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The Rest of the Story

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San Francisco, CA -- One of the main difficulties with mainstream media is that they no longer have the patience to set the record straight in any but the most perfunctory way when they are misled -- which they are often. So today I'm going to tell the "rest of the story" on a couple of recent, high-profile environmental stories.

When the Angora Fire broke out at Lake Tahoe a month ago, the local press and members of Congress--most prominently Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig--promptly blamed environmentalists for preventing the implementation of fire prevention strategies. Now the US Forest Service has released its official findings and it turns out Senator Craig was dead wrong. Notable among the findings was the fact that not one citizen appeal or litigation of a commercial logging project contributed to the severity or increased risk of fire. One surprising finding was that many of the homes that burned down were actually set aflame not by wildfire but by fire spreading from the flammable roofs of other homes nearby!

Senator Craig's website did not, unsurprisingly, cover the rest of this story -- there's no mention of these findings on his pages.

In another case of media forgetfulness, when the Bush Administration tried to undo President Clinton's Wild Forest Protection policy and moved to open roadless areas in the national forests to logging and road building, they claimed it was doing so in the name of more state input into forest planning. And when environmentalists asked Governors to challenge Bush in court, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose instead to work with the Bush Administration to develop a statewide plan which protected some, but not all, of California's forests.

Now, however, Governor Schwarzenegger is calling foul. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, Schwarzenegger is protesting the Forest Service's denial of California's appeal of proposed development activity in roadless areas in four Southern California national forests, on the grounds that this denial violates earlier written agreements with California.

With your recent denial of our appeals, the Forest Service has completely ignored its own written assurances that prohibit building roads in roadless areas, and has completely disregarded the good faith work we have done jointly for many years. Also troubling is that these written assurances provided to us by Forest Service officials were included as part of our appeal, yet any reference to these written assurances is wholly absent in the Forest Service denials....

In November, 2004, Schwarzenegger was criticized by some environmentalists for using the statewide planning process the Bush Administration offered as a substitute for the original Wild Forest Rule instead of joining other Western states in challenging Bush in court. Now Schwarzenegger finds himself joining the long line of folks who took the Bush Administration at its word, only to find out that its word is worth very little.

So how has the media, which covered the earlier events, reacted? Stunned silence. This is old news to the press, even if they have never bothered to tell the rest of us.