Giant Sequoia Protection Bill Gets Boost in Washington DC Trip

by Paul Hughes, executive director of Forests Forever

Forests Forever’s executive director, Paul Hughes, visited Washington, DC this September to meet with our political representatives in Congress and let them know about urgent forest issues in California and nationwide. Here is a report of his trip:

Stopping the destruction of ancient forests was either a distraction or a relief from the crises of the hour for the congressmembers and their staffs with whom we met in my recent trip to the nation's capital.

I arrived in Washington on Tue., Sept. 27, 2005, after a connecting flight was canceled due to storms. The next day I began the first of 27 separate meetings with members of Congress and their staffs. These meetings took place over a three-day period, through Sept. 30. Accompanying me on the rounds was Carl Ross, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based group Save America's Forests.

Our topic was new legislation to transfer management of the Giant Sequoia National

The Capitol Building, home of the U.S. Congress.

Carl Ross and Paul Hughes confer in a House office building.

Monument from the Forest Service to the protective care of the National Park Service. (Click here for our action alert on the issue.) Forests Forever is supporting the introduction of this legislation as a new section of Rep. Anna Eshoo's (D-Atherton) Act to Save America's Forests, most recently introduced as H.R. 5312 in the 108th Congress. Carl's group has been a long-time champion of the Eshoo bill.

In the midst of news and fast-breaking developments concerning hurricane relief and reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act, it was gratifying to see the sympathy expressed on Capitol Hill toward stopping the pillaging of the giant sequoias by the U.S. Forest Service. (Visit "Chainsaws in the Cathedral" for a photo gallery showing the destructive logging now going on in the monument.)
My daily routine began with a 5:45 a.m. wakeup call followed by a shuttle to the Metro station at Foggy Bottom in Georgetown. There I caught the commuter train (very similar to the San Francisco Bay Area's BART system) to the Capitol South stop, about two blocks from Capitol Mall. After a quick breakfast I met Carl at his spartan two-story office– piled to the rafters with books and papers and looking very much like a converted garage– located in an alleyway just a block or two from the Library of Congress.
Except for one morning thundershower the weather was mild the whole week, with blue cloudless skies. We carried too much paper, of course. But our most valuable lobbying tool turned out to be a photo album prepared by sequoia activist and Forests Forever Advisory Council member Martin Litton. It depicted many giant sequoias in the recently designated monument and, just as importantly, their destruction through clearcutting. In its Orwellian jargon the Forest Service disguises these industrial logging operations as "fuels reduction" and "hazard tree removal" and even, most brazenly, as "grove enhancement" work.

Martin's book of eye-popping color photos served us well in presenting the issue to the staffers with whom we met. We plied the corridors of the Longworth, Russell, Rayburn and Cannon office buildings all week, resorting to the labyrinth of underground tunnels that connect the buildings and allow visitors to circumvent time-consuming security checkpoints located at the outside entrance to each of the buildings.
The members themselves were busy these days, but we personally met– or at least bumped into– Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA). Our meeting with Rep. Pelosi's chief environmental aide took place in the historical, plush Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol. Due to heavy security and construction of a four-story below-ground museum and security complex on the Capitol's east grounds, meetings with legislative staff in the Capitol are rare these days, so that appointment was a particular treat.
We had a satisfying conversation with Rep. Eshoo herself at a campaign fundraiser on Thursday morning. Held at the Democratic National Committee headquarters near Capitol Mall, the breakfast event attracted about two dozen backers of Rep. Eshoo, from California and outside the state.

When I told her about Forests Forever’s entry into the campaign for her bill, Rep. Eshoo became very excited– she readily understood the power that our statewide grassroots organizing effort could lend to the Act’s prospects for passage. At the event I also met Rep. Mike Thompson, whose Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness bill Forests Forever has supported since its introduction.

In the Capitol's Rayburn Room: Paul with Lara Levison, policy advisor to Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Paul and Carl Ross with Rep. Anna Eshoo.

As we were meeting with staffers in several offices on succeeding days, live C-SPAN broadcasts of the Endangered Species Act debates on the House floor were playing on the office TV monitors. This added a surreal note to our meetings. Rep. Richard Pombo's (R-Tracy) ESA-weakening bill, H.R. 3824, passed the House on Sept. 29 and now heads to the Senate.

In other meetings we saw the staffs of representatives from Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Missouri and even American Samoa. As Forests Forever is a California organization, we met with staffs of Xavier Becerra (D-Los
Angeles), Jim Costa (D-Fresno), Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), Jane Harman (D-El Segundo), Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), and Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) beyond those California representatives already mentioned.

In addition to renewing the co-sponsorship of many previous supporters of the bill, we garnered the sponsorship of several new members; we are still compiling results and confirming commitments. The bill, we hope, will be reintroduced sometime during the week of Oct. 3.



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© 2011 Forests Forever


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places