Yesterday I was privileged to address a rally in Sacramento, California, at a meeting of the California Forestry Board. The Board is considering new rules, pushed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, that would cut logging on private land in California by as much as 30%. Like the question of salmon and dams, the question of salmon and logging is riddled with junk science and junk scientists. Just like the dams used to grind up a lot of salmon, so too did primitive logging practices destroy lots of salmon habitat. In both cases, the bad old days are long behind us; when people follow simple rules for logging, with relatively small buffer zones, there are no measurable effects on salmon populations.
The following is the speech I wrote for the rally, which was delivered in much abbreviated form, since I spoke last and there wasn't much time left.Once upon a time, when the news media still helped put the bad guys in jail, instead of covering up for them or giving them book deals, there was a great journalist called H.L. Mencken. He said: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamorous to be led to safety by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
That's the salmon crisis in a nutshell. The practical politicians conjure up an endless series of hobgoblins that are just going to eat the salmon right up and leave us with empty rivers and an overwhelming sense of spiritual loss. These hobgoblins include the loggers and the farmers and the sportsfishermen and the rafters and the builders and the snowmobilers and the irrigation districts and the ATV drivers and the cattlemen and gosh aren't they all just awful and can't the government take charge of this situation and make it all better.
I say to these practical politicians the same thing that the Governor of Maine, fighting the Atlantic salmon listings, says on his website: "I was born at night, but it wasn't last night."
Sure there are less salmon around. There are less salmon around because we're catching too many of them, and it's getting warmer and the salmon are moving north. There are plenty of salmon in Alaska. And there are more and more salmon predators, like birds and marine mammals. Still, there is not one single species of salmon that's endangered. There is not one species of salmon that is about to disappear from the face of the earth.
Sure there are more hatchery fish now and less wild fish. That's what happens when you build a lot of hatcheries and fish at levels only hatcheries can support. Big surprise. That used to be the plan: substitute more productive hatcheries for less-productive wild runs. The fishery managers built even weirs across the rivers and electrocuted the wild fish or poisoned them.
Now they've changed their minds. Hatchery fish are the unclean, the inferior race that stands in the way of a perfect wild genetic purity that hasn't been there for a hundred years. (Where have we heard this sort of thinking before?) So we club hatchery fish to death with baseball bats and sell them for cat food instead of letting them spawn.
These are the same fishery managers who said we had to take all the large woody debris out of the rivers, and now say we can't cut down trees because we need them to fall in the rivers and make large woody debris.
Do we want these people telling the State of California how to manage its forests?
There is no great mystery to having more salmon in the rivers. We can grow more fish, and we can catch less fish, and we can hope the weather is good for salmon. Most of the rest is just fooling around, and none of it is the business of the federal government. Most of salmon recovery isn't really about saving salmon at all. It's about these "practical politicians" building new bureaucratic empires by lying to the public about salmon.
And you already know who the worst of those "practical politicians" are, don't you? They are the pod people from the planet Gore, who have taken over all the federal agencies, and begun to interfere with every state and local decision they can get their hands on. And right now the pod people are trying to infect your State Board of Forestry with the disease of what they call "conservation science".
I'm here to tell you that you can't trust these federal conservation scientists, because they aren't scientists at all. Science is pretty simple: if you can't measure it, and predict it, whatever you think you know isn't science yet. It's just opinion. It's politics.
Now there are some people who do measure things, but all the conclusions they come up with are politically-incorrect. You might think that logging causes landslides, but if you measure things, you'll find almost no difference in landslides where you log and where you don't. You might think that logging chokes off the rivers with silt, and maybe it used to, the way they used to do it, but with the rules that California already has you can't measure any difference in sediment production in the rivers where you log and where you don't. The bottom line is that if we measure nearly anything having to do with forests and salmon, half a tree height away from the water's edge is where 90 percent of the action is. Beyond that, you can cut down trees and the effects are too small to make a difference for anything. Mother Nature drowns it all out.
But that doesn't stop conservation scientists, especially the really crooked ones that the Clinton/Gore Administration brought in to form the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team (FEMAT). They put together a bunch of fancy graphs of ecosystem functioning that all look very scientific.
When you look at the reviews of where this stuff came from, you'll begin to see code words like "subjectively derived". What does that mean? They just made it up. You'll see code words like "extrapolated". They just made it up. And you'll see code words like "no published literature". No one can prove whether they made it up or not.
