Document 52: An Environmentalist Evaluates the Clinton Forest Summit, 1993

Brock Evans to Audubon Society, 14 April 1993, box 8, Brock Evans Papers, accession 1776-17,
Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries.

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April 14, 1993

To: Audubon ancient forest folks . . .
From: Brock Evans . . .
Re: Impressions of Forest Summit—where now?

The April 2 "Forest Conference" (in Portland) as it finally came to be called by the White House, was a unique, dramatic, and powerful event: I felt it to be immensely successful from our point of view, and it advanced our cause immeasurably, not only from the dark days of 1989, but also from the stalemates of last summer. [In 1989 Congress dramatically increased the sales of timber on public lands. In 1991 and 1992, environmentalists launched a series of lawsuits claiming that federal timber sales harmed spotted owls and thus violated the Endangered Species Act. The courts agreed and halted most logging in Northwest national forests, angering timber-dependent communities and setting in motion a search for a compromise.] In my view, and for reasons outlined below, we won a nearly complete moral and psychological victory—but we have not yet won the victory that truly counts—the substantive, political one. We have much to do if we hope to nail our achievements down this year into something substantive and permanent, hence the subject of this memo.

First, some inside impressions: this was a unique event in my experience, and in the history of our movement; never before has not only the President of the United States, but also the Vice President and a third of his Cabinet, spent an entire day focusing only on the issue of Northwest forests (in fact, I am hard pressed to think of any occasion where any such assemblage has ever focused on any environmental issue in such a concentrated way!). Not since the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the late 1930s, in the struggle over Olympic National Park, has any U.S. President ever spoken so directly and interested himself in the fate of the Northwest forest.

And that alone was almost enough. "The medium is the message," I said to many reporters. "The mere fact that the President and his aides are here, listening—that in itself guarantees the importance of the issue, and gives an audience for our case." And that is what happened—nearly 1,000 members of the press and electronic media, including the ever-bored and cynical White House press corps, not to mention the millions who have heard the daily stories, all were educated about owls, ecosystems, clearcuts, salmon, and yes, logging jobs in a declining industry. Of all the dramatic events of the one-day conference itself, two stand out most in my mind: first, the eloquent testimony of fishing representative and Native Americans about destruction of their jobs and their cultures; and the equally eloquent testimony of the scientists, showing slides of clearcuts, and pointing out that the ecosystem was just about fractured and finished, and "you better bite the bullet, Mr. President."

Yes, there were also eloquent and poignant statements from those of the timber workers, who had been and were losing their jobs; what has happened is really not their fault, and clearly they need help. But the President perhaps summed it up best at the end of the day when he said, "I can't repeal the laws of change . . . we have to do something to protect the ecosystem, and help all of you . . ." plainly implying that things could never go back to the over-logging days of the past.

Audubon's participation: I thought we had a superb staff and chapter volunteer team there throughout the entire Summit; and our views and participation were noted and featured prominently. President Peter Berle was there nearly the whole time and spoke at several major press conferences. . . .

Just as significint were the "outside events," a series of rallies held by the different sides, each vying for media attention and to deliver the message to the President. By far the most dramatic was the Ancient Forest Celebration and Rally held the day before in the great park down by the river, featuring a four hour long mixture of stars such as Kenny Loggins, Carole King, Neil Young, and David Crosby. I was honored to be an invited speaker to the crowd as well, as was Hazel Wolf (age 95), our Patron Saint and founder of most of our chapters in Washington state. This enthusiastic crowd—by far the largest in the history of the state of Oregon—stayed four hours, only growing in numbers, through a drenching downpour nearly the whole time. Portland Audubon Society, in a truly awesome demonstration of grassroots power, fielded nearly 40 volunteers and staff to do the essential leg work which made the rally a success.

So what does all this mean? I believe that the Summit has changed the dynamics and tempo of the debate in the following ways:

1. The old shibboleth [slogan or catchphrase] of 'jobs vs. owls' is now off the table; no one believes this any more. Industry can't use this line any more, because it was so obvious that there is far more at stake here—a whole ecosystem now in shreds and tatters; and anyhow, it is fishing jobs against logging jobs.

