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Sierra Club says Many Plants, Animals in Trouble Since Days of Lewis and Clark

by Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press
Environmental News Network, April 5, 2002

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Many of the plants and animals first reported by the Lewis and Clark expedition nearly 200 years ago are on the decline in the West, the Sierra Club said Thursday.

Of the 122 animals discovered by Lewis and Clark, at least 40 percent are under a designation warranting concern and protection, the club said. "There is no better way to commemorate the upcoming Lewis and Clark bicentennial than to protect and restore wild America," said Mary Kiesau of the environmental group.

The report offered sweeping recommendations for preserving plants and animals, including greater use of federal designations to remove public lands from development, removal of Snake River dams, the halt of oil or gas drilling in sensitive areas, bans on construction of logging roads, and sharp restrictions on motorized vehicles.

The recommendations drew criticism from the Independence Institute of Golden, Colo., which promotes more use of public lands. "All they do is say no," said Dave Kopel of the institute. "The Sierra Club can't ever come up with any examples of any drilling, exploration, or resource extraction anywhere that it supports."

President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 sent Capts. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Corps of Discovery on an 8,000-mile round-trip journey across the West. They explored the region from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean.

Using the Lewis and Clark journals as a guide, the report tried to produce a snapshot of changes along the route covered by the corps from 1803-05. It is divided into three sections: Great North American Prairie, Northern Rockies, and Pacific Northwest.

Lewis and Clark described 178 plants and 122 animals new to science during their journey and recorded valuable information about previously known species. The journals provide the clearest record of the West's wildlands and wildlife before mass settlement, the report said, describing a time when massive bison herds shook the grasslands, salmon choked the Columbia River, and wolves roamed from North Dakota to California.

Things are different now, the report said:

There have been some success stories. Elk, beaver, and pronghorn antelope are far better off today than they were 100 years ago, the report said.

Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press
Sierra Club says Many Plants, Animals in Trouble Since Days of Lewis and Clark
Environmental News Network, April 5, 2002

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