Your political mascot might be an elephant, a donkey, or even a bull moose, but if you’re reading C&K that means you have a personal interest in protecting the places you love to paddle. Well, now is the time. Thousands of politicians are running for office this fall, which means there’s no time like the present to make your voice heard. So if you haven’t already, register to vote. Then pick up the phone-or, better yet, show up at a campaign stop-and tell your aspiring government powerbrokers that how they plan to vote on issues critical to paddlers will determine whether you’ll vote for them come November. Below are a few issues that our fellow boaters care about, and their reasons why.
Pass the Clean Water Restoration Act
This year, Congress will consider the most important piece of water legislation in more than three decades. The Clean Water Restoration Act would extend critical protection to thousands of miles of rivers, streams, and wetlands that otherwise would be threatened by pollution, dredging, and general destruction.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that the Clean Water Act protects only “navigable” waters like major rivers, and other relatively permanent waters that directly connect to them. This leaves a host of small but ecologically critical wetlands and tributaries vulnerable. The Clean Water Restoration Act would restore the law’s original intent, allowing the government to regulate “all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries” in the United States. The bill, which is packing out hearing rooms and generally causing a stir on Capitol Hill, is opposed by a slew of hands-off-my-property types who probably mourned the passage of the original Clean Water Act in 1972. But that law cleaned up thousands of miles of streams-including such gems as West Virginia’s Cheat watershed and the Black River in New York-and made them safe to paddle again. The Clean Water Restoration Act would do the same for thousands of other rivers, so ask your congressional representative to vote for it.
-Jeff Kinney, Washington, D.C.
Protect Our Oceans
Paddlers only need to recall the collapse of California salmon stocks this spring to understand how completely irrigation, pollution, and over-fishing have severely damaged the oceans’ delicate ecology. Nutrient runoff and beachfront development pose further hurdles to marine recovery. Yet a potential national remedy to such problems hovers hopefully on the horizon-the Ocean Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act, known as OCEANS 21. The bill favors conservation and restoration, and would unify research and management under NOAA, while also budgeting $1.3 billion annually to address regional challenges. Powerful agricultural interests have stymied previous efforts to pass this bill, and the Bush administration has also expressed “serious concerns” about it, but the upcoming election cycle offers real hope for this critical legislation. As with climate change, the White House has hit the snooze button so many times on ocean health, it’s easy to forget there’s a crisis. It’s time to wake up.
-Dan Oko, Austin, Texas
Save Backcountry Paddling
About one-third of our federal forest lands are designated as “roadless areas.” While we paddlers use forest roads to access many great runs on public land, the rivers that flow through places with no roads provide a different and very special experience: the multi-day backcountry trip. Rivers like California’s Kern, West Virginia’s Seneca Creek, Idaho’s South Fork of the Salmon, and dozens of classic backcountry runs across the country all flow through roadless areas. In response to millions of public comments, the Clinton administration closed these undeveloped areas to new road building and focused on a common sense policy of maintaining our existing forest roads. But in recent years we have seen a shift in policy toward opening up these areas, particularly in Idaho and Colorado, two states that boast outstanding backcountry runs. Paddlers can help protect roadless areas and the paddling resources they contain by weighing in on state petitions (Colorado is in play this summer) and asking their congressmen, senators, and candidates for public office to support the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act.
-Thomas O’Keefe, American Whitewater Pacific Northwest stewardship director
The Great Carbon Offset Swindle
Global warming is finally near the top of the political agenda, but one of the supposed solutions offered-the wholesale use of so-called carbon offsets-is one of the most misguided schemes since the church stopped selling indulgences in the Middle Ages. The idea is that wealthy polluters in the United States and other industrialized countries can lower their greenhouse gas emissions not by cleaning up their own act, but by paying others to burn less fossil fuel and pursue so-called sustainable development. In reality this practice would greatly hinder efforts to cut pollution.
The world’s biggest carbon offset market, the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, hands out billions of dollars to chemical, coal, and oil corporations and the developers of destructive dams-in many cases for projects they would have built anyway. This is no way to protect the environment, save rivers or slow global warming. At a time when we need to dramatically cut back emissions, carbon offsets, at best, shift greenhouse gas emissions around the planet; they do not reduce them. And at less than best-which they often are-loopholes and outright cheating mean that offsets can actually increase emissions. Bringing global warming under control means reducing emissions, not coming up with absurdly complex schemes which give the appearance of cutting emissions on paper, but in reality keep us on the path to climate chaos.
-Patrick McCully, executive director, International Rivers
It’s Time to Make Time
To a working parent of young children, daily life is about tracking blips on an imaginary radar screen decorated with Spiderman stickers, princess glitter, and ground-up bits of cat food. That bogey coming in hot on the top right, the one on an intercept course with the MasterCard bill? That’s the mortgage payment. The slow-moving icon tracking across the left is your wife’s career angst. The few patches of empty airspace on the monitor are reserved for fun-a quick dash up the local hill, a genuine uninterrupted adult conversation, an early morning paddle out at the cape-but you rarely use them, because you are too broke to step away from the screen for longer than it takes to wipe your son’s ass.
That’s why, for years, I didn’t concern myself with global warming. There was simply no bandwidth available for such an abstract, hopelessly insurmountable, long-range category-five bummer issue. How could I possibly muster up the energy to overhaul our social, economic, and political system when I couldn’t even make dinner?
Then, one day, I brought myself up to speed on the unsettling developments underway in the blue skies overhead. And I asked myself: If everyone else was too preoccupied with work, family, and those precious few diversions from work and family, who was going to help get us out of this mess? That evening, as I lay awake in bed imagining a series of profoundly disturbing future scenarios that dwarfed my own glib and pathetic daily trials, my question answered itself.
James Glave is author of Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6 of a Billionth of the Planet (Skyhorse Publishing, September, $25)