the film
Commentaries and editorials

Gore: Vice President vs. the Candidate

by Craig Welch
Seattle Times - June 10, 2000

RICHLAND - Two hours after the Hanford Reach was designated a national monument, Al Gore bounced up the Columbia River, pointed to deer on cobblestone bars and floated briefly over salmon spawning beds before zipping off to tout his green credentials.

On his first Eastern Washington trip in four years, Vice President Gore took in one-sixth of the newly protected 51-mile stretch of river in 25 minutes before turning back to let Candidate Gore give a salmon-recovery speech that earned mixed reviews from its most attentive audience.

To environmentalists, the likely Democratic presidential nominee has a habit of not going far enough. Some hoped he would come out in support of removing dams to try to save salmon.

"It's wonderful that the vice president has recognized the value of the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia, but we are disappointed he has not seemed willing to show some leadership on the Snake River as well," said Lisa Andrews of Save Our Wild Salmon.

In a speech before some 300 people at the Tri-Cities campus of Washington State University, overlooking a section of the Columbia River, Gore made no mention of a controversial proposal to remove Snake River dams.

Instead, he echoed Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, saying, "Extinction is not an option," and said he would "bring together all interested parties to find a real solution."

"I reject both extremes," Gore said. "There's a better way."

Gore said he wanted to let science drive the salmon-recovery debate, but he offered no concrete strategies.

He said he wanted an answer that would protect industry, farmers and working people.

Environmentalists, who have met repeatedly with Gore in the past year to repair an on-again, off-again relationship, considered the proclamations an improvement, said Bill Arthur with the Sierra Club in Seattle.

Arthur is confident science will back dam removal, and that Gore, therefore, will eventually support removal as well.

"I'm sure people would have liked him to go further, but it's there in implication," Arthur said.

It was an awkward moment for Gore to take up the salmon vs. dams debate. County officials in the Tri-Cities opposed the Reach designation and view it as a loss of local control.

Area resident Pat Holden, a Gore opponent, saw irony in the vice president's promise to bring folks together within hours of the administration's unilateral move to preserve 200,000 acres.

"He says one thing and does another," she said.

Dan Smugs of the National BLM Wilderness Campaign said the Hanford Reach designation was commendable but a scattershot approach to other key issues. He wanted Gore to commit to protecting all roadless areas under the Bureau of Land Management; the Clinton administration has proposed protection for roadless areas under the U.S. Forest Service.

And Gerry Pollet, executive director of the Heart of America Northwest, said Gore needs to take a stand on proposals to restart the Fast Flux Test Facility on the Hanford nuclear reservation and to allow the site to be named a national nuclear-waste facility because he's in danger of losing state Democrats to Ralph Nader's presidential campaign in the Green Party.

"He can't be let off the hook for forever," said Pollet, who is also a delegate. "People say if he can't take a stand on this, they're going to Nader."

Still, other environmentalists are rallying around Gore. When he arrived in Seattle for a fund raiser, members of the Sierra Club held up signs thanking him.

Seattle Times staff reporters Dionne Searcey and David Postman contributed to this report.

Craig Welch
Gore: Vice President vs. the Candidate
Seattle Times, June 10, 2000

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation