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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

April 16, 1999

Air Date: April 16, 1999

SEGMENTS

Earth Day - Y2K

Steve Curwood talks with Denis Hayes, organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970, about preparations for Earth Day 2000, which Mr. Hayes predicts will be "the biggest planned event in the history of the world." (05:55)

Profile of an Eco-Activist / Ingrid Lobet

Honduran fisherfolk face tough times. Hurricane Mitch devastated their fishing grounds and commercial shrimp farmers are destroying the mangroves that spawn fish. Honduran biologist and activist Jorge Varela has forged a powerful alliance of fisherfolk. Ingrid Lobet profiles Varela, a finalist for the Goldman Fund’s annual award for environmental activism. (12:50)

Listener Letters

Listeners respond to: a story on the U.S. military’s use of depleted uranium ammunition, and an interview with environmental journalist and media critic Paul Brodeur. (01:50)

The Living on Earth Almanac

This week, facts about... the legacy of John Muir, who was instrumental to the creation of the National Park system. ()

Who Owns the West?

Former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus and NY Times reporter Tim Egan join Steve for a roundtable discussion of the vastly changing West. It's not just for cowboys anymore. ()

PC Beef / Vicki Monks

Wolves have a new ally in cattle country. A New Mexico rancher is marketing wolf-friendly beef from cattle grazed on land where a variety of predators, including wolves and coyotes, are allowed to run wild. Vicki Monks reports. (07:30)

And the Winner Is...

Tyler Githens, winner of the Stonyfield Planet Protector Contest, joins us to talk about his award-winning poem and why helping the earth is everyone's job. (03:20)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Ingrid Lobet, Vicki Monks
GUESTS: Denis Hayes, Cecil Andrus, Tim Egan, Tyler Githens

(Theme music intro)

CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.

Earth Day may have a quiet celebration this year, but come the millennium organizers are going all out.

HAYES: Earth Day 2000 is going to be the largest planned event in human history.

CURWOOD: Planners say it's time to wean the world off fossil fuels and go for safer and renewable sources of energy. People, they say, are ready to take the lead to a greener future.

HAYES: Earth Days that have traction always focus upon issues where the political system has failed to reflect the will of the vast majority of the public.

CURWOOD: Also, we profile Jorge Varela, who has dedicated his life to saving mangrove and fishing grounds along the coast of Honduras.

VARELA: The way I see it, the Earth is hundreds of millions of years old. We're here only for a second. If you're going to die anyway, I think you ought to die for an ideal.

CURWOOD: Those stories and your letters this week on Living on Earth. First the news.

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(NPR News follows)

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Earth Day - Y2K

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Not so long ago, there was no organized environmental movement in the United States. Sure, various environmental issues had their champions, but most people weren't making the connection between love for the great outdoors and the toxic waste at Love Canal. Even in 1970, many of the major conservation organizations didn't see the need to join the fight for clean air in our cities. All that changed on April 22nd.

ANNOUNCER: This is a CBS News Special. Earth Day: A Question of Survival, with CBS news correspondent Walter Cronkite.

CRONKITE: Good evening. A unique day in American history is ending, a day set aside for a nationwide outpouring of mankind seeking its own survival. A day dedicated...

CURWOOD: More than 20 million people nationwide turned out for the first Earth Day, creating a new movement almost overnight. At the center of this event was Denis Hayes, a young man who left Harvard Law School to generate concern for the environment on an unprecedented level. His rhetoric at the time, at least, seemed fiery.

HAYES: Tens of thousands of people will soon die in Los Angeles in a thermal inversion that's probably now inevitable, and there's not a single instrument within the existing order that is stopping the poisonous flow of traffic into that system. We cannot pretend to be concerned with the environment of this country or any other country...

CURWOOD: Denis Hayes has toned it down since 1970, but only just a bit.

HAYES: Earth Day 2000 is going to be the largest planned event in human history.

CURWOOD: Preparations are now underway for Earth Day 2000, and Denis Hayes says no stone will be left unturned.

HAYES: We expect worldwide to be operating in every single country in the world, every principality, every (laughs) territory. We're hoping to get a half a billion people, 500 million people, participating.

CURWOOD: Now that's a modest ambition there (Hayes laughs), the largest event in human history?

HAYES: Event in the sense of pulling people into a campaign that you're deciding a year in advance, that this is an issue that we need to focus concentration on and get people out doing something, yes.

CURWOOD: How are you going to do that?

HAYES: Well, for one thing, we're choosing, as we always do, a topic that resonates naturally. I mean, in 1970, what we were trying to do was to clean up the air and the water that were making our cities unlivable. And that was something that was enormously popular with people but not with some companies and not with politicians and the people won. In the year 2000, we've chosen a theme that similarly resonates, which is that we have an energy system that was designed for the 19th century, and now that we're moving into the 21st century it's time to start making those changes that will make things efficient and powered by healthy, benign, renewable resources.

CURWOOD: You're going to get a half a billion people excited about energy?

HAYES: (Laughs) Well, there are a lot of positive and negative reasons. The negative ones are of course that our current energy system is changing the climate of the world. It's the source of most of the urban air pollutions that are making many of the world's cities unlivable. The positive side is that as we move to a different set of energy sources and higher levels of efficiency, we produce a system that has more jobs, is much more compatible with an information revolution, and is the kind of system that is widely popular with people whenever they're given a choice.

