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MailTribune.com
  • Our region's beauty deserves protection

  • When he was a U.S. senator from Minnesota, my brother, Walter Mondale, wrote and passed what I believe was the first federal protection of wild rivers. That was a predictable undertaking, given our parents' commitment to our outdoor activities, and it reflects the life we all valued but is now under assault.
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  • When he was a U.S. senator from Minnesota, my brother, Walter Mondale, wrote and passed what I believe was the first federal protection of wild rivers. That was a predictable undertaking, given our parents' commitment to our outdoor activities, and it reflects the life we all valued but is now under assault.
    The beautiful hills around our property near Selma are in the bull's-eye of proposed legislative timber targets and proposed mountain-top removal for minerals. All these projects would, if approved, suggest only possible short-term gains, but would promise crippling penalties to our growing and increasingly profitable tourism promoted by breathtaking views and pristine waterways.
    We worry about our backyard's businesses, our forests and the clean water they produce for us and our children. If we were able to continue our productive economic and ecological work in this area, our small communities can become gateways to a new and vibrant Western economy by linking it to a model of ecological and economic sustainability. After all, we have one of the highest concentrations of Wild and Scenic Rivers in the nation, including the headwaters to the world-class Smith River fishery just south of us.
    The 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness, just outside of Selma and Cave Junction, provides an amazing array of unique plants and geology. The mines would permanently turn about 100,000 wild acres and their pure-running streams into mining rubble. And Sen. Ron Wyden has introduced legislation to double logging levels on surrounding BLM lands that would further pollute streams from sediment run-off along roads and steep slopes.
    This place of awesome beauty is targeted to serve the profit lust of investors from the United Kingdom. The proposed plan of action discussed in the Forest Service's 8/1999 report/decision speaks of four sample pits, 35 acres of "full scale mining" of 3.5 acres per year for 10 years, each requiring road development, deposit of rubble and a 14-mile "haul route" entirely on public lands. Minerals would then be transported to another country for smelting.
    If the Forest Service agrees, mountaintops will be leveled and pristine waterways polluted. The plan threatens a repeat of the now abandoned Formosa mine near Riddle.
    I have proudly joined all kinds of environmental activities so that when my great-grandchildren visit, as have my children and grandchildren, I can take them through my area still green and with free-flowing streams from which they can safely drink. Not just my family but any family can have their pictures taken in front of our healthy ecosystems while they spend tourism dollars in our gateway communities. But will tourists continue vacationing in an area blighted by mining wastes and clearcuts? Or will they just speed through, seeking others' pristine areas they will celebrate in memory?
    I can explain to my family that leading scientists and communities all over the world are seeking ways to at least moderate the inevitable global warming. A key finding is that trees capture and hold carbon dioxide for centuries.
    I want to take them to spectacular salmon spawning sites and show them fish that are healthy to eat — free of pesticides, herbicides and mining pollution — that have the unique ability to live part of their lives in fresh water streams and part of their lives in the ocean. Every time we convert a healthy old-growth forest to boards, or poison the fields and streams with pesticides/herbicides, we impair the possibility of a thriving economy.
    It is my impression that people will take the chance of facing climate disaster as long as they see logging and mining as the only jobs available to them and the only tax-free options. They and our federal and state leaders have made that ill-advised and myopic choice.
    My brother was right when he chose protecting environmental and cultural legacies as the building blocks of a sustainable future. Senator Wyden is now in a unique position to choose sustainability over rampant logging and rejecting foreign investors trashing our future. The legacy in question is not just his — it's ours as well.
    William "Mort" Mondale lives in Selma.
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