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Conservatives care for the earth, too 

Column from July 28, 2006 Peninsula Daily News    

By Martha M. Ireland

It seems Im not the only one who just doesnt get it.

In her August 15 letter to Peninsula Voices, a Port Ludlow resident confessed she does not get it regarding the debate about global warming and environmental pollution.

She is baffled that so many conservatives have absolutely no interest in conservation.

Im baffled too, but from a different perspective.

As a conservationist and a conservative, Im baffled me by the frequently anti-conservation results of regulations (presumably unintended) imposed in the name of environmental protection.

For example, reclaiming kiln-dried, non-treated-lumber trimmings from construction sites is a logical conservation practice.

Large quantities of wood waste could help fuel a clean-burning cogeneration plant, such as the Forks Industrial Park proposal currently on a seemingly endless quest for permits.

In smaller quantities, lumber scraps make the cleanest possible firewood, and could reduce air pollution from wood stoves. Using scrap wood for fuel slashes heating costs for low-income families who rely on wood for warmth. It also eases pressure on landfills and keeps work sites tidy.

Clean air regulations, however, define scrap lumber as construction waste and mandate its disposal in a landfill.

Concurrently, groundwater protection rules prohibit new landfills in high rainfall regions, including all of western Washington.

Thus, when the Port Angeles landfill closes this fall, waste from throughout Clallam and Jefferson counties will be trucked east. As a result, well burn diesel by the barrel, add to road congestion and increase air pollution.

The salvage logging debate is similar. A recent study found that when timber killed by wildfires or insects is salvaged a few years later, naturally occurring seedlings are destroyed and the salvaged wood has lost most of its economic value.

While ignoring that timber rots and the seedlings sprout during environmental reviews and legal challenges that last for years, environmental activist organizations now call for an end to salvage logging.

By contrast, conservative conservationists would fast-track salvage operations to get the timber out before it rots and seedlings sprout.

The Audubon Society has also taken aim at Washington states new northern spotted owl protection forestry rules, adopted August 9.

After more than 15 years of owl habitat protection that restricts logging, owl numbers continue to decline.

Nevertheless, Audubon and others demand expansion of protection efforts that havent helped owls but have eliminated elk habitat. As mid-forest grazing declined, the elk discovered Sequims fields and gardens, and cougars followed their natural prey.

The unhappy mix of elk and crops, cougars and livestock, coincides with environmental regulations and lawsuits that marginalize farmland.

For example, agricultural science promotes intensively managed grazing as a best management practice for noxious weed control and habitat regeneration.

Properly managed grazing reduces or eliminates the need for herbicides, speeds the return of farmland to organic status and enhances wildlife habitat.

Nevertheless, environmental activist groups continue to trumpet their goal of eliminating livestock grazing from all public lands. Likewise, local environmentalists continue to demand ever-wider no-enter buffers around wetlands and watercourses that are destined to become sanctuaries for noxious weeds.

There are many other examples of environmental regulations that work at cross-purposes with best available science and interfere with best management practices such as compost operations run by Roger Short of Chimacum and Steve Johnson of Agnew.

Naturally, many conservatives are turned off by what they see as an anti-conservation environmentalist agenda.

Like the Port Ludlow letter writer, we just dont get it.   


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