Priests preach to the choir: Protect the Columbia

  The Roman Catholic Church isn't traditionally considered the home of radical greens. But 12 bishops from the Pacific Northwest and Canada have jumped into the environmental fray, and in late February, they released a long-awaited and controversial pastoral letter about the Columbia River (HCN, 9/11/00: Holy water). The letter, nourished by three years of discussion and interviews with nearly 2,000 Columbia River Basin residents, urges Catholics and all "people of good will" to accept responsibility for the sick river, stop fighting over dam breaching and work together to heal the region. The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good recommends limiting motorized recreation in the watershed, implementing alternative energy like wind and solar power, working with Native peoples to resolve treaty rights, and encouraging rural and urban planners to limit sprawl. Many tribal groups and greens criticized earlier drafts of the letter for not recommending dam breaching, but the bishops say the region is not ready for such a unilateral answer. "To force a consensus that doesn't exist seems wrong," says John Reid, spokesman for the pastoral letter project. While local tribes remain disappointed by that, "this letter is full of positive things and is a complete paradigm shift for the Catholic Church," says Jeremy FiveCrows of the Nez Perce tribe. Read the 18-page letter online at or order it for $4 by calling 206/301-0556.
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