Tuesday, Feb. 23, 1999 Exponent Editorial
It was a good week for the Blackwater; support still
Friends of Tucker County's
Blackwater Canyon heard plenty of good news last week.
First, bills were introduced in both the West Virginia House of Delegates
and in the Senate that would close loopholes in state regulations that
allowed Allegheny Power to sell much of the scenic Blackwater Canyon two
The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jon Blair
Hunter, D-Monongalia, would require Public Service Commission approval
for all land sales by a public utility - including sales made by out-of-state
Second, and perhaps best of all, Allegheny Wood
Products (AWP), the logging company that ended up owning much of the scenic
canyon sold by Allegheny Power, agreed to continue working with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and area environmental groups to protect endangered
wildlife in the canyon. In exchange, the firm won an agreement to drop
pursuit of a threatened lawsuit by the state chapter of the Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club had threatened the suit as a means of protecting four species
of threatened and endangered animals that live in the canyon.
A couple of thoughts on these issues:
Allegheny Wood Products owner John Crites took a
big step toward doing the right thing for the Blackwater River and West
Virginia when he signed the agreement that stopped the lawsuit. The Blackwater
Canyon is a unique and beautiful resource (even for West Virginia ) and
it would have been a tragedy had widespread logging been allowed to continue
While the agreement signed by Crites and the Sierra
Club will not put an end to logging in the canyon, the agreement does specify
that the logging firm will continue to work with the Fish and Wildlife
Service to protect endangered animals, and will notify the Sierra Club
in writing when it decides to resume logging. As part of the agreement,
Mr. Crites also promised to end current logging operations by the end of
March and will share environmental and management plans on future operations
with the Sierra Club.
However, despite this good faith, first step by
AWP, the battle to save Blackwater Canyon is not over Ñ the company
did not agree to give up logging in the canyon. This means that the Sierra
Club and other interested groups, like the Highlands Conservancy and West
Virginia Rivers Coalition, must remain vigilant.
Regarding the legislation offered last week to close
the loopholes in land sales laws for public utilities, we urge our region's
delegates and senators to support it.
Vast tracts of West Virginia land are owned by regulated
utility companies, including 20,000 to 25,000 acres owned by the out-of-state
based Allegheny Power. West Virginians must have a say in how these lands
will be developed or managed in the future.
Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial
board, which consists of William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser,
James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.
Tuesday, Feb. 23, 1999
Federal laws actually could be detrimental to fight
If America wants to reduce crime, Congress needs
to pass tough new federal laws, right? Wrong.
Congress has enacted a flood of federal criminal laws since 1970 and
they haven't worked. That's the conclusion of a task force sponsored by
the American Bar Association.
The task force spent two years preparing a report
called "Federalization of Criminal Law." Among its findings:
-Congress has been busy. Nearly one-half of federal crime laws enacted
since the Civil War have been enacted since 1970.
-States, not the federal government, do the vast majority of crime
fighting in America. Ninety-five percent of all prosecutions nationwide
are the result of state law enforcement.
- The new federal crime laws can actually harm the fight on crime by
keeping federal funds from going to state law enforcement, where the funds
can do the most good.
-The new federal laws can also harm the fight on crime by reducing
funds for federal law-enforcement work that is not duplicated by the states.
-Many of the new federal laws (the report cites laws on drive-by shootings,
interstate domestic violence, failure to report child abuse and murder
by escaped prisoners ) are rarely used. "Several recently enacted federal
statutes, championed by many because they would have a claimed impact on
crime, have hardly been used at all," the report says.
So why, then, has Congress been so eager to pass
new federal crime laws? The answer is simple: Congressmen are afraid of
appearing soft on crime. A heinous crime is committed; calls go out for
a new federal law to keep it from happening again, and Congress obliges,
even if there are already adequate state laws in place.
"There is an understandable pressure on Congress
not to vote against crime legislation even if it is misguided, unnecessary
and harmful," according to the ABA report. "But there must be a recognition
that a refusal to endorse a new federal crime is not a sign that a legislator
is soft on crime."
We suggest that every member of Congress have printed
in giant letters on his or her office wall the key conclusion of the ABA
report: "There is no persuasive evidence that federalization of local crime
makes the streets safer for American citizens."
Perhaps that would remind our congressmen that the
way to fight crime isn't to add to the federal bureaucracy, but to make
sure that state and local law-enforcement agencies have the resources needed
to do the best job they can.
Telegram Editorial Board member