One of the most serious problems facing the United States today is the use of the environment, especially in regard to the conservation of wildlife resources. This magazine has often reported on threats to these values, among them the dredging of oyster reefs in Galveston Bay. the plan to strip-mine in the North Cascades and the scheme to convert the Hudson River into an electric storage battery. All these threats, and all the conservation battles resulting from them, have one thing in common they need never have occurred if there had been sound guidelines and policies to protect resources from indiscriminate abuse.
With this in mind Sports Illustrated assigned Senior Editor Robert H. Boyle and various correspondents to the task of discovering what measures are needed to insure that our wildlife resources will not be impaired, compromised or obliterated, either wholesale or piecemeal. The issue is not one of "people or ducks." Progress is people and ducks. There is no reason why we cannot have both. In compiling this report. Boyle and SI's correspondents interviewed scientists, legislators and conservationists across the country. Not everyone made the same points—but certain common themes were struck. These recommendations merit it strong consideration.
Many of our present environmental difficulties can be attributed to the fact that no single person, agency, bureau or department in the Federal Government has an overall view of what is happening to our land and waters. No one is providing any sense of direction or continuity. Action on a problem comes, if at all, only in response to disaster or after persistent clamor by concerned citizens. Sporadic White House interest in "natural beauty" is so superficial as to be dangerous. The public is gulled into thinking problems are being met. Natural beauty is cosmetics conservation. Instead of applying pancake makeup to the landscape, we should be stopping cancer.
•An essential first step would be establishment by Congress of a National Council of Ecological Advisers. This council would offer recommendations for the improvement of the environment and the use of resources and draw attention to threats that might be overlooked—or even posed—by partisan interests, such as the Federal Power Commission or the Defense Department. The council would take a broad view and yet not hesitate to deal with specifics. The council, in brief, should have complete freedom of inquiry and suggestion. It should be able to sound an alarm over the manufacture and sale of detergents or question the approach, say, of the current Appalachia program, in which millions of dollars are being spent on highways for the region instead of on reclamation of the degraded lands and waters (the reclamation project would provide as many or more jobs for the impoverished residents of the area). Ideally, the council should include senior scientists who have shown independent and thoughtful concern for the affairs of mankind, such as René Dubos of the Rockefeller University, Lionel A. Walford of the Fish and Wildlife Service, S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian, A. Starker Leopold of the University of California, Paul Sears of Yale or Robert Cushman Murphy of the American Museum of Natural History. This nucleus would be supplemented by conservationists, such as David Brower of the Sierra Club, Richard Pough, past president of The Nature Conservancy, Rod Vandivert of Scenic Hudson, and a landscape architect, a historian perhaps and representatives from industry, labor and agriculture. There should be no room for the scientific hack or the politician just turned out of office and looking for a new slot at the public trough. Precedent exists for the establishment of such an organization in the Council of Economic Advisers, which has proved influential.
December 11, 1967
•State legislatures would do well to establish similar conservation councils of their own. All too often state governments have complained when the Federal Government finally moved in to stop a long-standing abuse. It is time state governments assumed responsible positions. There is no more time for excuses. With the exception of a few states—for instance, Massachusetts and Wisconsin (their efforts are noted below)—most states have refused to recognize environmental problems.
•An ecological inventory of the United States should be conducted both by the Federal Government and the 50 states, down to the town level. This inventory should list all natural resources, ponds, lakes, streams, agricultural lands, forests, wetlands, parks and preserves, along with notations about their value or uniqueness. Information of this sort, essential to any rational use or planning, is not now available. The information gathered should be evaluated, coded and computerized. A power company seeking a site could then be offered a number of locations where the plant would not inhibit the spawning, say, of salmon or striped bass, and scientists who are interested in preserving the gene bank would be able to draw upon the information to locate undisturbed habitats where animals or plants flourish in their natural state. There are, literally, thousands of applications for such material, ranging from recreational to educational use.