CURWOOD: Now, how realistic do you think it is to think you're going to get the attention of a half a billion people?

HAYES: I think it's exceedingly realistic. We have some assets in the year 2000 that simply weren't available in 1990, when we got 200 million. And the most important of those will be the electronics revolution. We are going to be relying very heavily upon e-mail listserves and upon the World Wide Web to build our organizations in various countries. And that's essentially free. In 1990, when we were located in Palo Alto, what we did was go to Stanford University, find somebody who could speak whatever they speak in Azerbaijan, bring them into our office at 3 o'clock in the morning, they'd make some telephone calls and hope there was somebody at the other end, and it was that kind of organizing.

CURWOOD: Now, the year 2000 is an election year, and what help, if any, do you expect to get from the major candidates for Earth Day 2000?

HAYES: One of the problems with the environmental movement has been that some of, like, if you will, African-Americans and organized labor, it's become almost a captive constituency of the Democratic party. We would like to find some Republicans following in the mold of John Chaffee, and Jim Jeffords, who have prepared themselves to become ardent environmental champions. Richard Nixon was not a wild-eyed enthusiast of the environment, but by getting enough public pressure behind environmental values, even Richard Nixon was able to be brought over. You may recall that Nixon himself came up with the idea of an Environmental Protection Agency.

CURWOOD: Indeed.

HAYES: Submitted it to Congress, and then signed it into law after Congress passed it overwhelmingly. Earth Days that have traction, Earth Days that come up typically in years that have zeroes in them, and of course we've got a year now with 3 zeroes in it, always focus upon issues where the political system has failed to reflect the will of the vast majority of the public. You take any kind of poll today and you ask people, "Do you want to get most of your energy from coal, from nuclear power, or from the sun?" and you get 80% saying let's get it from renewable resources, the sun and the wind. But there's very little evidence that anybody in Washington hears that or believes it, and we're going to try to convert it to reality.

CURWOOD: Denis Hayes organized the first Earth Day in 1970 and the 20th anniversary in 1990. He's currently preparing for Earth Day 2000, and he spoke to us from NPR headquarters in Washington, DC. Thanks for talking with us, Denis.

HAYES: It was my pleasure, Steve.

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CURWOOD: Just ahead, luck, perseverance, and timing. The story of a man and a movement to protect the coastline of Honduras. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

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Profile of an Eco-Activist

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Honduras is one of the poorest nations in the Americas, though it borders a once-bountiful sea. Most recently Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduran fishing grounds, but even before the storm the rich coastal mangroves, prime fish breeding and fish catching grounds, were being destroyed by the commercial shrimp industry. It's a scenario that has played out in mangroves from the Philippines to Africa. But in Honduras, some small fisher families didn't just stand by and watch it happen. They formed a green alliance to help protect their interests. The name itself is a mouthful: the Committee for the Defense and Development of the Flora and Fauna of the Gulf of Fonseca. And the alliance's founder is a finalist for one of this year's awards for environmental activism given by the San Francisco-based Goldman Prize. Ingrid Lobet has this profile of Honduran biologist and organizer Jorge Varela.

VARELA: We are arriving to the San Lorenzo office.

(A door shuts)

LOBET: Jorge Varela breezes into town and is greeted like a favorite uncle. It was here, in the steamy coastal working class city of San Lorenzo that Honduran fishermen joined forces 11 years ago to protect their right to fish near the places where they were born. Their coast was being privatized with exclusive leases going to large, new shrimp export operations. Calisto Reyes, a gentle man missing most of his teeth, has nourished nine children by fishing.

REYES: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: They've closed off the gate where we used to pass through to go fishing, the big shrimp companies have these armed guards watching over you. When you try to pass, they level their rifles at you.

LOBET: Crabs and conch and fish became more scarce, the fishermen say, as commercial shrimpers cut down mangrove for their farms. Mangroves provide critical nurseries for shrimp, crabs, fish, and an array of other sea life. They also buffer coastlines from tropical storms. Five thousand three hundred acres of high-quality mangrove had been lost to shrimp farming by 1992, according to a study by the University of Florida.

REYES: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: The fishing now isn't like it used to be. You used to put your hook in and get fish, but not any more, because of the destruction.

LOBET: Accounts like this one are what made Jorge Varela leave a university biology post and build what's become one of the strongest environmental organizations in Central America. Some 5,000 gulf fishermen are fighting for the right to fish the way their grandparents did, in carved canoes among the mangrove, close to shore. But Varela has made sure the small fishermen also understand the ecological principles that sustain their economy. Through hundreds of workshops up and down the coast, he's brought them a new awareness of the marine environment, and in the process bred a movement that's equal parts social justice and ecology. It was just a few blocks from here that it first took shape, with a handful of frustrated fishermen. Varela was there.

VARELA: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: I found 10 to 12 fishermen there. They were losing their source of living, their income and their quality of life. It was a life and death matter for them, and it was the same to be dying of hunger or to get killed fighting for one's livelihood. The way I see it, the Earth is hundreds of millions of years old. We're here only for a second. If you're going to die anyway, I think you ought to die for an ideal.

