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Celebrities and The Environment


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Carole King to Testify on Idaho Wilderness

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Carole King

To singer and environmental activist Carole King, a bill in Congress that aims to create more protected wilderness in Idaho doesn't go far enough in making sure the land is actually safe. So next week, she will head to Washington, D.C., to lobby against the legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

Has the Earth moved under her feet? "Any conservation group that tells you this is a wilderness bill, that's like saying a hand towel is the same as a blanket on a cold night," said the 63-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame grandmother, known for rock classics "So Far Away," "It's Too Late," "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman" and "I Feel the Earth Move."

Simpson's bill would set aside more than 300,000 acres in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains in central Idaho as new wilderness while giving local governments millions of dollars in compensation plus an estimated 6,000 acres in public land to develop as they see fit.

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Carole King

But King and other opponents, including a former Sawtooth National Recreation Area official also expected to testify, believe it is larded with provisions that threaten protection of the recreation area, a rugged 756,000-acre section of jagged peaks set aside for preservation by Congress in the 1970s.

King wants to protect a much vaster swath of the Northern Rockies including the Boulder and White Cloud areas in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming as federal wilderness. A bill called the Northern Rockies Prosperity Act sponsored by Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., that would do just that has 184 co-sponsors. Simpson's has one.

"I've told Carole, you can hold out for your bill until the cows come home, but it's not going to happen in our lifetime," said Simpson. "In politics, you learn to take what you can get when you can get it." But King argues Simpson's bill doesn't get enough for what it gives away.

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Rep. Mike Simpson

Besides privatizing 6,000 acres of public land and making $20 million in compensation payments to neighboring counties and towns, the Simpson wilderness bill does not reserve federal water rights in the protected areas, would allow motorized travel on many foot-traffic-only trails in the existing Sawtooth recreation area and would release 131,616 acres now being studied as potential wilderness for development or other non-wilderness uses.

"This is really the hinge of history in terms of the wilderness protection movement," King said. "If this goes through, we are well on our way to a new era of public land giveaways." Other opponents of the bill expected to testify include representatives of off-road vehicle enthusiasts and ranchers, while support is expected to come from representatives of the Idaho Conservation League and Custer County, where much of the wilderness would be established under Simpson's bill.

Simpson, who invited much of the witness list, acknowledges the critics may outnumber supporters at the hearing table. "I was just trying to be fair to people who had objections, but when I got through with the list, I was a little concerned that I have stacked it too much against me," Simpson said.

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Ted Danson Gives Attorney General Award

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Ted Danson

Actor Ted Danson and model Amber Valletta gave state Attorney General Bill Lockyer an environmental award for his efforts to enforce a California law requiring businesses to label potentially harmful foods. Appearing for the environmental group Oceana on Wednesday, October 18, Danson and Valletta also praised national food chain, Wild Oats Market.

Wild Oats Market was the first grocery chain in the country to voluntarily warn consumers about the risks of mercury in seafood. Danson and Valletta told a news conference outside a Wild Oats store they hoped to raise awareness about the dangers of mercury.

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Amber Valletta

"Most people don't know about it. It's not spoken about on TV, it's not in newspapers, it's not posted in shopping markets," Valletta said. "My mom didn't know. My friends I'll go to dinner and they won't know."

The federal government advises pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to avoid fish with high levels of mercury, including shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. Elevated mercury levels have been linked to learning disabilities and developmental delays in children and to heart, nervous system and kidney damage in adults.

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Cameron Diaz Surprises Stanford Class

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Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz surprised a class at Stanford University when the "Charlie's Angels" star helped lead a lecture on environmentally friendly design. Diaz's appearance Thursday, October 20 came as part of taping for an mtvU program called "Stand-In" in which celebrities teach a class. On Tuesday, October 18, Madonna lectured students at New York's Hunter College.

A champion of environmental causes, Diaz served as a sidekick for friend and renowned environmental architect William McDonough, a consulting professor at Stanford. "He's very charismatic, captivating," Diaz said of McDonough, who Time magazine once called "Hero for the Planet." "Bill is one of those people who is thinking big, but is also producing."

Students gasped and giggled when Diaz interrupted the class during McDonough's lecture, and later lined up to snap pictures with the actress on their cell phones. Diaz, 33, stars in the recently released "In Her Shoes."

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