|OUR NATION'S PARKS|
A Forum with Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt
May 23, 1997
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Questions Sec. Babbitt answered in this forum:
Should cars be banned from national parks? How should forest fires be handled? Why are visits to the Grand Teton or the Grand Canyon so expensive? Does the federal government give mining companies sweetheart deals? Could special tax incentives provide money for the parks? Does the federal government promote clearcutting forests? What was Sec. Babbitt's best experience being part of a National Park Service firefighter? Viewer Comments
March 9, 1997:
Interesting coalitions have developed around the fight for rights to the water flowing down the Animus and the La Plata rivers in Colorado.
March 3, 1997:
Spencer Michels reports on efforts to rebuilt Yosemite National Parks after this year's devastating floods.
April 30, 1996:
Tom Bearden reports on efforts to restore the Colorado River's eco-system by flooding it.
Browse the NewsHour's index of environmental issues.
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Interior Sec. Bruce Babbitt
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Bruce Conway of Friday Harbor, WA, asks:
I live in the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest. While flying down to California a few weeks ago I was horrified by the level of clear cutting of trees on federal lands. From Seattle to Northern California was a patchwork quilt, the streams and rivers choked be sediments
My question: Will the clear cutting be allowed on Federal park land until no trees remain?
It sure looks likely to me.
Secretary Babbitt responds:
The serious clearcutting in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California was a direct result of decades of poor federal policy, which allowed the overharvest of timber--essentially selling off our children's. inheritance. It was wrong, and it led to a serious court battle in which forest policy was actually taken out of the hands of federal land managers and vested in a federal judge, who had to order the federal government to obey the law. When this administration took office, the President personally convened a forest conference in Portland to start working on a solution. The eventual forest plan was approved by the courts, and forest management is back in the hands of federal land managers.
We face challenges cleaning up the resultant mess, however. Clearcuts don't grow back overnight. It will take years for those watersheds to clean out the excess sediments and nutrients, and that damage is one reason that native fish are in such trouble. In addition, I'd make one other point--clearcuts themselves are not the only challenge. They look bad to the untrained eye, but just as bad in terms of forest health can be smaller timber sales close to streams that cause the banks to weaken. We're working at turning around a mindset that sees only "board feet" when it looks at all forest: it will take some time to finish that job. Keep the faith, Bruce.
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