Environmental News: Alligators, U.S. Post Office and Mineral Catch-22

Environmental news briefs on alligators, problems on the split estate, U.S. Post Office, a mineral Catch-22, and recommended eco reading.

| November/December 1986

MOTHER EARTH NEWS econotes covers environmental news briefs including problems on the split estate, the comeback of Southeast American alligators, the Presidio's U.S. Post Office and a mineral catch-22. 

Econotes: Environmental News

Problems on the "Split Estate"

An awkward situation exists on — and under — many of the nation's 425 national wildlife refuges. When the government acquired fully 80% of these areas — which it did mainly to protect birds and their feeding and breeding grounds — it did not at the same time acquire rights to any oil, gas, coal, or other minerals that may exist beneath the refuges. Why? The situation hasn't been thoroughly investigated, but the reason appears to be a combination of miserliness on the part of the feds and the assumption that the mineral deposits, if acquired, would eventually be leased back to commercial operators for exploitation anyway.

Whatever the reason, the potential for conflict is obvious. On the D' Arbonne National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Louisiana, for example, the company that owns rights to the gas beneath the refuge has flatly refused to abide by regulations the Fish and Wildlife Service issued to control surface damage. After a sticky series of lawsuits, a judge ruled that the company is right. The government first appealed but then backed down.

So for the moment the drilling company is free to blast its way through delicate refuge lands, knocking down trees used by endangered woodpeckers and playing hell with streams and meadows. It's a problem crying for attention.

What Post Office?

The Presidio of San Francisco is a U.S. Army base that lies within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a unit of the national park system. Established in 1972, the GGNRA is expected eventually to absorb the Presidio when the army no longer needs the base.

So it came as a surprise last fall when a sign went up on Crissy Field, an abandoned airstrip within the Presidio next to San Francisco Bay, announcing that a brand-new post office would soon rise on the site.

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