Back in the 80s they accused us of being Communists, and here that meant that you were a murderer, a guerilla, subversive, you name it. But that person had to disappear. I was receiving these anonymous threats, where they would say, "We're going to kill you."

(Papers shuffle)

LOBET: Varela leafs through a bound volume of bulletins from the Alliance's early years. Over the last decade, nine fishermen active in the Alliance have been murdered, their deaths not investigated. The fisherman's alliance says they died for insisting on their right to fish, rowing too close to the shrimp ponds and their rifle-toting guards. The industry says they were shrimp thieves.

VARELA: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: Look, look, here's one of our dead. Martial Law in the Gulf of Fonseca. Here's the murder of two more fishermen, look. They're young, just kids. See? Here are the beautiful lagoons.

(Surf)

LOBET: This is the coveted terrain. Here and along quieter waters. It's a 165-mile-long stretch of coast shared by Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. It's a landscape of endless mud flats and gnarled mangrove with their roots exposed in the dry season, lagoons filled with fish, crabs, and migratory birds in the wet season. Jorge Varela, a short, solid man in his 50s, was drawn in. Considering that he's now its nemesis, Varela finds it ironic that in the 1980s he was a commercial shrimp booster. Back then he thought the industry would be an economic step forward in the Gulf, a place where barefoot children often go to work as early as age eight.

VARELA: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: But around 1985, the industry started to get out of control. Big investors with the support of international lending agencies were gobbling up the best lands. They spread into the mangrove. That's when I started to oppose it.

(Many voices and rattling)

LOBET: A group of men on the beach play a game using hand-cut dice.

(Play continues)

LOBET: A woman is grilling bass on a stove of mud baked onto tree branches. Varela explains there are methods of farming shrimp that are less environmentally harmful. For example, when the ponds are carved out of empty expanses of salt flats. But investors sometimes lease stands of mangrove; then men with machetes come and hack it down and bulldozers push up the 3-foot perimeter walls. Still other owners move in on natural lagoons. Completed, the farms look like acres of soccer fields flooded waist-deep, filled with baby shrimp. Once the farms are built, there can be other environmental problems associated with them. Jorge Varela looks past barbed wire at the wall of a large pond.

(Flowing effluent)

LOBET: A couple of yards from his feet, a 2-foot-diameter pipe passes through the wall and empties into a creek.

VARELA: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: One of the big problems with the semi-intensive shrimp farms, like the one we're looking at, is that they drain their waters directly into the estuary, into the ocean. The wastewater is full of organic matter from the shrimp itself: uneaten shrimp feed, and animal waste. There are also other chemicals like Rotenones that they use to kill other species that get into the ponds and compete with the shrimp.

(Bulldozer motors run)

LOBET: These bulldozers are not shaping new shrimp ponds. They're fixing retaining walls washed out by Hurricane Mitch. The shrimp industry, though it suffered an estimated $40 million loss from the storm, is recovering and has already had its first post-Mitch harvest. The small fishermen haven't been as fortunate. Besides stripping out all four of the Gulf's river valleys, the storm remodeled the sea floor habitat of nearly every square inch of Gulf coastline, as if 4 feet of trash had been dumped on a region the size of the San Francisco Bay.

(Digging, voices)

LOBET: Jesus Laine, an Alliance member, steps around the edges of the 5-foot- high, 30-foot-long pile of garbage he's already pulled out of the small lagoon that used to provide food for his children.

LAINE: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: I haven't even pulled out a quarter of the garbage yet.

LOBET: The bulk of the trash consists of large pieces of insulation from broken-up refrigerated shipping containers.

(Banging on metal)

LOBET: But more worrisome is this full, 50-gallon drum of malathion, a pesticide and nerve poison lethal to humans even in small doses. Jesus Laine is storing other containers he's pulled from the muck in his house. The debris has destroyed fish habitat, and though the Alliance is helping to coordinate clean-up, small fishermen like Laine are still waiting for the mackerel to come back.

LAINE: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: I have got a house full of children. There are times I go out and come back with nothing. The fisherman's alliance is the only group that has been out here helping us. You can imagine how much dirt we are buried in.

(A door shuts)

LOBET: Soon Jorge Varela says his goodbyes to Laine. He's finished his rounds on the coast and gets back in his truck for the 3-hour trip back home to the capitol.

(Horns, whistles, traffic)

LOBET: Varela credits having an office in the capitol with some of the organization's biggest achievements. Passing the nation's first laws protecting forests, air, and water. Winning a moratorium on the building of new shrimp farms from 1996 to '98. And bringing 3,000 fishermen to the city for a rally in the summer of 1997. But the group may be on the verge of its biggest success yet. It's trying to bring nearly 300,000 acres of coastal lagoons and wetlands under national protection. Recently, after a round of political arm-twisting, the Alliance won the backing of the Honduran Association of Aquaculture, the shrimp producers' trade group. Francisco Avalos is executive director of the industry group. He says the time when the fishermen clashed physically with the industry is over. But he says subsistence fishing, no matter how well protected, is hardly going to pull Honduras out of poverty.

