Arrogant threats against Mother Nature

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

By JOEL CONNELLY
P-I COLUMNIST

The political architect of Alaska's "Bridges to Nowhere," and other drains on the U.S. Treasury, is vowing retaliation against colleagues who voted last week to end a multimilliondollar U.S. Forest Service subsidy of the timber industry.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said he was taking down the names of the 237 members of the U.S. House of Representatives -- including 68 fellow Republicans -- who voted to prohibit Smokey Bear from using federal dollars to build new logging roads in the Tongass National Forest.

The threat echoes a similar warning from Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, when the Senate blocked his backdoor effort to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

Stevens already has undertaken a revenge effort against Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Such I'll-get-you diatribes reflect the fetid state of Washington, D.C., politics these days. They underscore the arrogance of men in power.

The fjords, glaciers and largely intact rain forests of the Tongass are an adventure destination for thousands of cruise-ship passengers embarking out of Seattle each summer.

The Tongass is where our sport and commercial fisherfolk seek out still-healthy salmon runs, and where our kayakers go to test their skill amid the icebergs of calving glaciers.

No wonder that a majority of our state's congressional delegation voted to end a logging road construction program that was losing 96 cents on the dollar.

The Forest Service spent $48 million on road building and timber sales last year in the Tongass, according to Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Robert Andrews, D-N.J., co-sponsors of the anti-subsidy legislation. Timber receipts totaled $400,000.

advertising Hence, Chabot told House colleagues, America's taxpayers have been providing a subsidy of $150,000 for every logging job supported in the national forest.

Young, the powerful chairman of the House Transportation Committee, responded with fury.

"Each one of you, think about this, in this room," he declared. "This should be a representative form of government, and what you're doing is dead wrong, and I shall not forget it.

"What's happening here is you're trying to put the last remaining -- the last remaining -- few Alaskans that are trying to make a very meager living -- 300 jobs -- and take it away from them, for the environmentalists."

Nope, Chabot and Andrews were striking a blow for the taxpayers ... and for the 4,000 Southeast Alaska tourism and recreation jobs that depend on preservation of natural beauty, silt-free salmon streams and healthy game populations.

Stevens started taking names in December, as colleagues led by Cantwell blocked his bid to attach Arctic Refuge oil drilling to a key defense bill.

"I am going to every one of your states, and I am going to tell them what you have done," he shouted. "And I am sure that the senator from Washington will enjoy my visits to Washington, because I am going to visit there often."

Young started venting his wrath soon after the Tongass vote.

He tried to kill language in a pending appropriations bill -- inserted by Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash. -- that greenhouse gas emissions need to be limited and that humans contribute to global warming.

Young denounced what he called "hysteria" over the issue.

"I am a little bit concerned when everything that is wrong is our fault, that the human factor creates all the damages to this globe," he declared. "That is pure nonsense. This is nonsense!"

Dicks, along with House members of both parties, tried to cite scientific evidence.

"I believe this is a serious problem," Dicks said. "When you have six former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency saying this is a reality, when you've just heard Congressman (Wayne) Gilchrest (R-Md.) talk about the increases in parts per million of carbon dioxide, and when you have the visible evidence of our glaciers melting, ... the polar bears are drying because there is not enough ice.

"I mean, at some point, can the majority here not figure out we ought to have some study, we ought to look into this, that this is a real issue that affects everyone on the Earth?"

Young would hear none of it.

"If you look at any of the studies that are taking place now, the polar bear pack is very healthy and, in fact, increasing," he argued. "Keep that in mind. Read something that really has some merit to it. Do not just read the fear tactic."

The fate of the Tongass amendment is unclear. The House passed a similar measure in 2004. Stevens restored the logging subsidy in the Senate.

So far, Don Young has picked out only one target for retaliation: Mother Nature. He may yet go after $200 million in federal money earmarked for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Stevens came steaming through in April to protest how Washington lawmakers have abandoned the good old days of mutual back scratching on federal projects.

He also headlined, with Don Young, an Anchorage fundraiser at which Alaska's leading recipients of federal largess wrote checks to Mike McGavick, Cantwell's Republican challenger.

McGavick is making a big deal, in his Senate run, about the loss of civility and accountability in American politics.

So be it. It raises questions of authenticity, however, when he keeps company with symbols of rancor, waste and cronyism such as Stevens and Young.

P-I columnist Joel Connelly can be reached at 206-448-8160 or joelconnelly@seattlepi.com.

©1996-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

//seattlepi.nwsource.com/connelly/271387_joel24.html

Informant: Teresa Binstock

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