- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Upon the introduction of the contending bills, all of the long-standing emotionalism and bitterness between the opposing factions—and philosophies—then broke loose. Preservationists were pitted against developers, motor men against pure canoeists, little-government advocates against big-government supporters, small town against big city, economics against esthetics. There was even a basic class conflict that matched blue-collar motorboat men and snowmobilers with a white-collar elite which seeks an abstraction called "the wilderness experience." About the only factions not in head-on battle over the bills were the two political parties: Oberstar and Fraser are both Democrats.
In the towns located on the edge of the Boundary Waters, residents were aroused over attempts by "outside agitators" to come in and dictate the use of the land. In Ely, the village sometimes called Canoe Town USA, bumper stickers appeared saying SIERRA CLUB KISS MY AXE. At one point a Forest Service building was burned, tires were slashed on vehicles owned by pro-wilderness people and an outfitter who leaned toward the Fraser bill had the display window in his store broken a couple of times. During hearings last summer in Minnesota over the bills, there was much shouting and finger pointing. People claimed that making the BWCA a full wilderness would deplete the local tax base to a critical degree. Resort owners swore they would go bankrupt. Loggers said they would not have enough softwood if they were banned from the BWCA. An organization was formed called the Boundary Waters Conservation Alliance and its slogan Was KEEP THE BWCA OPEN TO EVERYONE.
On the other side, a group was formed called Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. Its campaign included a poster with a magnificent photograph of canoe country and two lines of small white type: "The Boundary Waters Wilderness—Take a Long Last Look Before It Vanishes." The group enlisted backing from the national environmental establishment and managed to get 53 members of the House to cosponsor Fraser's full-wilderness bill. Intense lobbying went on. A number of pro-wilderness editorials appeared around the country. The Chicago Tribune said, "Failure to enact the policy of the Fraser bill would subject the BWCA to immediate diminution.... In our increasingly crowded, polluted, noisy and paved world, legislative changes affecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area should defend rather than impair its wilderness status."
In Washington, during two days of hearings in mid-September, a good deal of heat was generated—but there was also some light. The Carter Administration introduced a third proposal for the BWCA that delighted environmentalists by disallowing logging, snowmobiling, and mining in the BWCA, but disappointed them enormously by opening up several new areas to motorboats. The governor of Minnesota, Rudy Perpich, testified. He, too, pleased the pro-wilderness crowd by promising timberland aplenty for loggers outside the BWCA, but he, too, crushed their hopes by insisting that motorboats and snowmobiles be allowed.
The chairman of the subcommittee is Phillip Burton of California, who ranks only a step or two below Speaker Tip O'Neil in terms of making things happen the way he wants them to happen. Despite 10-hour hearings on both days, without so much as a break for lunch. Burton displayed a remarkably calm and well-focused presence. He sat patiently and politely through a number of emotional and basically uninformative harangues from both sides, but he repeatedly fired sharp questions at witnesses.
Whatever bill finally comes out of the subcommittee, it will bear Burton's name—as well as his idea of what it should say. One thing is certain—he has no intention of reclassifying any part of the BWCA as a National Recreation Area; he declared this unequivocably during the September hearings. Thus Congressman Oberstar's plan to take 319,000 acres out of the wilderness and open it to "multiple use," with all its inherent ambiguities and commercial potential, will certainly fall by the wayside. However, there are still some serious questions which must be answered about which sections of the BWCA will be open to motors, and whether there is to be a gradual phasing out of logging or an immediate ban.
There is a sense of urgency about getting a bill out of the subcommittee soon. The self-imposed moratorium on logging had been kept in effect by timber companies since December 1976, but on Sept. 15 it came to an end. Unless legislation is passed in both chambers of Congress the timber companies could begin logging again in parts of the BWCA in early November. The consensus is that the big companies will continue the moratorium voluntarily, but no one is certain what some smaller firms may do.
Ultimately, the question is: Where is the middle ground between Oberstar and Fraser? In August, Oberstar had submitted a new version of his bill that set a limit on the horesepower of allowable motors in the area (10 hp on most small lakes, 25 on the largest) and closed more sections to logging than the earlier bill had. At the same time, Fraser declared that his bill could be altered by adding clauses that would provide federal funds to improve snowmobile routes and to enhance Forest Service management of areas outside the BWCA that might aid softwood logging. He also suggested that funds be made available to buy resorts on lakes bordering the BWCA if owners wish to sell and offered to "give serious attention" to including a 10- to 15-year phaseout of motors on certain peripheral lakes and possibly keeping others open to motors permanently. Obviously, both sides were yielding ground.
At the same time, neither side is willing to speak openly about further compromises. And Burton has been preoccupied with other legislation and has not come up with any way of resolving the impasse. One of Burton's problems is that any pro-wilderness bill must be composed in a way that saves face for Oberstar, a fellow Democrat.
It is possible that some legislation can pass the House this term, that is, before it adjourns for the year on Oct. 27. But as each day passes that possibility becomes dimmer. The Senate, which intends to adjourn on the 15th, would also have to, act, and that, too, appears unlikely. The pro-wilderness forces are more amenable to putting off the issue until 1978 because they feel public opinion is probably on their side and they would be compelled to make fewer compromises as time passes. Also, the snowmobile ban would be in force for still another winter.