AVALOS: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: The difference is, we exporters create a better economy in this country. This fisherman's alliance, they don't produce. They just dedicate themselves to protection. Those people fish in a primitive way. I'm not against protecting that. But you have to realize that's only protecting something for a few. In contrast, the industry generates work, and foreign exchange, not just for the region but for the country.

LOBET: Commercial shrimp farming employs some 18,000 people. There are fewer than half that many small fishermen. The shrimp industry has become the third largest source of foreign exchange for the nation. But Jorge Varela questions how much the benefits of that foreign exchange have trickled down. His perspective is shaped in part by the place where he grew up and still lives, one of the capitol's poor barrios.

VARELA: This is my house, this is my family, and we are honored with your presence here.

(Children play)

LOBET: Here, in a house that's grown over the years, Varela lives with his wife and six children, one daughter-in-law, one grandchild, and two dogs. But Marta Alicia Moncada de Varela says her husband has spent precious little time here.

M. VARELA: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: He will come back here weekends, or sometimes after two weeks. He was always working. My older children didn't see much of him. They grew up with just me.

LOBET: Varela says there have been many costs over the years. He counts among them the loss of nine fishermen, the loss of mangrove, the loss of time at home. But Varela also finds satisfaction in some of the year's hard-won gains.

VARELA: [Speaks in Spanish] TRANSLATOR: The single fact of having avoided the mass destruction of the coastal mangrove, that is the principle achievement. The mangroves are still there.

(Sounds of children)

LOBET: For Living on Earth, I'm Ingrid Lobet in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

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Listener Letters

CURWOOD: And now it's time to hear from you, our listeners.

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CURWOOD: Last week we asked you to comment on the US military's possible use of radioactive, anti-tank ammunition in Yugoslavia. The response was overwhelming: 8 to 1 against the use of depleted uranium rounds. This reaction by Oshana Turtle, who hears us on KSMF in Ashland, Oregon, was typical.

TURTLE: For the public to find out that these kinds of shells were even used in previous wars, is essentially telling us that we're declaring small-scale nuclear war. And I think if more people knew that, we definitely wouldn't stand for it.

CURWOOD: But more than a few of you disagreed, including one listener to KSTX in San Antonio, Texas, who asked that we not use his name. He said he was an armored cavalry trooper in the Gulf War, and was frequently exposed to exploded depleted uranium shells, with no ill effects. "As someone who was in the firing line during the ground war," he writes, "I was glad to have the tank-killing shells on our side."

Our interview with environmental journalist Paul Brodeur also provoked a variety of responses. Some listeners agreed with Mr. Brodeur's charge that the media are doing a poor job of reporting on environmental health issues. But Roland Finston, who hears us on KQED in San Francisco, took issue with Mr. Brodeur's own reporting. Mr. Finston cites a report from the American Cancer Society to contradict Mr. Brodeur's claim that cancer rates are going up. "I'm sorry," he writes, "that you were taken in so easily by his most recent expose."

Has our reporting got you fired up? Call our listener line any time at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. Or write 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. Our e-mail address is LOE@NPR.ORG. Once again, LOE@NPR.ORG. And check out our Web page at www.livingonearth.org. Tapes and transcripts are $15.

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It's NPR's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

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ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the W.A. Jones Foundation, supporting efforts to eliminate environmental threats to children's health; www.wajones.org; the Surdna Foundation; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the Rockefeller Foundation; the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for coverage of sustainable agriculture; and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

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NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio. CURWOOD: Coming up, we saddle up and head out on the range with two western writers. Trouble is, they say, the range is getting smaller and smaller. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

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SECOND HALF HOUR

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include Stonyfield Farm Yogurt, makers of pure, all-natural organic yogurts and ice cream. 800-PROCOWS.

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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

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The Living on Earth Almanac

CURWOOD: In 1838 one of the most influential environmental activists and nature writers was born in Dunbar, Scotland. Along with founding the Sierra Club in 1892, John Muir was instrumental in creating what became a national park system. He convinced the government to set aside wild lands for their scenic and educational value, not just as commercial resources. Mr. Muir was able to persuade several presidents to allocate land for this project, including Teddy Roosevelt, who joined Mr. Muir at a Yosemite Park camp site in 1903. Out in the wilderness the two men laid the foundation for Roosevelt's far-reaching conservation programs. In 1988, Congress declared April 21st John Muir Day. And he continues to touch people today with his writings. Muir's advice, "keep close to nature's heart, and break clear away once in a while. And climb a mountain, or spend a week in the woods." "One touch of nature," he wrote, "makes all the world kin." And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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Who Owns the West?

CURWOOD: The American West is part of our lore as a place of opportunity and new beginnings. But in today's west, instead of range wars between competing groups of ranchers, the fight is now against sprawl and for the idea that there still can be an open west. For one thing, much of the remaining undeveloped space in the west is managed by the Federal Government, and as land becomes more scarce and control more restrictive, conflicts occur more often. Conflicts which often boil down to the fundamental question of who owns the land, who owns the West?

Cecil Andrus, former governor of Idaho and author of Cecil Andrus: Politics Western Style; and Tim Egan, reporters for the New York Times and author of Lasso the Wind, join us now to help answer that question. Gentlemen, welcome.

