Monday, July 7, 2014

Reflections in Blue and Green, 4


                        Admiralty Island
The DeHaviland Beaver drifted over gray whales breaching in Tenakee Inlet; a pod of killer whales rose and fell through blue-black water. Dockside at Angoon, a native village with a sizeable Anglo population, two teenagers were playing hackeysack. The sign on the wall of the aviation office said, "If it has tires or testicles, you're going to have trouble with it."
KJ stood in the stern of his skiff plowing Chatham Straight, the wind in his droopy mustache, laconically absorbing the miserable weather and the magnificence of the Admiralty Island coast. He had spent 24 years in the Forest Service, and as land use planner for Admiralty suggested to the Forest Service directors of recreation and wildlife in Washington, D.C. the need for an advocate for recreational wilderness. He was told, "'We don't have to put up with that shit anymore.'"
KJ decided conservation efforts were a waste of time. "The whole wilderness concept came out of the Forest Service—Aldo Leopold, Bob Marshall—but supervisors were evaluated on whether or not they met the timber targets, period. Information was driven in whatever direction necessary to justify what they wanted to do."
Some things he witnessed in Southeast still came back to him: slash piled to a depth of 12 feet in clear-cuts; the sound of streams buried beneath fallen trees; the sight of Caterpillars plowing rivers dark with sediment; a Forest Service engineer who, when questioned about the advisability of building roads in unstable terrain above Hobart Bay, saying, "If you can't do it, we'll find somebody who can."
A bald eagle swooped on a school of herring roiling the bottle-green surface of the awesome, in-rushing tide, and rose as a silvery silhouette. "The Tongass Timber Reform Act was unrealistic. All they wanted was the cut. If they had a good plan, they could have rewarded people for doing good work."                    

           (Next: The Senator)  

My travel books, The Kingdom in the Country and Vanishing America, can be found at:
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