JAMES WATT AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
This is an article from the Aug. 10, 1981 issue
The abrasive style and controversial decisions of Interior Secretary James Watt are making him the biggest liability of the Reagan Administration. Perhaps predictably, any number of environmental groups have called for his dismissal, but now the demand for his ouster is popping up in the most unlikely places. Two newspapers in Utah, so-called "Sagebrush Rebellion" country—the Salt Lake City Tribune, an independently owned Republican daily with a conservative tilt, and the Ogden Standard-Examiner, a fiercely independent paper—have taken swats at Watt. The Tribune, which originally found Watt's appointment "laudable," now says, "We apparently were mistaken," while the Standard-Examiner has warned editorially that Watt is "diluting Western support of Reagan." The paper noted, "Westerners are interested in the budget and taxes and the turbulent world around us. However, millions of residents of Utah and nearby states are even more concerned about what might happen to the forests and recreation lands they love so much."
For all this, Watt's critics miss one big point. The Secretary's policies reflect the Administration's attitude toward the environment. "[Watt's] actions represent the President's views," says White House Chief of Staff James A. Baker III. The only thing the White House doesn't like is Watt's confrontational stance, and in an effort to reduce the public outcry it has told the Secretary to clear all new policy announcements with the White House before going public. If Watt does become too much of a liability—the Republican state chairman in California has already expressed concern that Watt may hurt G.O.P. chances in 1982—he'll go, but the odds are that he would be replaced by someone with a smoother manner but the same ideological bent.
The Reagan Administration is filled with appointees who think very much like Watt. There is Anne Gorsuch, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who suggested in a memo to the White House that there was no need to advocate amendment of the Clean Air Act's health standards, which industry claims are restrictive. She said "more reasonable standards could be developed within the present language" that would fulfill the Administration's ecnomic goals while avoiding the negative publicity on this "highly charged" issue. There is James McAvoy, awaiting confirmation to the three-member Council on Environmental Quality, who refuses to admit that acid rain is a very serious problem. And there is John Crowell, a former timber-company lawyer now in charge of the U.S. Forest Service, who says, "Most of the overstated concern by environmental organizations is for the purpose of raising money from a loyal and largely unquestioning membership." Below them is a host of appointees in environmentally sensitive posts. According to one high official who has decided to leave the EPA, "If I had to rate the quality of the people coming into EPA on a scale of one to 10, I'd rate them two."
Some might even rate a minus two. Take Dr. Norman C. Roberts of San Diego, the President's choice to become director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At a get-acquainted meeting set up by the White House with representatives of the American Fisheries Society, the American Forestry Association and other professional organizations, Roberts discussed his qualifications. He had furnished the garden in which Reagan announced his candidacy for the governorship of California in 1965. He had finished in the top four-fifths of his high school class. Until 1958, when he became a financial analyst, he practiced as a veterinarian, specializing in vaccinating and castrating hogs because more complicated tasks led, he said, to "utter confusion." Dr. Roberts allowed that he once mistook a male cat for a female cat and performed an operation to remove the cat's nonexistent ovaries. (Roberts later said his remarks were intended to be tongue in cheek.) The professionals were appalled, and 10 organizations represented at the meeting have called on the President not to nominate Roberts. In a letter to Reagan, they pointed out that the law requires the director to have educational and managerial experience in the field, but a check of Roberts' transcripts at San Diego State, where he claimed he majored in zoology in 1939-40, showed he took only a botany course.
Ronald Reagan is riding a political high right now after his tax-cut victory in Congress, but the President had better take another look at his environmental policies because they could cost him and his party—and the U.S.—dearly down the line. Russell Peterson, a former Republican governor of Delaware who now heads the National Audubon Society, says the President is surrounded by "ecological illiterates" who haven't the slightest glimmer of what clean air and clean water really mean to either the environment or the economy. Wall Street broker Dan Lufkin, a big Reagan backer, is simply baffled by the Administration's stance. Lufkin headed a Reagan task force that drew up a report on the environment for the President just after his election. Lufkin says the President was pleased with the report, which was very sensitive to environmental needs, but now Lufkin says, "I don't know what happened.... I don't understand except that the President has a cadre of advisers about appointments, whether it's [Paul] Laxalt, Adolph Coors or whether it's Jesse Helms. But in goes Watt and in goes Gorsuch...who are just off the page. Those people are unbelievable!"
Obviously, Reagan should look elsewhere. There are credible people knowledgeable in both environmental matters and sound business practices, who insist that cost-effectiveness can be intelligently applied to our natural resources. They seem to be in tune with the country in rejecting extremism from either side. Reagan's people aren't listening to the public—which has shown it is intensely environment-conscious in recent polls—when they draw the line between what is reasonable and what is too much.
—ROBERT H. BOYLE
A subscriber, Fred Brooks of New York, writes: "I keep reading and hearing about the millions of dollars the baseball strike cost, and how everybody—players, owners, fans, everybody—was the loser. Players lost salary. Owners lost income. Cities lost tourist dollars. Networks lost ad revenue. Fans lost—wait a minute. What did the fans lose? The millions of dollars in losses during the strike was simply money we didn't spend. We didn't buy tickets to ball parks, didn't pay for parking there, didn't buy hot dogs and beer. We didn't drive into the cities to go to games, didn't stay at hotels and motels, didn't eat in restaurants. We didn't watch or listen to radio/TV ads during games and run out and buy what was advertised. So what did we lose? We lost a few hours of entertainment. Otherwise, we saved a hell of a lot of money. Stop calling us losers."