EGAN: Steve, how are you? It's great to be with you.

ANDRUS: Hello, Steve, how are you? Cecil Andrus in Idaho.

CURWOOD: In your books both of you present particular myths about the west. What are those myths, and why at this point in history do you feel intent on debunking them?

ANDRUS: Well, Steve, let me respond first of all by correcting what you just said. The Federal Government happens to be land managers. Too many people think it's Federal land like they own it. The people of the United States own the land out here, and we get the BLM, the Forest Service, the Parks Service, and others to manage that land for us. So, many times we have a problem with bureaucrats down in some of the Federal agencies that will say this is my land, or our land, and they're going to dictate as to how it is used and who will use it. And that is probably the chief complaint that we have in modern times with the management of those lands. There are vast tracts of lands, but let me tell you, it, as Tim will agree, I'm sure, it's being consumed at a horrendous rate.

EGAN: And this amazing situation where the west is the most urban area in the United States, that is, this highest percentage of people who live in cities. The Census Bureau rates 86% of all Westerners live in cities. But we have right outside of our doorsteps greater than five hundred million acres of be it desert, forest, open prairie, mountain country, etc. And that's the promise and also the peril of the west, is that we're largely city dwellers, still, but we have this public land outside our doorstep.

CURWOOD: Governor, let me ask you this. Do you think that the recreation, all those folks in the city who hop in their pickup trucks and head for the hills, and the resource extraction uses of public land, are these mutually exclusive?

ANDRUS: Not in every instance but yes, there are some where, you know, if you clear-cut a hillside and you destroy the water quality of the streams below that, then you're not going to have any trout fishing. And there's, the sins of the past are still evident out there, but best management practices have changed. We no longer permit clear-cutting in the state of Idaho. The mining is now considered to be a temporary use of the land, and there has to be a reclamation. The Quarterlaine Mining Company, which has culled core precious metals, has just won two national awards for having a surface mine that they extracted all the minerals and then they put it to bed, a term used out here, and three or four years later it's hard to tell that there was ever a mine there. Other areas that were mined 100 years ago still look like they were mined.

CURWOOD: Now, the government has been trying to strike some compromises in this area. I'm thinking of the Headwaters land deal, Tim. Is that compatible, incompatible?

EGAN: No, that's a good point. I mean, you brought up a very good point because that's what I see more and more happening in these land battles in the west, is people are just, if they want to preserve an area, if they want to stop some entity from logging, they are just going outright and purchasing it. And this, the government is doing more and more, but they picked it up, or they're following the tracks of people, groups like The Nature Conservancy, which does a pretty good job of protecting land merely by purchasing it and saying, "Well, let's let it be. Let's let the wild happen here." So in the Headwaters area, what you had was some pretty intense negotiations came right down to the 11th hour. Finally the government stepping and saying the only way to preserve these redwoods is to purchase it outright and give it to the American people. Now, in the Governor's state, I'd like to ask him, there's something real interesting. They continue to refuse to allow environmental groups to purchase grazing rights. These are lands that are supposed to be used for trust funds for schools. So if an environmental group comes and outbids the cattle grazers, as I understand it, they're still not allowed to make that bid. Is that correct, Governor?

ANDRUS: Tim, that was exactly right until April first of this year, when the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho made the determination that it was unconstitutional. There's a meeting going on today in Boise with the land board to re-auction 38 different parcels, so that it will be the highest financial use of that land as far as the school endowment is concerned. But you're right, that's the way it used to be. But that is the changing west.

CURWOOD: The west is now the fastest-growing region of the nation. Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, and Las Vegas are growing faster than any others. Las Vegas is going to be bigger than what, Detroit, Tim Egan?

EGAN: Yes, bigger than metro Detroit. It's an interesting milestone, too, because Detroit, in the age of the automobile, was thought to be king of the mighty new American industrial age. Now Vegas is king of what? Glitz? Glamour? Excess? Recreation? Take your pick. (Curwood laughs)

CURWOOD: Well, how does all this growth, then, change the fundamental nature of the debate over public lands and natural resources in the west?

EGAN: Well, there are more people who, as the Governor has pointed out, have different ideas. I mean, this is where you see democracy played out on a very intense level, which is when people move into cities from somewhere else, they suddenly look around and say, "Oh my gosh, there's all this public land around us." And they want to have a say in it and they realize maybe it's been used for cattle beforehand, or maybe it's now going into, they're selling it off for subdivisions. So, I think in my heart, and maybe I'm wrong, but I'd like to continue to believe that as we get older, as more people move here, ultimately we still will see the best value of the west is to keep it somewhat as it is, to not destroy its native state, to not try to dam every river that's free-flowing. To not try to, you know, eliminate one species after the other. To not try to remake this west into something that it's not. That's part of the problem. People come here and try to remake this place. There's a native west that was nearly destroyed, and I see hopefully a lot of the native west trying to come back.

CURWOOD: Speaking of hope, I wanted to ask you, Governor, about the salmon and the controversy, the placement now of salmon on the threatened to Endangered Species List. The watersheds that go out there through Seattle and such. Do moves such as the recent placement of salmon add fuel to the controversy out there?

