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Environmentalists Engage In Overkill

A fax recently arrived from the Idaho Sporting Congress with this headline: “Clinton signs death warrant for nation’s forests.”

The text of the press release was equally sensational, denouncing the “unholy alliance” of President Clinton and “the new radical Republican Congress” for passing the salvage-logging bill. Groused an Idaho Sporting Congess executive: “This is the worst anti-environmental, anti-American legislation in the past 20 years.”

Wa-a-a-h! Wa-a-a-h!

Environmentalists have been throwing a tantrum since the new majority began revising laws that for years have been used to stymie logging. Radicals have gone further, hinting that violence may be necessary if protest and civil disobedience fail. Such rhetoric might be good for fund-raising purposes, but it marginalizes environmentalists.

Now, with the U.S. House of Representatives voting for drastic cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency, watchdogs are needed to scrutinize the effects that proposed laws will have on endangered species, forests, water, air and public health.

Environmentalists have done much to raise awareness about the importance of a healthy environment. As a result, most people support recycling, don’t litter, are wary of industrial and automobile emissions and appreciate nature.

But environmentalists also are too quick to cry wolf. They’ve used the spotted owl and timber appeals as weapons to hamstring the Northwest’s timber industry. And they’ve sounded false alarms that have caused billions of dollars to be squandered cleaning up bugaboos such as asbestos.

The Earth needs protection - but not environmental overkill from activists who don’t care about the human consequences of protecting trees and critters. Environmentalists must turn down the volume and learn to work within today’s political climate if they hope to remain influential.

They can start by denouncing eco-terrorists who promote tree-spiking and other anti-logging crimes. Such acts are intolerable and should be dealt with harshly.

Then, environmentalists could learn from the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation. Those two organizations cooperated with forest industry representatives to hammer out an enlightened proposal for reintroduction of grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Mountains. Of course, some of their brethren complained because the plan doesn’t provide protection for the bears under the Endangered Species Act.

At times, though, cooperation and moderation accomplish more than posturing and whining.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board