MORE NEWS FROM THE FRONT
In the South, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. remained a hotbed of strife. Late in July, Defender Elias Figueroa of the Strikers (an apt name for a professional team these days) said he would file a $2 million suit against Forward Bob Newton and the Jacksonville Tea Men because of injuries he had received in a North American Soccer League game. Figueroa, who suffered massive facial damages, was angry, too, because he felt the NASL's punishment of Newton—a $250 fine and a two-game suspension—was much too mild. (Newton's personal troubles were compounded when he was arrested by Florida police last week and charged in a hit-and-run accident.)
The belligerent mood in Lauderdale persisted. At halftime in the Strikers' 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Kicks, a fan, presumably upset with the Strikers' play, confronted Mike Robbie, son of club owner Elizabeth Robbie, and the two threw punches at one another. A little later, when a tour group leader wanted his group paged on the PA system, General Manager Tim Robbie, Mike's brother, at first refused, and the man cursed and threatened to punch him.
Later, when Reporter Tim Rosaforte of the local Sun-Sentinel entered the Strikers' locker room, he was ordered to leave by Coach Eckhard Krautzun, who said he had written a "disruptive" story. Rosaforte refused. Possibly because Rosaforte, an ex-football player, is 6'1", 210 pounds, Krautzun did not press his demand, and peace, that elusive sprite, at last prevailed. If uneasily.
There were malcontents everywhere. In Maryland a new twist was added to the old custom of swimmers joyfully throwing their coach into the pool to celebrate a team victory. After Hammond Park lost an age-group meet 257-230 to Atholton, an angry, frustrated Hammond Park swimmer pushed the meet official into the pool, white uniform, whistle and all.
During the baseball strike a new league was born, began its playing schedule and finished its season, all in three weeks' time. The league is Team Tennis—no more World Team Tennis (1974-78, R.I.P.)—and it operates in a revolutionary manner. Players are paid by the league as a whole, not by the teams, and they're paid according to individual and team accomplishments on court. There are no guaranteed salaries.
Evidence from this first, somewhat experimental, season is that maybe the new league is going to work. It's the brainchild of Larry King, Billie Jean's husband, who had been involved in World Team Tennis. Realizing that even with all its problems WTT had reduced losses from $10 million (1974) to $1 million ('78), King figured the league idea had a future if it were run in a businesslike way. He began modestly: only four teams, all in California (Los Angeles, San Diego, Anaheim and Oakland), four players (two men and two women) on each team and a three-week season. Each club put up $75,000, creating a $300,000 prize-money pot for the players. The teams didn't sign players on their own. Instead they drafted from a pool of players who signed up to "enter" the league.
Even though King estimates that Team Tennis lost perhaps $200,000 in sponsor support after his wife's lesbian affair was revealed, the league did reasonably well, with one team, Los Angeles, breaking even. Next year the prize pot will be increased to $700,000, and there will be expansion—a four-week season involving eight teams, with one as far east as Chicago.
TT's main difficulty this season was attracting big names. Only two so-called superstars appeared, both women: Billie Jean and Martina Navratilova. And TT offered just prize money, whereas top players at regular tournaments can clean up on guarantees. Open tennis was supposed to eliminate such "under the table" payments, but that distasteful aspect of the sport remains. It's something tennis ought to do away with.
Chris Landry, the best U.S. practitioner of the hair-raising pastime of extreme skiing (SI, March 30), in which one swoops down precipitous 60-degree slopes, has said of his sport, "If you fall, you die." As if to test that maxim, Landry went to Alaska this spring to ski down Mount McKinley's West Rib, starting from the 20,320-foot summit of South Peak.
At first, says Landry, the run was "simply enjoyable," but at 19,000 feet he reached a particularly steep pitch, where, after a series of long, cautious traverses, the unthinkable happened. He fell.
"I went down hard on my right hip," he says, "and I began sliding. I tried to push up onto my feet, but I couldn't. I was tumbling over backward."
Landry's skis came off, although the safety straps kept them attached to his boots, and he clawed at the snow with hands and feet. "I came to a stop at the last possible place I could have," he says. "I had slid about 1,000 feet down the mountain. A little farther and I'd have gone straight down 7,000 feet."
Unhurt, Landry lay still for several minutes, then put his skis back on and very slowly made his way over to a climbing route and safe ground, thus ending his attempt to ski the West Rib. "It was difficult to accept the idea of defeat," he admits, "but on the other hand it seems spectacularly wonderful to be alive."
Now, Landry says, there'll be no more "big trips," no more death-defying descents. He has retired.
"I have no regrets," he says. "I had always assumed that extreme skiing wouldn't allow for even one mistake. I was pleased to be wrong."
THEY SAID IT
•Dan Quisenberry, Kansas City pitcher, on the speaking style of Milwaukee's Ted Simmons: "He didn't sound like a baseball player. He said things like 'Nevertheless' and 'If, in fact.' "
•Dick Vermeil, Philadelphia Eagles coach, asked at training camp if he was going to watch the royal wedding the next day on television: "The what?"