ANDRUS: Absolutely, but I'd have to be candid with you and say there's very little hope for the anadromous fisheries upstream, above the eight dams in the Columbia and the Snake. Now, on the coastal streams, John Kitsauber, the Governor of Oregon, has done an outstanding job of cleaning up and making it possible for the rejuvenation of those rivers that are not imperiled by dams. But the dams in the lower Snake and the Columbia are managed in such a way by an autocratic group called the Army Corps of Engineers, that they really don't care about the fish. They care more about the kilowatt hours and doing it their way, with their engineering mentality, and we already have some of the salmon species that are extinct and others that are just marginal. The other anadromous fish like the steelhead, they're headed the same direction. Upstream it's tough, and it's simply because we have such a bunch of knotheads in the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration. They will not listen to reason.

EGAN: You see, Governor, I wish I could call them a bunch of knotheads.

ANDRUS: But yeah, but see I'"m retired or semi-retired or in the twilight of a mediocre political career. (Egan laughs) And Tim, you're still working as a journalist. But they're a bunch of knotheads.

EGAN: That's right.

CURWOOD: Well now, these folks would say, "Wait a second, how much is a fish worth?" I mean, to bring back the salmon you're talking about spending billions of dollars, possibly, to remove all those dams, to make all these fixes.

ANDRUS: But we made billions of dollars to destroy the fish. A Chinook salmon is worth -- well, it's a priceless amount. But the anadromous fishing industry in Idaho would be worth, today, in today's dollars, about $160 million to the economy, compared to what it was before the dams went in. Now, you know, it's out there, its minuscule. We've got one Congressperson that made the ridiculous, idiotic statement that, "Well, salmon aren't extinct. I can still go down to Albertson's and buy them in a can."

EGAN: (Laughs) That would have been Representative Helen Chenowith? A Republican of your own district --

ANDRUS: (Laughs) You got -- a neighbor, I didn't want to give her the publicity but that's the one. (Egan laughs)

EGAN: I think that there is hope for the salmon on the coast, as the Governor said. Where I live in Seattle, there is a monumental effort to try to bring salmon back to these rivers that flow through a metro area of about 2.5 million people. That's more than live in the entire state of Idaho. The reason I have hope right now is because at this stage, at least, even though a lot of people are urged to cut back on some of their activities, to pay more in taxes, to not use fertilizer on their lawns, everybody seems very enthusiastic about it. You have these polls that show 80, 85% of the people polled are willing to make some sacrifice in their lives to bring salmon back to the rivers that course through western Washington and western Oregon. Now, where the Governor's taking about, upstream past all these dams, it does look pretty bleak. I would simply like to ask him what he thinks are the real political possibility of some of those dams far upstream being breached on the Snake.

ANDRUS: If you're asking me what is the best for the salmon, it's a free-flowing stream. Will those dams be breached? Not in my opinion, because it's the politics. The science is there to breach them but the politics is not there to breach them. We simply do not have the votes to do it. It would take Congressional action, Tim, to breach any of those dams, and that's simply not going to happen.

CURWOOD: All right, gentlemen, we are just about out of time. But before we go, your thoughts. Is the west at an important historical crossroads? Are we making decisions today that will affect things for the generations to come?

EGAN: I think absolutely we're at a historic crossroads, both in the management of Federal lands, which you see through new philosophy in the Forest Service, the idea that wilderness has more, has equal footing with some of the extractive industries. New attitude toward grazing, those sorts of things. I think all that's changing in the management. And the other thing that's happened is that (sigh) we have so much growth going on that I think that some of this, "we could lose it if we don't watch out" philosophy. And that's what's feeding a lot of the new -- a lot of the new folks that come to the cities. I was going to say the great western writer who's no longer with us, Wallace Stegner, had a wonderful line. It's used quite a bit by people who love the west. He said that the west, and more specifically, wilderness, are "the geography of hope." And I think about that line time and time again. And I think it really defines what wild lands in the west really mean to people.

ANDRUS: It is one of the priceless jewels that still exists, and Tim's comments about Stegner's discussion of wilderness, what it is, is very appropriate. It's still there. Wise use, we can't recover some that we've lost, but thank goodness we have the vastness here to where we can still have it both ways.

CURWOOD: Well gentlemen, I want to thank you for taking this time with us today. Cecil Andrus is author of Cecil Andrus: Politics Western Style. And Tim Egan's new book is called Lasso in the Wind. Governor, Tim, thanks for joining me today.

ANDRUS: Thank you very much.

EGAN: Thank you, Steve.

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CURWOOD: Just ahead, one striking example of how the west is changing. We meet a rancher who welcomes wolves onto his homestead. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

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PC Beef

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Wolves and ranchers aren't exactly best buddies, and in the western United States many cattle and sheep ranchers have lashed out at plans to reintroduce endangered wolves. The cash-strapped herders worry that these predators will prey on their animals. They also fear that wolf reintroduction will mean more restrictions on the use of public land. But not all ranchers. As Vicki Monks reports, at least one New Mexico cattleman is answering the call of the wild.

(A truck on the road)

MONKS: This is an incredible view up here.