States need not wait for the Federal Government to prompt them into undertaking surveys of their own. Wisconsin and Massachusetts have already done outstanding work. Several years ago Gaylord Nelson, then governor and now a Senator from Wisconsin, invited Philip H. Lewis Jr., a landscape architect from the University of Illinois, to conduct a survey. Appointed a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Lewis set to work with a team of assistants to inventory and map the state. The team noted waterfalls, mineral sites, trout streams, marshes, historic sites and other areas of value. Most resources fell into what Lewis calls "environmental corridors" along watercourses. In deciding what to buy or protect, Wisconsin set up a point system of priorities and did a demand study for each possible acquisition. A specific sales tax provided $50 million, and, in the first year of funding, Wisconsin acquired 33,000 acres either by outright purchase or through scenic easements. (By granting the state a scenic easement, a private landowner agrees not to build; in exchange, he receives compensation.) Thus far the Wisconsin program has been going along splendidly, with strong popular support. Last year Republicans and Democrats joined to pass a water program, giving counties authority to zone land 300 feet back from each river and stream and 1,000 feet back from each lake. The counties have two years to establish zoning ordinances. If a county fails to act, the state will do the zoning.
Massachusetts, racked by periodic scandals, is not a state ordinarily thought of as being among the most advanced in good-government practices. Yet when it comes to caring for the basic natural environment, Massachusetts could give lessons to others. The Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources already has inventoried marine assets, salt marshes, outdoor recreation areas, open-space needs and inland marshes. This enlightened outlook comes not so much from on high—though Resources Commissioner Robert Yasi happens to be forward-looking—but from the concern of the people. As a result of public pressure, the state legislature in 1958 enabled cities and towns to establish conservation commissions. Composed of three to seven members, each commission surveyed the natural resources of value in its own area and under a point system made recommendations for zoning or acquisition of land. As public interest grew, the state legislature agreed to finance 50% of the acquisitions.
•The Department of the Interior should be reorganized as the Department of Natural Resources. This suggestion was first made in the 1930s, and in 1949 the Hoover Commission urged it again. The proposed department would have full charge of water resources, fish and wildlife, public lands and electric power. It would take over the Forest Service from the Department of Agriculture. The new department also should either take in or have direct veto over the civil functions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and power projects of the Federal Power Commission and the Atomic Energy Commission.
Management of natural resources is now strewed across the bureaucratic landscape, and as a result there is next to no coordination and little official concern. The new department would give thrust to conservation issues and bring problems into sharper focus.
•There is a need for more state and national parks and better management of those we already have. For example, at famous Yellowstone the Park Service's stewardship has become, in the words of Naturalist Peter Farb, "an act of official vandalism." Concessionaires have been encouraged to build a supermarket, trinket shop, laundry and 1,000 shoddy cabins within the park, while the Service itself constructed a parking lot that destroyed Daisy Geyser, one of the main attractions. Noel Eichorn, who is doing a study of the national parks for the Conservation Foundation, reports that in most parks concessionaires are so firmly entrenched that they are telling the Park Service what to do.
We need new parks not only to meet future needs but to relieve pressure on those we have. The crush of visitors to certain national parks has been such that the rationing of admissions is being considered. Parks should be chosen so as to include representative samples of all kinds of habitat and scenery in the United States. William Bronson of the California Tomorrow association has suggested the establishment of a Napa Valley National Vineyard. The Napa Valley is one place that the hand of man has blessed, but "development" for tract houses could destroy it. Given protection, the Napa Valley could remain productive, its beauties unimpaired. The same might be done for other high-quality agricultural lands. (In California 140,000 acres of farmland annually succumb to the developer's bulldozer.)
•We must end the engineer's tyranny over the environment. As Kenneth Boulding, professor of economics at the University of Michigan, has remarked, "The domination of almost all our resources policy by engineers and people of this kind is utterly disastrous." Engineers have technical competence to offer, but often a limited outlook as well. Putting an engineer in charge of a resource such as a river basin is no smarter than hiring a plumber to design a fountain. Then again, as William Bronson has written, "Engineers have a tradition of first establishing...all manner of monstrosities, and then finding economic justification for building them."
If bureaucracies—among them the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Federal Power Commission and the Atomic Energy Commission—are not curbed by creation of the proposed Department of Natural Resources, their powers should be subject to review under a strengthened Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. The present act is so weak as to be useless. As the act now stands, most of these agencies are required only to consult with the Secretary of the Interior about possible harm to fish and wildlife by a project. They are under no obligation to heed the Secretary's advice—and they seldom have. They are engineering-oriented. Moreover, the AEC and the FPC show disquieting signs of having become the captives of the very industries they were set up to police in the public interest.
