big, healthy money
making trees were cut! The bill stated that “sick, diseased, dying and dead” trees
could be surgically removed, and that “associated” trees were eligible also. In
other words, more smoke and mirrors, because eventually all trees become dead
I have worked on environmental issues for the last 25 years and this approach
of “cutting deals” with those who despoil the environment has shaken the public’s
confidence in environmental groups. How, can an organization know what is right,
know the immediacy of addressing environmental problems, yet: is content with
receiving half, of a half of a loaf? Compromise is often not possible when the
consequences of inaction are so dire, for so many.
Senator Daschle should be ashamed and should face immense public criticism.
Tossing environmental laws into the fires of forest mismanagement will solve nothing:
in the long run. And politicians should have the foresight to think about the
No, Americans revile a team that “fixes” the score of a game, or shaves points.
We like a straight match, with no excuses, no rationalization of losing. And if
the environmental community wants to lead, they must have the decency and fortitude
to go all the way. Win or lose, their opponents will pause and wonder and will
take heed the next time a critical issue is on the national stage. Or as the best
environmental president, Theodore Roosevelt stated, “the credit belongs to the
man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives
valiantly…if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly so that his place
shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” If
being an environmentalist means being a timid soul, afraid of winning and even
more fearful of losing, don’t call me an environmentalist.
John F. Borowski is an environmental and marine science teacher of two decades
who lives in Philomath, Oregon. firstname.lastname@example.org.
His pieces have appeared in the UTNE Reader, N.Y. Times, PR Watch, Forest Voice,
CommonDreams.org, Liberal Slant, and CounterPunch.