National Audubon Society Brock Evans' Exhortation to

"Take It All"

New England Environmental Network Panel Discussion

This is a verbatim transcript of Audubon VP Brock Evans' portion of the 1990 New England Environmental Network Panel Discussion exhorting activists to lobby for the Federal takeover of 26 million acres of private property in northern New England extending from the Maine coast, across 2/3 of Maine, northern New Hampshire and Vermont to rural New York in the Adirondacks.



Part of




MEDFORD, MA NOV. 3-4, 1990

Conference Brochure Synopsis - "Forestry has become a national issue. While we urge our southern neighbors to preserve their tropical forests, we are destroying the temperate forests in the United States. What should we do to protect the 26 million acres in the northeast and the ancient forests in the west?

Resource Persons:

[Participants sat at the table facing the audience in the auditorium. Each gave his initial presentation from the podium.]

TRANSCRIPT - Brock Evans

BROCK EVANS -- I'm Brock Evans with the National Audubon Society. I'm not sure why I'm here. My normal -- in my real life I'm in Washington, DC as a lobbyist there on forestry issues and other issues and outside of being a good friend of Nancy's who I admire a great deal, I'm probably here because -- you know the standard definition for an expert as just another damn fool from a couple of hundred miles away. That probably fits the bill for me. Also I have to say I'm really right down the road this semester. I'm having a really good time at Harvard teaching a course on environmental politics. So I'm really glad to be here.

My expertise in this particular subject though, I have to tell you -- outside of some very, very happy summers spent in northern New Hampshire and in Maine -- is probably really as a forest campaigner, as somebody who has done battle for the forest for a long time. As my colleagues and Nancy know, I grew up in the mid west, I went to college here on the east coast, then I moved out to Seattle a long time ago just to be near beautiful country and the mountains and immediately became enchanted with the forests, these magnificent ancient forests that Michael and others have talked about -- forests of trees 6 feet thick and 200 feet high and up to 1000 years old.

And that was -- I fell in love with them and then got very, very angry after a year or two of climbing mountains out there realizing that they were logging them all off. They were cutting them all down so I assume like thousands of other Americans -- this was in the '60's at this time -- I joined up. I joined the organizations -- Sierra Club and others and decided to fight to try to do something about it. So that's been my expertise. I guess you might say I'm a 25 year veteran of the forest wars in the northwest, but also really around the country, the [...unintelligible...] waters country in Minnesota, Congaree Swamp Forest in South Carolina, all across Montana, California, and so on.

And I think you're gonna, well you're going to hear me go probably a good deal farther than Mike and Steve may have gone in their remarks so far.

I find it interesting that we've had very little talk of why we're doing this. Why we're here on this issue right now, why not 10 years ago or 15 years ago? Why right now? Why all the ferment? I would answer from what I know, because things aren't being worked out. Things haven't been worked out.

For a century I think it's safe to say, that the timber companies up there who own all 20 or 26 million acres -- I thought it was 26 Steve, but we'll call it 20 right now -- lands -- once all public domain, then it went to the private domain where it's been for a very long time -- they had what you might call a social compact. That is, yes they were going to log it and they were going to cut down the forest, but at the same time the public could use them and go and fish and hike and what was the legendary north woods and have the north woods kind of experience.

The problem in recent years as I at least understand it, my colleagues can set me right perhaps as that now the logging has intensified, it's a lot more for export. These are multi-national corporations, at least in part right now. They're selling off the lake front and riverside for condos and home developments as well. That's not the social compact. That's why people are upset. That's why we're getting money for Steve and others to do their studies. That's why the Wilderness Society has a northern forest campaign with a really good guy like Michael spearheading, for example.

"So I don't agree that we can't get it all back. I don't agree that we can't get the social compact back, I don't agree that it shouldn't all be in the public domain. In fact I think it all should be in the public domain."

So I don't agree that we can't get it all back. I don't agree that we can't get the social compact back, I don't agree that it shouldn't all be in the public domain. In fact I think it all should be in the public domain. I think it's a good purpose for the American people, better than stealth bombers and other things. We can come back to that as well. But that's why we have the ferment right now and we all need to know that.

As Michael said, there are some very distinct similarities between the emerging, what I'll call the Northern Forests Lands Campaign -- which is happening in northern New England right now and if I have anything to say about it from my national perspective, it will be an even bigger campaign in the next few years and the ancient forest campaign we're just going through right now in the Pacific northwest.

I wanted to talk, just very briefly, it'll take about one minute, to talk about the Ancient Forest Campaign to give you an idea what's at stake right here and then I'll came back to this and then I'll shut up because I want to get a discussion going here.

The Ancient Forest Campaign, as you know, basically was the issue of how much more of the trees 6 to 8 feet thick and 2 or 3 hundred feet high and up to a thousand years old should be logged off in the Pacific northwest. Once there were 30 million acres of it. Now there's maybe about 3 or 4 at the very, very most, protected almost all on Federal land. Weyerhauser the so called tree growing company, and others have long since liquidated theirs and sent them to Japan and elsewhere.