•Specific congressional legislation is needed on thermal pollution. The AEC does not regulate the temperatures of cooling water discharged into the body of water from which it was taken. Nuclear power plants, which use great amounts of water to cool their reactors, pose tremendous dangers. Hot water discharged into a bay, river or even the ocean can create biological deserts. A 3° or 4° temperature difference can be critical. Nuclear plants discharge water 11° to 23° hotter than it was on intake. More than 100 nuclear plants are on the drawing boards, and by 1980 the power industry will be using one-fifth of the total freshwater runoff of the United States for cooling. In a recent scientific paper Dr. Joseph A. Mihursky and V. S. Kennedy of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory noted, "It is obvious a very serious problem will exist in the near future." There already has been one scandalous fish kill at a nuclear plant (A Stink of Dead Stripers, SI, April 26, 1965), but as long as aquatic life is not being killed by radiation, the power industry and the AEC are unconcerned. The temperature of discharged water can be controlled, but the commission apparently has other fish to fry. When Congressman John Dingell asked Harold Price, Director of Regulation for the AEC, why the commission was not concerned about thermal pollution, Price replied, "I guess we don't feel that the initiative for doing something about it rests with us."
•Strong congressional legislation is needed to afford protection to coastal estuaries and wetlands. The marshes, bay bottoms and estuaries, where salt and fresh water meet, are the most valuable and productive areas on the North American continent. Marshes, for instance, are up to six times richer than the average wheat land. Yet nowhere has destruction been more savage and blind than along our coasts. Destroying wetlands or fouling estuaries makes as much sense as burning down a bank, yet the destruction continues at an appalling rate. Connecticut, for instance, now has only 20 square miles of good wetland area left. The remainder lies buried under highways, garbage dumps, factories and houses. In actuality the estuarine-wetland complex that runs from Massachusetts to Florida is one of the natural wonders of the world.
In recent years persistent encroachment and defilement has caused a dramatic decline of fish—in both commercial and sports catches. The American Littoral Society reports that between 1960 and 1965 the total catch of 18 coastal species slumped from 1.4 billion pounds to 700 million pounds—exactly half, in only five years' time. Among the fishes that are dependent on the Atlantic Coast estuaries are alewives, mackerel, Atlantic sturgeon, blackback flounder, black drum, blackfish, bluefish, croaker, fluke, king whiting, menhaden, mullet, porgy, red drum, sea trout, shad, short-nosed sturgeon, spearing, spot, striped bass, summer herring, tomcod, weakfish and white perch. Destroy the estuaries, rip up bay bottoms, fill in marshes and you destroy these species. It does no good to go out in the ocean. The ocean isn't "full of fish." The ocean is a desert by comparison with inshore Cape Cod, Long Island Sound, the Hudson River, Great South Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Pamlico Sound, et al.
The coastal fishery resources of the United States are the greatest single wildlife resource this country possesses. It offers respite to millions of people and is worth billions of dollars. So far only one state, Massachusetts, has effectively moved to protect this resource. Massachusetts law prohibits alteration of a salt marsh. When one developer fought this law, the court upheld the state, finding, "Broad Marsh is a 'salt marsh' necessary to preserve and protect marine fisheries.... Property is acquired by private citizens with the tacit understanding that it shall not be used to the detriment of the public, and the legislature is authorized to take action to prevent such detrimental use." Owners of marshland who seek compensation can have it set by court. So far no one has applied.
Not every state has the vigor of Massachusetts in protecting its coastal resources. New York, for example, is a study in futility. The bays and wetlands of Long Island are not protected from abuse; they are not even considered navigable waters, hence they are subject to unnecessary dredging, filling or other desolation. A favorite trick is to mine sand and gravel under the subterfuge of creating a navigation channel. An ocean liner could be floated in some of the gouges.
Even if New York took prompt and proper action, problems would still remain for numerous species of fish that move up and down the coast. If, for instance, North Carolina decided to seal off or fill in its coastal sounds the fluke population would be wiped out. Fluke eggs are laid at sea, but the larval fish are carried into the sounds by currents, and there they stay in the shallow waters, protected from larger predators and feeding on the crabs, bait-fishes and marine worms of the estuary. When the fluke are about six inches long, they begin working their way up along the coast to waiting fishermen in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. If the North Carolina fishery were destroyed, fishermen in the states to the north could protest, but they could not enforce any reform in North Carolina.