WINDER: Yeah, you can see, gosh, I don't know, 100 miles in every direction.

MONKS: Riding up onto a high plateau at Heritage Ranch, snow-covered mountain tops are visible anywhere you look. Somewhere down below those peaks, Jim Winder's cattle are foraging for new spring grass. Mr. Winder, a fourth-generation New Mexico rancher, runs cattle on 100,000 acres of public and private land. It's a vast expanse and it's hard to imagine how he ever finds his livestock, much less how he keeps them safe from mountain lions and coyotes. But predators don't worry this rancher. This is one of the regions where the Federal Government plans to release endangered Mexican wolves. And that's just fine with Mr. Winder.

WINDER: We're used to getting along with coyotes and lions, and I don't see that wolves will be that much of a threat to us. You know, they were here first, and they're part of the land, part of the ecology. You just learn to live with them.

MONKS: Jim Winder's Heritage Ranch is the first outfit in the country to win certification from defenders of wildlife for predator-friendly practices. That means no predators will be killed here. And meat from the ranch will carry an authentic Wolf Country Beef label, and will sell for a premium. Mr. Winder says consumers want his beef but can't always find it on the grocery shelves.

WINDER: The customer has been really great. I've been really surprised. People go out of their way to get it. I've had a real hard time motivating grocery stores. The meat industry's a pretty tough industry, and just being another entrant in that has been pretty hard.

MONKS: Times have been tough for most ranchers lately, and with beef prices low, a few cents extra per pound can make a big difference. But there's more at stake here than selling hamburger. Mr. Winder looks at what he's doing as a chance to help bridge a chasm.

WINDER: We're a very traditional lot, ranchers. And years ago I saw the environmentalists as a threat and I felt well, maybe instead of fighting with them, you know, if we just communicate. And so I spent a lot of years just talking to people. A lot of ranchers are seeing that now is a time to make some changes and realize that these people are not our enemies.

(Milling voices and music)

MONKS: Heritage Ranch is only a few hours drive from Albuquerque, where the American Farm Bureau Federation held its national convention earlier this year. And so it happened that several hundred members of the Farm Bureau, the sworn enemy of wolf reintroduction, found themselves at a country dance and barbecue featuring Mr. Winder's Wolf Country Beef.

(Guitar, singer yodels; milling voices)

MONKS: To be sure, many of the farmers and ranchers dining on wolf-friendly barbecue were skeptical about prospects for coexistence with wolves.

MAN 1: I'm glad to see this man trying to make a go of it with the problem that he has.

MAN 2: There's a place for him, but I don't think in our cattle country we can have too many of them, and I say it's hard on livestock.

MONKS: Most of the farmers and ranchers here, though, echoed a common theme. The marketplace is the real problem in cattle country, not wolves.

MAN 3: The predators are minor compared to the prices that we're currently receiving. So the predators are in no way running the farmers off the land, where the prices and the economy has.

(Truck on rough terrain)

WINDER: I'll show you a home site up here.

MONKS: Looking over his ranch from the window of his pickup truck, Jim Winder points out the valley where his great-grandmother set up the family's first homestead. Evis Swan Winder moved to this high desert region as a young woman and made a go of her ranch alone after her husband died at an early age. Mr. Winder brings up his deep roots here to make the point that Wolf Country Beef is no gimmick. It's part of a survival strategy, just one element of a much broader plan.

WINDER: I kind of looked at where we were on our ranch, and saw that every year things were doing worse financially.

MONKS: The Heritage Ranch survival plan started with efforts to heal and restore land degraded by 200 years of farming, grazing, and intermittent drought.

WINDER: The wetlands really kind of capture flood waters during the summer time. And then that water soaks into the ground, cleansing it, and it comes up out of a creek right here in front of us.

(Running creek water)

MONKS: Mr. Winder has restored wetlands on the ranch and keeps cattle away from fragile streamside riparian areas during critical growing seasons. So the creeks are running colder and deeper. There's more water available for livestock and more vegetation. That means less money spent on cattle feed. The healthier land also attracts wildlife: golden eagles, kestrels, yellow cuckoos. More than 200 species of birds altogether. And plenty of predators, from mountain lions to small striped coatamundis. And hundreds of coyotes. Mr. Winder quit killing predators about 15 years ago, and in all that time he says he's only lost two calves to coyotes.

(A dog howls)

WINDER: Coo! (Whistles)

MONKS: Much of the credit goes to Mr. Winder's dog Cougar, a New Zealand hanaway bred especially to herd livestock. Today he's guiding cattle toward a corral with a clicking electric fence.

WINDER: And they're trained with voice commands and whistle commands and stuff to gather the cows. And they do it by barking at them. They don't ever bite the cow or anything. But just a voice command like Coo, speak.

(Cougar barks)

WINDER: That'll do. Good job. And they'll gather the cows and that, you know, this is a large dog. And he goes and barks at you like that, you're going to get in with the rest of the cows. And a coyote or a wolf or a mountain lion really doesn't have much of a chance to get a calf.

MONKS: Heritage Ranch managers studied buffalo herding patterns to figure out the best way to keep the cattle safe. They use common sense approaches, such as moving cattle away from coyote dens before calves are born. And though other ranchers in the neighborhood disagree, Mr. Winder doesn't expect wolves to change the equation very much.

