On Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2003, Governor Mike Leavitt of Utah made history as he became the first Utah governor to resign from office. On that same day, Lieutenant Governor Olene Walker also made history as she became Utah’s first woman governor. Leavitt had been nominated by President Bush to head up the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington D.C., and his recent confirmation by the Senate meant he had to quit his day job.
The EPA is not an agency without controversy. In my geography class, a student expressed her appalled outrage at the selection of Leavitt to head the EPA. She did not tell us why she disliked the appointment, but to be honest, there was no time to really discuss this issue. Since this student is a native Californian, I ask myself why she did not like Pres. Bush’s choice. I doubt she has followed Leavitt’s terms of office in Utah, so what was the source of her distress? Could it have been the liberal major media, or the even more liberal National Public Radio? If you had only listen to these biased sources, you would probably hold the same image of Leavitt dining on spotted owl after a hard day of clear-cutting forests and spilling oil into streams. And the Democrat senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee took Leavitt’s nomination as an invitation to start complaining about Pres. Bush’s environmental policies, as if Leavitt had any say in them.
Now do not get me wrong — I love a nice clean environment as much as the next man. Who does not favor a beautiful forest over a city dump? Who wants to live in his own filth? OK, so having seen some teenagers’ bedrooms, I can imagine some people do, but most of us do not want to live like that. While we love the environment, there are people who take this love a bit too far. As much as I miss the wonderful green forests of the Pacific Northwest, I do not reverence them as others do. Where a rabid environmentalist sees a forest and dreams of ways to keep people out of it, I appreciate the beauty of that same forest and imagine how many homes could be created from those trees. After all, trees can be replanted.
Weyerhaeuser, the wood and paper magnate, plants over 100 million trees each year — many more than they cut down. It is in their best interest to ensure there are plenty of trees available. But how many trees does the Sierra Club plant each year? You may be assured that it is not near as many as Weyerhaeuser plants. This is a good example of the difference between a company that sees trees as a useful and renewable resource and a group of tree-huggers who worship the trees more than they appreciate what trees can do for people. The Sierra Club wants to “save” the environment by using the ham-fisted force of government, while Weyerhaeuser actually does more for the environment because it wants to keep making money. Weyerhaeuser’s self-interest does more for the forests than all of the environmentalists’ self-righteous actions.
One of the big news items in the last month was the huge forest fires that destroyed almost 3,000 buildings and about 110,000 hectares of land in California. As tragic as these fires were, they could have been prevented easily. People both in and out of government had been petitioning for permission to go in and clear out the forests. This does not mean clear-cutting every tree; it means selectively harvesting the dead trees. A forest that is kept clean in this way will not be devastated by fire as we saw in California. Any wildfires will not be as big if all the deadwood has been removed. No fuel means no fire, or at least not the roaring fires we witnessed. With the deadwood cleared away, a forest fire will merely clear out the dead underbrush.
As I mentioned, people have petitioned for permission to clear out the forests, but environmental groups have succeeded in their fight to prevent this from happening. They claim to operate from the notion that any clearing and maintenance of the forest is a bad thing, but I wonder if they secretly cannot stand the idea that someone might gain financial benefit from clearing the forests. I do not have a problem with people clearing the deadwood, selling it, and benefitting from their hard labor. It is true that the forests are public lands, but if these people put in the hard work, they should reap the rewards. Yet it is clear that groups who claim to champion the environment are usually more anti-capitalism than pro-environment.
The anti-logging ecofreaks are not the only ones who claim to be for the environment, but whose actions cause more harm than good. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a radical pro-animal rights group that has caused its own share of damage in the name of helping the environment. In northern Utah, members of the ALF broke into a mink ranch, freed the minks and set fire to the buildings. Minks were meant to live free, according to the ALF. But since these minks had been raised in captivity, they had no skills to survive in the wild. Many either stayed in the burning buildings or ran back into them, burning to death. Others were killed by predators. Many ran headlong onto a nearby freeway and were mowed down by trucks. The ALF wanted to save the minks, but they ended up being responsible for their deaths. This is a common error in the actions of environmental groups. They want to free “captive” animals, but they usually cause more problems than they solve. ALF does not confine its activities to just Utah. You can read a self-congratulatory description of its recent activities here or here. Thankfully, the government is starting to recognize ALF activities for the terrorist actions that they are. Clinton Colby Ellerman was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in bombing a Utah mink farm. The actions of ALF are a great example of how liberal nut-jobs, believing that they are somehow protecting the environment, are spreading death and destruction among the very creatures they claim to be protecting.
In the years that Mike Leavitt serves as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the environment will be better served if it is treated more like Weyerhaeuser and less like the Sierra Club or ALF.