Environmentalists Create Lead Scare

Mining and logging aren’t the only industries with a stake in this region’s energetic debate over ecosystem management. Environmental propaganda-making has become a booming industry, as well. Which is fine. It’s a free country.

But it is not at all fine to use tax dollars to pay for the propaganda that environmental groups produce. It’s wrong. Voluntary contributions, not involuntary taxes, should pay for special-interest group campaigns.

Neither the public nor its government should be lobbied at public expense.

Yet that’s exactly what occurs in the “Get the Lead Out” campaign conducted by the Inland Empire Public Lands Council.

Perhaps you were among the 10,000 area residents who got campaign packets. Produced and distributed with tax revenue, the packets contain literature and a videotape. Here at the Spokesman-Review, numerous staff members received the packets, with attached requests for us to regurgitate the propaganda. Your tax dollars at work.

The state Department of Ecology awarded the $38,500 grant that funded this campaign. DOE approved the propaganda as well.

Was it really propaganda? Consider: The videotape shows Spokane Falls while the narrator calls it “an avalanche of both water and pollution,” laden with “killer” metals that are “perilous to life.” It concludes with the hope that our grandchildren will not, as we do, “suffer the fate of living in a poisoned land.”

Hey, we’ve all known for years that mining residues in Idaho’s silver valley leach into the river system that feeds Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River. It’s a serious problem, one federal government is struggling to address.

But it’s a scare tactic, a propagandist’s lie, to imply that contamination levels threaten human life throughout the drainage. There are no human bodies lining the Spokane River or the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene. To get a dangerous dose you’d have to consume a fair quantity of mud, eat heaping piles of tainted fish - especially the bones and entrails where metals concentrate - and drink large quantities of unfiltered lake or river water.

The explicit purpose of the council’s campaign is to attack legislation that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig has introduced in an effort to clean up the mining wastes. If you’re a regular reader of Public Lands Council publications you have learned that Craig, like other Republicans, is a fork-tailed tool of evil robber baron logging and mining companies. If you’re a taxpayer with a different view, you may rightly take offense when public dollars help the Council promote its opinions.

The council’s packet also includes a sales pitch to join the council and send it money. A private fund drive for a special interest group, financed at public expense? That smells.

The old mining wastes do need to be sealed off. Craig’s bill isn’t perfect. This is an extremely difficult and costly problem. But calm, credible scientific analysis will be more helpful in resolving it than the outpourings of an industry whose products are divisiveness and fright-wig rhetoric, calculated to terrify consumers into sending it more money.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board

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