WINDER: We're the only ranch in New Mexico that came out in favor of the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf. Because frankly, we see it more as an opportunity than as a threat. I think people would pay money to stand where we're standing right now and see this beautiful scene and then hear a wolf howl in the distance. You know, that would be worth a lot.

MONKS: Eco-tourism is another part of the Heritage Ranch survival plan. Mr. Winder is also selling off limited scattered homesites on the ranch to help finance wetland and other restoration efforts. It's an open question whether these ideas will catch on in cattle country any time soon, but what's at stake may have as much to do with the survival of ranchers as the survival of wolves. For Living on Earth, I'm Vicki Monks.

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And the Winner Is...

CURWOOD: Children see the world through fresh eyes, and sometimes, just in their discovery of things we already supposedly know, kids can find new insight. Consider Tyler Githens, a 12-year-old boy from Reading, Pennsylvania, who recently won the Grand Prize in a contest sponsored by Stonyfield Farm Yogurt for the best ideas to protect the planet. Here is his award-winning poem, "Earth Protector."

GITHENS: (Reading)

I am the Earth Protector.
My daily work is great.
Because the earth is begging me,
"Help before it's too late."
And so I don my working gloves
To set upon the chore.
I slow the earth's pollution rate,
Making forests clean and pure.
I collect from the woods recyclables,
Which are then placed in my bin,
Shipped to a recycling plant
Where they are reused within.
I ride my bike or skateboard.
This saves some gasoline,
Except on mile-long family trips
This helps to keep the air clean.
I help our planet's critters
By cleansing their littered homes.
They also share the Earth, you know,
And deserve clean biomes.
People do not realize that
We need to help much more.
We need to clean the precious woods,
Make them clean as a kitchen floor.
If everyone would help me,
The world would be much cleaner.
So listen to the calling Earth
And help make it much greener.

CURWOOD: That's a wonderful poem. Where'd you come up with the ideas for your poem?

GITHENS: Near by my house they were doing a construction site, and we all live up in the woods. They were taking out all the trees they could on the hillside, and they had already started construction. They had taken out, like probably around 100 trees already. So I wanted to write about how it was before and how my friends used to go out, collect bottles and glass. So I'd ride on my bike or skateboard, which is something I do a lot in the summer, because it's easy to get around. I don't have to bother my parents to get a car ride. So I wanted to tell some of the little things I did to help.

CURWOOD: Now, if you had to give us grown-ups a report card on how we're doing, how do you think we're doing in our job to protect the Earth?

GITHENS: Well, considering the Earth is in a pretty bad condition right now, for overall I'd say, like, Ds. Because they have, like, destroyed parts of the Earth. But now that they're realizing that we can't just, like, keep doing this, they're trying to help it. But it took them a little too long to realize that, so I'm going to have to give them just a barely-passing grade.

CURWOOD: It doesn't seem fair to me that you as a kid have to stand up and say something about the problem that the Earth is having. That it should be our responsibility as adults to leave you a better place.

GITHENS: Well, that's how a lot of kids in our class feel. Because, you know, they hear about this in school, and in science our teacher showed us pictures of, like, diagrams of the Earth, that are like, well, it's not our fault. I mean, our parents were here a long time before we were. But, you know, they feel that, you know, it's not like because we're destroying the Earth. It's because the people before us were. And I mean, why shouldn't kids stand up and talk about it? It's like everybody's an equal. I mean the only reason the adults have control over them is because they're older and feel they're more mature in every way.

CURWOOD: Tyler Githens is the Grand Prize winner in the Stonyfield Farm Planet Protector Contest. Congratulations, Tyler.

GITHENS: Thanks.

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CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Next week we visit Alaska's north slope, where the oil industry claims that new technology makes expansion even into sensitive ecosystems possible. Others say there's already enough oil drilling in the Arctic.

WOMAN: It's being degraded step by step, piecemeal to bits, with this expanding oil development. It's pipelines, it's roads, it's power lines, it's new buildings and facilities, it's just industrial sprawl.

CURWOOD: Alaska's oil wars next week on Living on Earth. Our program is produced by Daniel Grossman, George Homsy, Terry FitzPatrick, Liz Lempert, Jesse Wegman, Miriam Landman, and Stephanie Pindyck, along with Peter Shaw, Leah Brown, Bree Horwitz, and Barbara Cone. We bid a fond farewell to Roberta deAvila, who heads back to her native Brazil for a while. You will be missed, Roberta, and thank you. We also had help this week from Alexandra Davidson, Aly Constine, Chris Berdik, Paul Ahn, Mahri Lowinger, and Peter Cherino. Michael Aharon composed the theme. Eileen Bolinsky is our technical director. Peter Thomson heads our Western Bureau. Our senior editor is Joyce Hackel, and Chris Ballman is the senior producer. Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.

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ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment; the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for reporting on western issues; the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund; the Pew Charitable Trusts for reporting on threats to the world's marine environment: www.pewtrusts.com; and Church and Dwight, a tradition of environmental responsibility: the makers of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, the standard of purity.

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