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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of May 22 - 28, 2002

  Opinion Column

can destroy, too

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

The mail lately has been filled with appeals for donations from environmental and wildlife organizations that probably didn’t exist a generation or so ago.

Which leads to this question: In what shape would our environment be today if these groups weren’t around?

Who, but these groups, for example, would’ve ignored belittling epithets of "tree huggers" hurled by critics and go on to pressure Congress to create an Environmental Protection Agency, to add wilderness areas and parks to the nation’s land bank of recreation areas, to put on pressure to protect endangered species, to clean up air and waterways, to create and write tough workplace health and safety regulations?

Who, but these groups, would’ve run the gantlet of industry lobbyists in state legislatures to persuade local lawmakers to enact environmental and open space laws?

In the absence of regulatory oversight or public outcry, would industry have willy-nilly slashed down forests for timber, continued pouring toxic waste into the air and waterways, and sportsmen allowed to kill off species that had dwindled to the threshold of distinction, thus reducing the United States to a giant environmental disaster area?

One need only look for an answer in countries where air and water are poisoned, where the landscape is stripped of vegetation and timber, where the incidence of disease from environmental pollution is alarming.

Virtually every advancement made in environmental protection began with grassroots groups who volunteered time and funds to found and fuel movements that ultimately benefited all of us.

One such group, but certainly not the only one, met last weekend at Redfish Lake, south of Stanley, to review issues and concerns.

Members of the Idaho Conservation League are no less passionate today than when the group was formed more than 25 years ago. On its front burner now is persuading Congress to create wilderness areas in Idaho’s southwestern Owyhee County and the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains north of Ketchum.

One speaker, Idaho’s U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, gave me pause when he said he’d never met anyone who consciously wanted to destroy the environment.

Crapo may be correct about not "consciously" wanting to destroy the environment. But ignorance of environmental destruction can be just as culpable and evil as willful vandalism.

Even now, President Bush and his appointees are on the march, determined to loosen or change environmental protection regulations created over the past 20 to 30 years.

Happily, Bush & Co. is not always successful. The other day, a bristling Chief Federal Judge Charles Haden II of the Southern District of West Virginia blocked a Bush administration effort to allow mines to dump millions of tons of dirt and waste into waterways, which, Judge Haden found, is an "obvious perversity" of the Clean Water Act.

Then, as proof of its low-IQ ignorance, the mining industry’s response to Judge Haden’s order was to whine that it would be disastrous for the industry’s economy. As if dumping waste in waterways would be a benefit?

But this isn’t the only incident. The Bush White House wants to take it easy on smokestack electric generating plants that belch toxins into the air. It also wanted to increase the content of arsenic in waterways, until a national outcry made the White House back down.

We already know what George Bush thinks about global warming. Like most rigid Republican conservatives, he adheres to the Rush Limbaugh School of Logic: global warming is sheer poppycock and little more than a liberal plot to impose new costly air quality controls on industry.

So, if not "consciously" destroying the environment, then the Bush administration has espoused destroying it piecemeal out of ignorance.

Perhaps ignorance is what should be expected of this White House.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.