So what's left basically is on the public lands right now. The U.S. Forest Service Lands -- I'm sorry to say to my friend Steve right here -- they were logging the hell out of it, too, and there was very little intention of stopping all that and so we who were environmentalists who loved these ancient forests and thought they were special like the tropical forests in Brazil we had all heard so much about, felt we ought to try to do something about it.

The problem was, we had a tremendous political problem and that these forests, even though they are public and belong to you and me as well as everybody else, were considered to belong to the politicians of Oregon and Washington and northern California. We were right down the line with the timber industry over and over again and that's why we hope Hatfield will lose this election. He just might.

But in any event the political problem is that you couldn't just go to your Congressman even though it's Federal land and say please protect the forest because every time you went to Senator Hatfield he would up the timber cut and increase the timber cut. Every time you'd win a law suit to stop illegal logging which was going on, he would pass a rider on the appropriations bill suspending the right of environmentalists to go to court in the state of Oregon. It was worse being an environmentalist in Oregon than it was being a civil rights activist in the State of Alabama in the 1950's the way it was going on.

So we made some basic decisions to speed this up here about two years ago. We met in Portland, Oregon. We had a conference of all the activists from around. We gotta do something. We made 3 or 4 basic decisions.

One is we've got to get this issue out of the northwest and make it national. We're never going to save the Ancient Forests if it's left up to the tender mercies of the likes of Sen. Hatfield and other people like that. We have to let people in Massachusetts and Vermont and Ohio and Florida know what's happening to their forest.

Number two, this is important by the way, we should think about this Michael, we need to give it a better name. The foresters, the professional foresters want to call it old growth forests. That's nice, but it sounds like me. I'm old and gray and things like that and what have you. What really are these things? These are `Ancient Forests'.

The Reagan Administration wanted to call unbuffered precipitation instead of acid rain, you can see the difference here by the way. So you gotta give these things a proper name that explains it immediately that tells you what you're talking about. So we did.

Third. So we had to nationalize the issue, we had to get rid of the name which we did, and we had to give people something to do, so we drafted legislation. It took us 3 months last year to draft legislation, but we now have the Ancient Forest Protection Act which is before [?] Congress and that's where -- you've seen all the picture in the magazines and the cover pictures -- we didn't get a bill this year, but we're ready to do something again, a bigger [?] measure [?] and save, I think, all of it. But that's the idea.

That's how a group of people took on what I would call a hopeless lost cause, totally hopeless, 2 or 3 years ago and because of being unreasonable the way one of the speakers said this morning, turned it all around to what I think will be a big victory a little bit later on.

What are the similarities and differences, and now I'll shut up here. Similarities of course are that they're both forests. The similarities, are their large extent, here in the Northern Forest Lands and also in the North West. They cross several states out here, too. Similarities are, you have many different organizations and groups and interest to be involved some of whom really want to be interested. Some probably who oppose, but lot's of different people. A similarity also, I would argue from on the slides I've seen, are large scale destruction going on, in both condo real estate developments and in logging developments, some really large scale. Look, some pictures I've seen up there look as bad, Michael, as anything I've seen in the Northwest. It looks really scary. Similarities also, at least in the country up there where the forests are there's a logging culture as it was in Oregon and Washington as well, a special set of problems and issues.

The differences obviously are that it's private land, not public land, which means that if we're gonna get it back, and I'll use that term advisedly, it has to be purchased rather than just change the law on how it's gonna be managed and that's a difference in the northwest. The difference is that it's real estate development instead of just logging the hell out of the place. And they're doing both up in your part of the world where they're doing [...unintelligible...] in the Northwest.

The difference might be what several of you refer to as the New England tradition of working together which is great and I hope you can, but let's not fiddle while Rome burns. I mean let's not work it all out for 10 or 15 years while they log it all off. Let's have a moratorium while we're working it out rather than continue the same practices. That might work.

Another difference and I think you all have here which I think could be very powerful is what I call legends and myths. This is the "North Woods". It's name is the "North Woods". When I think of the north country up here, I think of my summers up there, I think of Roger's Rangers going there fleeing from the French and Indians during the war about 1768, I think of Benedict Arnold going up the Dead River and portaging over through all this wild country up there and trying to raid Quebec in 1775, and all the other myths that the whole American people associate with the North Woods. We don't have that in the northwest, but you do here.

Well, the social compact has been broken. I would argue, so now what to do. A phrase [...unintelligible...] went through my mind as something an architect from Chicago in the last century said, dream only large dreams, because only they have the power to fire people's souls. Sure we can talk about sustainability, and we should. Sure we can talk about working together and we should do all that, too. But if we talk about bits and pieces here and there we never see the whole picture.

It should be all of it....Be unreasonable. You can do it. Yesterday's heresy is today's common wisdom.

We decided in the northwest to treat it as an Ancient Forest Campaign for all those three things [?], all the forests, all of it. I suggest to you that you have your "North Woods". It's the same kind of situation. It should be all of it. There may be different solutions for different particular places, but it should all be treated together. Be unreasonable. You can do it. Yesterday's heresy is today's common wisdom. It happens over and over again. In fact the whole story of the environmental movement is the story of, in my view, of hopeless lost causes, of small bands of people moving around in somebody's living room being unreasonable, too dumb to know they were beaten before they started, and going on and winning hopeless lost causes like the Ancient Forest Campaign, for example.

