Endangered species controversy rages on the
14, 2005 by Wendy Kull/Today correspondent
Pesticides; herbicides adversely affect
TRINIDAD, Calif. - The Endangered Species Act,
passed in 1973, currently provides federal
protection for more than 300 species of plants
and animals in California.
At the heart of the ESA controversy currently
raging before Congress is the charge that the
law does not consider or mitigate economic
House Resources Committee Chairman Richard
Pombo, R-Calif., introduced radical changes to
the ESA with House Bill 3824. The bill has
passed the House of Representatives and is
currently in the Senate Committee on Environment
and Public Works.
The bill promises to pay private landowners
market value for their land affected by the ESA.
However, it also throws out the ''critical
habitat'' portion of the law, essentially
ripping out the law's heart.
Many, including American Indians, have been
affected by the ESA.
People are unemployed and land development is at
a standstill, say Pombo supporters.
Tribes, environmentalists, commercial fishermen
and others say critical habitat is crucial for
species to survive.
Sea lions and grizzly bears in northern
California are federally protected under the ESA
but, according to tribal members, seem to be
doing pretty well on the Yurok Reservation.
Fishermen complain that sea lions can quickly
empty their nets: ''I'll have about 20 in there,
then I see the shadow ... and pull [the net] as
fast as I can ... I'll be lucky to get three in
the boat,'' said Yurok fisherman David Gensaw
Perhaps most frustrating for fishermen is the
sea lion's seemingly wasteful nature: they tend
to take one bite then discard the rest.
People say that bears ransack their homes in
search of food, ripping siding off houses and
breaking windows to gain entry, and leaving
quite a mess in the kitchen.
This is nothing new in Yurok country, because
sea lions and grizzlies have always been part of
Yurok life on the Klamath River. Yurok men
transform sea lion pelts into ceremonial drums,
and bears are considered reincarnated relatives.
However, pesticides and herbicides are a new
addition to Yurok lifeways.
Pesticides and herbicides were not considered
under the original ESA law. But in the case of
Washington Toxics Coalition v. Environmental
Protection Agency, the U.S. District Court of
western Washington ordered the Environmental
Protection Agency to include pesticides within
the scope of the ESA when considering the
critical habitat of threatened and endangered
Pacific salmon and steelhead - 26 species in
Chief Judge John Coughenour handed down the
January 2004 order concerning pesticide usage
and, according to the EPA, ''This order is in
effect until the Environmental Protection Agency
and, when appropriate, the National Marine
Fisheries Service have completed an evaluation
of whether endangered Pacific salmon and
steelhead are sensitive to exposure from 55
Coughenour also ordered interim buffer zones to
protect salmon-supporting waters in Washington,
Oregon and California.
Green Diamond Resource Co. (formerly known as
Simpson Resource Co.) owns vast amounts of land
in the West, including nearly two-thirds of the
Yurok Reservation. The company has sprayed the
land, by ground and by air, for more than 20
years. Green Diamond provides a ''24-hour
notice'' before aerial spraying, giving tribal
members one day to either leave or hunker down.
The prized Chinook salmon, which happen to be
central to Yurok diet and culture, is federally
protected in other parts of California, but not
in the Klamath River. Many, including
environmentalists, are confident that Klamath
Chinook will be listed in the near future.
Basketry is also an integral part of Yurok
culture. Along with traditional foods,
pesticides cover basket and other materials as
they grow: and then people gather the material.
According to its Web site, the California Indian
Basketweavers Association reports complaints of
respiratory ailments, heart disease and cancer
in communities surrounding the Lower Klamath
River. United Indian Health Services has issued
warnings concerning the possible health hazards
associated with collecting traditional