2. It is equally dear that we can't continue logging any more ancient forest if we hope to protect this ecosystem; the evidence was overwhelming that the trees just aren't there, except perhaps in small scattered isolated patches. The scientists were very firm on that, e.g. "we might be able to grow you owl habitat, Mr. President—but we cannot grow you an ancient forest," said the respected Dr. Jerry Franklin.

3. Log exports are on the table, at last. Many fought to have it not even be discussed, but our witnesses raised it enough so that the Weyerhaeuser witness was forced to defend himself—and ended up being our best witness, admitting that they exported because they made more money. The patent unfairness of all this was there for all to see. [Environmentalists claimed that the export of raw logs—unprocessed logs that had not been milled in the U.S.—cost the timber industry more jobs than environmental regulations did. Audubon, and many groups of mill workers, wanted the U.S. government to restrict exports of raw logs.]

4. Salmon are on the table. Everybody says now that we are going to protect the fish—and that means protecting the watersheds, and that therefore means protecting much of the east side forest. Everyone knows that now.

5. The workers need help, but they are already helping themselves. Some of the most dramatic testimony was from many people in "timber country" who are actually taking other measures to make different products out of the trees they have—e.g. mills which formerly logged old cedars are now switching to cut second growth alders, etc., for furniture. Value added products, secondary wood products—there are many ways that trees can still be used in the Northwest without destroying the remaining ancient forests—and people are already doing it.

So what now? The President announced that he is directing his Cabinet to come up with a recommended policy within 60 days, by June 1. Three Task Forces have been set up: a scientific one, which has already been meeting; an economics one, which soon will be; and an overall "executive policy group" which will consist of key officials in the White House, Department of Interior, and [Department of] Agriculture, who will oversee and put the final touches on whatever specific recommendations the scientists and economists make.

As of this writing, we don't know yet what they are going to recommend—and here is where we have a lot of work to do. Our strategy for the next several months will be threefold:

1. Do everything we can to get our information into these committees. We have to find ways to get our maps, our scientific information, and our factual back-up to these committees, making the same points as before: the ancient forests cannot survive much more fragmentation, nor can the salmon, nor the other species; there are other ways to help displaced workers than by doing this, etc. We need to lobby them in whatever ways we can.

2. We need to swamp the White House with phone calls and letters. The White House needs to know that this is a national issue, not one belonging only to Northwest politicians, who have failed miserably at solving it. A good start has been made with a letter sent by 84 House Members to President Clinton, urging a national focus and national solution. We need to build upon that. All of our members will be asked to get lots of mail into the White House in the next 60 days.

3. We need to start working now with the Congress. Since any permanent "solution" is likely to involve something at the Congressional level, we lobbyists are seeing what friends we are going to have in the House and Senate, in case, just in case, the Clinton Administration proposes solutions which we cannot accept (e.g. suspending the lawsuits, no reserves, etc.). Our Sister Chapter network is already hard at work contacting the chapters in states of key Senators and Congressmen that we have already identified; we may do targeted mailings as well, and call upon you for specific help as time develops.

We do have one real worry: will the Clinton Administration cave in, as they have already done on grazing and mining and below cost timber sales? We don't know the answer; we hope not, and have said so publicly. We just have to work as hard as we can, keep our powder dry, and hope that they do not see the solution to this issue as one of simply "dividing the baby," that is, giving part of the ancient forest to protection, and the other part over to be liquidated. That will guarantee the ruination of the ecosystem and all the species that depend upon it, and is not necessary for the economies of these states.

Sorry for this long synopsis, but . . . I wanted you to have this summary of . . . thoughts about the meeting and implications of this historic event. I do believe that we are almost on the verge of winning this, that victory at last, after all these long years, is within our grasp. This is ours to lose now—and we do not intend to lose it!

Thank you again for your outstanding support and help over all these long and bitter years. We are almost there.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest