Blast from the Past: NEC Round-up 1979 Sneak Preview

Editor’s note: At the NEC office, we have copies of nearly all issues of EcoNews that have been produced since the early 1970s. This library documents environmental issues in our bioregion and the activities of conservationists over time, providing a valuable historic overview. We feel it’s insightful to share historic timecapsules with you. 

The following provides a glimpse of many issues of note in 1978 and 1979 (forty years ago) during this time of year.





This article excerpt is reprinted from the January 1979 issue of EcoNews. 

Cover of the January 1979 EcoNews.
Cover of the January 1979 EcoNews.

Season’s greetings! As we close out 1978, I think it would be good to conjecture, fantasize, and otherwise look forward to the year ahead.

1979 will be the International Year of the Child (IYC), by resolution of the UN General Assembly, to focus activities around the world on the needs of young people. Diverse groups will join hands to raise people’s consciousness regarding the world’s 1.5 billion youngsters (under 10). The goal is to put children at the center of world concern.

Here at the NEC we now have a committee of one which we hope will grow into a meaningful part of the international effort. I invite you all to think of ways in which we can protect this most precious natural resource.

Meanwhile other decisions in 1979 will have implications for future generations of children.


In a protein-short world, decisions that affect the productivity of fishery resources are of critical concern. In the year ahead, we will see continued tightening of regulations governing the salmon fishery: commercial, sport, and Native American.

The question all of those groups will be asking ever more frequently is when will the destruction of the salmon breeding habitat be stopped?  The answer is likely to produce new alliances among fishermen, fish, and conservationists.

Cover of the December 1978 EcoNews.
T01he cover of the December 1978 EcoNews featured the design of the NEC’s Snail Darter baseball team jersey. NEC staff have been bouncing around the idea of doing a limited edition run of Snail Darter t-shirts just for fun! If you would be interested in an NEC t-shirt with the vintage Snail Darters logo, send an email to indicating your support for the idea!


On the beach, the NEC will begin a project to clean and restore the seashore of Humboldt County. This project is intended to link up with the Point Reyes Bird Observatory’s beached bird survey and the California Marine Mammal Center’s distressed marine mammal project.

Also in the coastal zone will  be Sen. Barry Keene’s proposed reduction in coastal zone boundaries and the continuation by local governments of bringing planning documents into compliance with the 1976 Coastal Act, thus leading to the extinction of regional coastal commissions.


The Woodley Island marina project will go forward this year, as may the Fields Landing navigation channel improvement project proposed by the Corps of Engineers. This project would disturb or destroy some of the eel grass beds upon which the black brant depend.

Arcata Little League supporters may still be looking for a site suitable for the planting of a ballpark, as the State Coastal Commission will soon decide the appeal of the regional commission’s approval of the facility in the Coastal Zone on agricultural land.

Land Trust

1979 will be a fledgling year for the Humboldt Land Trust, which is Trinidad area residents’ answer to state proposed acquisition of a number of coastal properties to protect their unique resources.


Problems surrounding the Humboldt Bay Wastewater Authority’s regional sewer system may have been resolved. For a good treatment (pardon the pun) of alternative methods, see the Army Corps of Engineers summer ’78 issue of Water Spectrum.


As the October issue of the Conservation Foundation’s Letter reports: “Efforts to save wetlands are bogged down.” Bogged down closer to home are efforts to protect Del Norte County’s Lake Earl, which is an important refuge for thousands of waterfowl and many other nongame species.


Out of the Coastal Zone but still not out of the woods, forestry issues aren’t likely to be resolved early or easily—and there is a full slate of them.

At the top of the list is RARE II. Nationally there are 2,700 roadless areas in National Forests. Having received some 264,000 “inputs,” the Forest Service will now make recommendations to Congress regarding their wilderness potential. The forestry industry lobbying groups are making RARE II a priority item in this year’s crusades.

Also being released soon is the Six Rivers National Forest timber harvest scheduling study. As you may recall, a provision of the Redwood National Park expansion legislation called for studying possible increased cuts on local National Forests to offset the effects of Park expansion.

Industry lobbyists had argued that Congress should increase the cut by 400 million board feet—and so Congress directed the Forest Service to study that option and report back. Some pretty high-powered thinkers were sent in to tinker with the problem, and the results—which should be available in March—could be interesting.

Some conservationists are concerned that Congress may have created the functional equivalent of spending hundreds of millions of dollars, if not a billion, for a largely cutover redwood park, while trading off the North Coast’s last wilderness areas and wild rivers.


Other legislation expected to have major implications is the proposed reorganization of the Interior Department and the revision of the 1872 Mining Act. What is proposed is the creation of a Natural Resources Super-Agency by taking the Bureau of Land Management and putting it in the Forest Service, and then sticking the Forest Service into Interior.

The proposal also calls for putting the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers all into Interior too.

The California legislature may have to deal with the results of the State Department of Food and Agriculture study and recommendations on pesticide use. The study documents what many environmentalists have known for years: the direct correlation between pesticide use and nervous disorders of skin and disease.

The legislature also has before it a proposal to repeal the 1976 Nuclear Safeguard Act—passed under the threat of Proposition 15, which would have banned construction of nuclear power plants. Now nuclear interests and the utilities are working to have the act deep-sixed.


The timber industry is likely to appeal a water quality ruling banning any trace of 2,4,5-T in rivers or streams. Also an EPA study of 2,4,5-T will come to a conclusion, and pending permits to apply 2,4-D are already being challenged by rural residents worried about their water.

Smith River

The proposed Smith River waterway management plan is about to be released for public comment. Conservationists will be working to achieve maximum protection of the watercourse, and logging interests will work overtime to gut the plan. The Smith is the only major undammed river in California.

As for dams, California reservoirs are filled to 127 percent of average throughout the state. A little over a year ago, they were at record lows.

Agricultural interests in the southern San Joaquin Valley would dearly love to have the Eel watering their sagebrush. So pray for rain.

And pray too that we all will be up to the work ahead in what shapes up as a busy year.

[Editor’s note: This wish still applies! May we all be up to the work ahead in these very challenging times.]