Grist staff

Can’t See the Trees for the Forest Service

Two House Democrats have accused the U.S. Forest Service of cooking its books in order to blame environmentalists for the fires that raged across much of the West this summer. Reps. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) spoke out yesterday against a recent USFS report in which the agency claimed that environmental appeals delayed 48 percent of projects designed to remove trees from forests to reduce fire danger. The report was used by House Republicans to blame enviros for the severity of this fire season, the worst in half a century. Udall and Inslee cited a different analysis by …

Salmon in the Can

Over the past two decades, U.S. federal agencies have pumped $3.3 billion into recovery efforts for endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest — but there is no evidence that the money has paid off, according to a report issued yesterday by the U.S. General Accounting Office. The report is the government’s first comprehensive assessment of salmon recovery costs and outcomes, and it reaches a conclusion that has been suspected by critics for years: Federal agencies cannot prove that massive funding correlates to increased numbers of fish returning to the region to spawn. Part of the difficulty lies in accounting for …

And other words from readers

  Re: Coolant Dear Editor: I am a big fan of Ask Umbra. I used to do a column like this for USA Today, and yours is much more interesting than mine was. (Of course, I was handicapped by being limited to one-syllable words.) But Umbra goofed a couple times in her first answer in the most recent column. She wrote, “With a few exceptions, auto air conditioners use chlorofluorocarbons, which can be released into the atmosphere during maintenance.” This would be true (or at least legal) only for cars manufactured before the mid-1990s. CFCs are banned for this purpose …

Knowing the Cost of Every Thin and the Value of Nothing

The plan unveiled by President Bush earlier this week to make it easier to thin forests in the name of fire prevention has touched off a firestorm of its own, enraging environmentalists who see it as a giveaway for the timber industry and a backdoor out of environmental protection measures. Moreover, environmentalists see the Bush plan as a Trojan horse for sneaking a highly controversial timber practice into American forests — salvage logging, or the selling of trees in fire-damaged forests. Advocates of salvage logging say it is a way for the U.S. Forest Service to make money off of …

Sh*tting By the Dock of the Bay

Ten years ago, delegates attending the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro wrinkled their noses upon encountering the putrid smells emanating from the heavily polluted Guanabara Bay. The summit cast a spotlight on the plight of Rio’s bay and led to the creation of an internationally funded cleanup project. Now, with the follow-up Earth Summit beginning next week in Johannesburg, South Africa, the bay is as filthy as ever. Despite $800 million from the Inter-American Development Bank and Japan’s Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund, some 470 tons of raw sewage are still dumped into the bay every day, along with …

And other words from readers

Responding to “Power Shift,” our special edition on local initiatives to combat global warming in the absence of federal leadership, Grist readers waxed pretty warm, themselves. Ross Gelbspan’s piece on the failure of big-name national environmental groups to take the lead on climate change drew praise from local activists — and criticism from some of the big-name groups in question. Those letters and Gelbspan’s response are below — plus thoughts on corporate climate (ir)responsibility, college activism, and the general attitude of Americans toward environmental issues. Re: The Big-Name Game Dear Editor: Ross Gelbspan is absolutely right that environmental advocates at …

Rubber the Right Way

In other news from the halls of justice, a different federal appeals court ruled yesterday that the U.S. government must foot the bill for cleaning up hazardous waste stemming from a World War II effort to produce synthetic rubber. During the war, most of the natural-rubber exporters were under Japanese control, so demand was high for synthetics to manufacture tires, life rafts, gas masks, medical supplies, and other military necessities. In the 1940s, Dow Chemical agreed to operate a synthetic rubber plant in California “at the expense and risk” of the federal government. Waste from the plant polluted the ground …

Lambs to the Slaughter

The wildfires that are raging across the western U.S. this summer aren’t just threatening the trophy homes of billionaires; they are also posing a danger to wildlife. Take bighorn sheep, which were reintroduced to the shores of Washington state’s Lake Chelan after a century’s absence. The sheep were finally gaining a foothold in the area; about 17 lambs were born in the spring, bringing the population to an estimated 70. Now the 36,000-acre Deer Point fire has scorched the animal’s entire range, and less than half the animals have been accounted for. The same fire also threatens other species, including …

Zed, last of his species, in “Par for the Course”

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