In 1938 the Chairman, I believe of the Senate Agriculture, Senator Puplan [?], was asked by President Roosevelt and others to study the question of the private lands, study private forest land. And they studied the private lands in the 30's that were being raped and destroyed the way they are still right now and they issued a report recommending that the American public buy 220 million acres of private forest land. It would have happened under the Roosevelt regime except the Second World War came along. Can you imagine if we had to purchase private land now -- which is very real political thing, it's not impossible at all -- we wouldn't have any logging of the redwoods right now, we wouldn't have all these things. We'd have a totally different situation. We can do this here again.

You have lots of strong urban centers where support comes from. So I would say let's take it back. Let's take it all back.

I think you have much going for you here. You have favorable politicians, which you don't have in the northwest. You have a long tradition of activism here in the northeast. You have lots of strong urban centers where support comes from. So I would say let's take it back. Let's take it all back. Let's take it back now and let's give it back to all the people. Let's right the old wrongs and make sure they never happen again. Thank you.

[Loud Applause]

Evans Responses During Question and Answers

ANDERSON -- I would like to ask Brock if he could tell me how we go about going to the Congress of the United States with -- we go through Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry I guess -- how we prepare a bill that would bring about the ownership, public ownership of the Dept. of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, of these 26 million acres of land. And would you be of assistance to us from the National Audubon Society since we've been assisting you with the ancient forests.

EVANS -- I'd do it anyhow because I care too about these forests. But the second part is easy. Of course, I and colleagues will.

The first part will be harder. And that is that, I would say that those who really want to protect these forests in New England need to sit down and get their own act together. What do they want. Do they want more of a process like Sandra is saying and maybe less protection. Do they want more protection, which areas, where, how, that sort of thing. Get some pretty good ideas of what you all want. Because only then can you go to Congress and I would be glad to -- my first recommendation is to decide basically what you want, if you can do that.

We had an Ancient Forest Alliance we formed in the northwest as you all know, some of you were involved in it. We had a hundred different groups from the British Columbia border all the way down to central California with very different ideas about what to do. We sort of fought it out. It took a long time to fight it out, but we did fight it out. We decided what we basically wanted. Some groups disagreed in the end and they just weren't part of the process anymore, but it was all democratic and all of that.

Then we'll go and see your Senators. Here you have -- we're lucky because we have good Senators in Maine. So far the New Hampshire Senators have been good on forest issues in at least my part of the world, maybe they won't be when they come to their part of the world, but you've got Patrick Leahy from Vermont who's chairman of the Senate Agriculture committee holding hearings on these things.

You have a terrifically, much easier situation if you can get your own act together. Get it together, let's go after a bill to purchase these forests lets say, or whatever it would be, or to purchase half and study the other half or to factor all these things in.

Then I would say, we won't worry about whether the legislation has a chance of passing now or not. I would agree with Stephen, the first time people see it they're gonna say this is impossible, we can't do that. We'd rather spend $65 billion on a stealth bomber [...unintelligible...] it's unheard of to spend $20 billion over 10 years on forests. But we change those impossibilities, that's all. Our whole business is changing impossibility. But that's how you do it. You get your own act together and then you've won.


EVANS [later near end] -- Basically the answer is that it would take a law to put these lands in public ownership. When there's a law it's passed by representatives of the public, your Senators and Congressmen, or your state legislators, it might be you town council. Therefore it's whatever the law says. If the law says the National Forest will be for logging, fine. The law can say part of it can be for logging part of it for bear dams and fishing streams, that'll be fine too. There's where you have your input in the hearings that led to the passage of the law. That's how it works.

I have to say though, after the discussion, I've changed my mind. I don't think New England is ready for any kind of these lands to happen in public ownership. I thought there was an urgency when I came here, but I don't think there's an urgency right now. People are saying the glass is half full, there's a lot left right now. We have to have a process to educate all the people up there before we do anything at all. As the gentlemen over here says, they don't even think there's a problem right now so if we're gonna try to educate people who don't think there's a problem anyhow, with the industry stacking the hearings right now. Frankly folk I don't think you're ready, I don't think you're ready to have anything in public ownership and I think you better go along with the education, but I thought there was an urgency. I thought these lands were being logged off right now.

Sandy criticized the Ancient Forest Campaign saying there was going to be very little left at the very end because it's being logged so fast. At the same time she wants to go through a -- I don't know, it's going to be a 5 or 10 year [loud squawk] -- Don't interrupt me. I [..unintelligible...] You always seem to interrupt everybody who speaks here -- You have to go through a 5 or 10 year process before we finally get anything done. We don't have -- if we don't have that time, we better get our act together. If we do have that time then we in the national groups can spend our time much better doing something else.

Note: This is a word-for-word trascript of a tape recording of Evan's speech at the conference for environmentalist activists. When it was released to the public Evans publicly denied his statements, which were intended to be shared by sympathetic environmentalist leaders, not heard by the general public.

Back to RIGHTS home page