Sometimes fishermen are not even aware of the reasons a species suddenly disappears. This has been the case with the weakfish, which was a tremendously popular fish in New York and New Jersey waters until 15 years ago. Despite official assurance that the weakfish would always remain abundant, lo, it suddenly vanished. A number of reasons were given, over-fishing being the most prominent. Now marine biologists strongly suspect that commercial fishing boats working southern waters in quest of "trash" fish for cat food have been taking juvenile weak-fish in the catch. The weakfish never get to move north because they are in some cat's belly. The pity of it is that cats would be just as well fed with a species of fish that has no other economic value. Contrary to popular impression, neither the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife nor any section of the Interior Department has any control of ocean fishes. (Even the President's Science Advisory Committee is misinformed; in Effective Use of the Sea, the committee reported that the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries governs ocean fishing.)
Obviously, legislation is needed to protect the estuarine environment and the fishes in it. Inasmuch as the states have abdicated responsibility, and inasmuch as the fish are migratory and do not recognize state lines, the Federal Government should have authority to protect the aquatic resources of estuaries. To be sure, there will be some states-righters who will protest against "federal invasion," but the harsh truth is that the states' navigable waters are already subject to federal invasion of the worst sort, in the form of the Corps of Engineers and the Federal Power Commission, and a new federal club is needed to beat them off.
•Serious consideration should be given to a conservation amendment to the Constitution. This idea has been advanced by Irving Like, a Long Island attorney and conservationist who helped to establish the Fire Island National Seashore. Like's idea is based, in part, on the premise that a national ecological survey and inventory will be taken. Like says, "Constitutional amendments are necessarily brief. This amendment should not include a shopping list, and I suggest the following draft:
"The right of the people of the United States to enjoy the outdoors and their heritage of natural resources and natural beauty shall not be violated.
"The Congress shall, at least once every five years, designate those lands and waters of the United States and its possessions, now owned or hereafter acquired, which because of their unusual, natural, wilderness, scenic or historic character, shall be kept forever inviolate and administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will preserve their irreplaceable characteristics and leave them unaltered and unspoiled for future use and enjoyment.
"No federal agency, body or authority shall be authorized to exercise the power of condemnation, or undertake any public work, issue any permit, license or concession, make any rule, execute any management policy or other official act which vitally affects the people's heritage of natural resources and natural beauty, on the lands and waters now or hereafter placed in the public domain, without first giving reasonable notice to the public and holding a public hearing thereon, and any official act which involves the public domain, the natural resources of the United States, and which vitally affects the quality of the natural environment, shall be subject to judicial review and such other forms of review as may be enacted by Congress."
Like's amendment was the basis for a similar measure he advanced this year for the New York State Constitutional Convention. The delegates adopted it almost unanimously, but it went down the drain with the rest of the new constitution in the November 7 election.
•The use of persistent toxic pesticides or long-range poisons should be barred. The worst of the pesticides are the chlorinated hydrocarbons: aldrin, DDD, DDT, dieldrin, heptachlor and toxaphene. A study submitted to the late President Kennedy recommended the elimination of such chemicals, but action has been slow in coming. The difficulty with the chlorinated hydrocarbons is that they take a long time to break down (as much as fifteen years for DDT) and they concentrate in the fatty tissues and organs of living creatures, at times killing them or rendering them sterile. Toxic pesticides are not the only problem. Government poisoners in the West have been indiscriminate in spreading baits for coyotes injected with compound 1080, which is also deadly to other wildlife and domestic dogs.
Detergent manufacturers, seeking new washday miracles, came up with the ABS detergents, which do not readily break down in water and can be lethal to aquatic life. When those detergents started foaming up in water supplies there was an outcry, and now the manufacturers are turning out so-called "soft" detergents. These are low in suds but rich in phosphates that can trigger detrimental algal explosions. The point of all this is that no one, no private citizen, no company, no government agency, should be allowed to inject a persistent poisonous chemical into the lands and waters of the U.S.
•We need to take a new look at state and federal tax policies dealing with land values and conservation. The Sierra Club, the most vigorous national conservation organization, has suffered a loss in donations because the Internal Revenue Service, angered by club newspaper ads protesting the proposals to dam the Grand Canyon, has threatened to rule that donations are no longer deductible. If the ruling comes, the Sierra Club intends to press a court fight, but until it is resolved, other national conservation groups, not as bold to begin with, will shy away from public issues of importance.