And it just gets worse and worse. Because when you don't measure anything, you can't tell real problems from imaginary ones. That's why we have the City of Portland demanding that logging be done with horses wearing diapers. That's why we have the City of Seattle passing rules to keep dogs from going in the water because they might scare salmon.
But the problem isn't funny. It's much worse than taking a lot of romantic ideas and pretending that they are "science". We have armies of conservation scientists from the federal government making up a new language of lies.
You people probably think that the Forestry Rules the Feds want are supposed to protect rivers with salmon in them, right? No. That's just Class I waters. There are also Class II waters, which can be wetlands with no fish at all. We can't use that land either. Then there are Class III waters, that aren't even wet. They are places where water might run downhill when it's really wet out. We can't use that land either. There are even Class IV waters, and I don't even know what they are. They probably include the Mojave desert.
Can you tell these people are crooks when they want to pretend that land is water? Sure you can. Can you tell that what's going on here is propaganda, not science? Sure you can.
But the pod people know that if they keep repeating this nonsense over and over enough, people will start to believe it. And they are so bold, that they even say that is what they are trying to do:
The Feds are pushing the State to implement these rules to bring about "acceptance of the reality and importance of adverse cumulative watershed effects". In plain words, it's "let's make everyone believe that logging is wiping out all the watersheds, whether it's true or not.". The Feds are pushing for rules that will produce a sense of "responsibility" for what they call cumulative effects. In plain words, it's "let's make everyone responsible for everything, so everyone is an outlaw, and no one except the government can do anything." Do you really think that making criminals out of people doing something to dry land, miles away from any salmon, is going to put more salmon back in California's rivers?
Doesn't the Federal Government already have enough power? Do we need the Feds telling us what to do? Some of you believe that the Constitution ought to limit Federal power, and you're right. But these days, if you talk about the Constitution, people think you are some kind of nut. So I'll talk common sense instead.
Why do we need three levels of government doing the same thing? Why do we think that people 2,000 miles away have any idea where we should cut down trees near the Eel River, or the Big River, or the Russian River?
No one who has ever been anywhere near a river with salmon really believes that a salmon is going to die because a tree has been cut down 100 feet away from the water--only a federal bureaucrat would be that dumb.
The world ought to know by now that centralized planning doesn't work. The communists proved that. Why do we want to make the same mistakes? Who are these people who want us to make the same mistakes? Some people say they are watermelons: green on the outside and red on the inside.
Why should the Federal government control more land? The Federal government already controls a third of the land in the country. Don't you think that's enough?
Maybe that's the problem right there. Maybe loggers on contract to private landowners will do a better job than loggers on contract with bureaucrats. Public officials can never be good stewards of the land compared to people who want to pass it down to their children. Maybe, as usual, it's government mismanagement that's the problem. Wouldn't that be a surprise. First the "practical politicians" make a mess of things because there is too much government, and then they say we need more government to clean the mess up. Are you going to fall for that?
It's not just the salmon.
Our kids learn about sexism and racism and environmentalism, but they can't read or write or think because the federal government is taking over the curriculum in our schools. Our national security has collapsed because the federal government is handing over all our secrets to the Chinese and putting communists in charge of security. Our property rights and our water rights are collapsing because the federal judges don't uphold the Constitution, and think that the government can take away property without paying for it. Our taxes are getting higher and higher and we have less and less time to spend with our families. Our wives have to work to help pay the federal government and no one has time for the children. And now, we'll soon be paying $2 a gallon for gas because the federal government is shutting down all the oil drilling and the oil refineries in this country for years.
What is going to make things better? Does anyone know? You are.
When you march into that meeting room, you are rising to your sacred duties as citizens of the United States of America. When you march into that meeting room, you are rising to your sacred duties as citizens of the State of California. When you march into that meeting room, you the people are sovereign, and you can put your governments in their places. The only way these things are going to get better for the salmon and everything else is if you tell your forestry officials to stand up to the feds.
Tell them this is State of California business. Will you do that? Tell them they don't need to change the rules to please the federal overlords. Will you do that? Tell them to say the feds have no business here. Will you do that? Tell them to stand tall, because their citizens are depending on them. Will you do that? And if they whine about federal power, and won't stand tall, tell them to do the honorable thing and resign. Will you do that?
The fate of the salmon and the fate of this country depends upon you. Thank you and God bless you.
© James Buchal, March 15, 2000
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