We might look to see if our tax policies encourage wise use of the land. There is a strong suspicion that they do not and that they are rigged in favor of the developer, the realtor and the modern version of the ambulance chaser, the lawyer who specializes in zone busting. If inequities exist, they should be corrected.
•We need prompt and vigorous enforcement of federal and state antipollution laws. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1966 is promising, but will it be enforced with vigor and dispatch? We have had laws, sound laws, on the books for years, but the problem is they are rarely enforced. For instance, the Federal Refuse Act of 1899 forbids the dumping of garbage, cinders, sand or mud or refuse of any kind into the navigable waters of the United States. The maximum penalty is a $2,500 fine and a year in prison; yet government agencies charged with enforcement, most notably the Corps of Engineers, have looked the other way in the face of obvious violations. Indeed, when a Corps official was asked recently why the law had not been enforced against a couple of continuous polluters, the official replied, "We're dealing with top officials in industry, and you just don't go around treating these people like that."
•We need state and federal laws to cover industrial kills of fish and wildlife by any means whatsoever. There have been a number of enormous wildlife kills in recent years, and the perpetrators have gotten off without paying a cent. A private citizen who takes illegal fish or game is subject to fine, loss of license and probably imprisonment. What applies to the lawless private citizen should apply to irresponsible private industry.
•Above all, we must strive to develop what has been called an "ecological conscience" and a "land ethic." An ecological conscience means realizing that man's actions, by bulldozing, polluting or spraying, can have calamitous consequences for living creatures—including man himself.
An ecological conscience and a land ethic can be instilled only by mass education. Here we are deficient, from graduate schools to kindergarten. The old field naturalists, the explorers, the probers, the observers, the restless seekers of the history of the race, the Darwins, the Beebes, are gone. In their place is the modern scientist, the specialist for the most part, young, safe in his lab, with starched white coat, clipboard of data and government contract. Field naturalism is passé. It is for boy scouts, little old lady bird watchers and left-wing Quakers passing a Saturday afternoon. A so-called educated American now can depart from college, marry, raise children and be completely unaware of the natural world. He could not care less that the superhighway may be a destroyer, because he has no interest in or knowledge of what it destroys. He has never been told or taught. The classical biology course in high school or college is disappearing. The student who takes biology learns all about DNA and the genetic code. As one concerned reader wrote to Science last fall, "I have two daughters who have taken high school biology. One, a linguist, had the 'old-fashioned' kind: general principles, plus anatomy, physiology and taxonomy of the plant and animal kingdoms. The other, who wanted to be a nurse, took the blue version of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. She learned molecular biology and very little else. The first girl, who got a C in the course, knows much more about the world around her than the second, who got an A and doesn't know the difference between grass and moss, or beetles and crickets, or even plants and animals, although she is well versed in DNA....
"Which of my daughters will find her high school biology course more useful in later life?...My daughters are much more likely to encounter frogs and trees and be concerned with the physiological systems of the body, than with DNA in their everyday lives....
"And for the future housewife, or engineer, or shoe clerk, which is apt to be more useful: an understanding of the Krebs cycle or knowledge that maggots in the garbage will turn into flies?"
Scientists themselves have much to answer for in the despoliation of the environment. With the exception of a couple of dozen at best, they have refrained from participating in important public issues in which they have expertise. Too many scientists just don't want to get involved. They prefer to sit silently on the sidelines, as though spectators, watching justifiably concerned citizens trade volleys with utility company executives, highway engineers and other wreckers of the environment. There are signs that this attitude is changing—somewhat. Last year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science had as its theme, "How Man Has Changed the Planet." An editorial in Science commented later that unease "permeated the meeting."
The clergy, too, stands indicted for silence. One historian, Lynn T. White Jr. of UCLA, told the AAAS meeting that there is a "Christian arrogance toward nature." Many clergymen seem to have the attitude that what is destroyed on this planet is of little consequence since this world is "the vale of tears" through which we all must pass before moving on to the hereafter.
Without the scientists, without the clergymen, without the responsible politician, without the educated speaking up and taking action, abuse of America will continue. We have the power to stop it, and the reason and the logic of past events dictate that we should. Yet as Admiral Hyman Rickover says, "The only voices raised in protest are of those who are personally hurt, and of a small minority of citizens who cannot sit idly by watching God's own country turned into 'God's own junkyard.' Until this minority becomes a majority, the destruction will not cease."