From the rainforest …

The March issue of Smithsonian magazine has a long article telling that native people in the Amazon (Brazil’s wilderness rainforest) are joining forces with an embattled chief to stop illegal loggers and developers from destroying the earth’s most precious wilderness.

For the past 15 years, Almir Surui, a political activist, environmentalist and the first member of his Surui tribe to attend a university, has been fighting to save his people and the rainforest they inhabit in the western state of Rondonia.

The Surui are recording both their reserve’s natural and historical resources. Although Brazil protected indigenous territories in the 1980s, many miners and loggers ignore native boundaries; they see cultural mapping as a threat.

Although the removal of timber from the indigenous areas is illegal, an estimated 250 logging trucks go in and out of the reserve monthly, according to tribal leaders, providing timber to 200 saw mills, employing some 4,000 people scattered throughout the region. After Almir persuaded the chiefs to unite in a logging ban, many of them threw chains across logging roads, and the amount of timber leaving the rainforest has decreased.

This is a violent region, where even innocuous attempts to organize the Indians can provoke brutal responses from vested interests. In the past five years, 11 area tribal chiefs, including two members of the Surui tribe and nine from the neighboring Cinta Largas, have been gunned down – on orders, say tribe members, of loggers and miners who have plundered Indian reserves and who regard any attempt to unite as a threat to their livelihoods.

The stakes are high. If indigenous peoples disappear, environmentalists say, the Amazon rainforest will likely vanish, as well. Experts say as much as 20 percent of the forest sprawling over 1.6 million square miles and covering more than half of Brazil has already been destroyed. According to Brazil’s Environmental Ministry, deforestation in the Amazon in 2004 reached its second-highest rate ever, with ranchers, soybean farmers and loggers burning and cutting down 10,088 square miles of rainforest, an area roughly the size of Vermont.

Without the rainforest, these traditional cultures cannot survive. At the same time, indigenous people have repeatedly been shown to be the most effective guardians of the rainforest they inhabit.

With the encouragement of Almir and a handful of like-minded chiefs, the Surui have begun exploring economic alternatives to logging. Almir pointed out, to an interested group from the U.S., mahogany saplings that he has planted to replace trees cut down illegally. The Surui have also revived a field of shade-grown coffee started decades ago by white settlers. His “50-year plan” for Surui development, which he and other village chiefs drafted in 1999, calls for extraction of therapeutic oils from the copaiba tree, the cultivation of Brazil nuts and acai fruits and the manufacture of handicrafts and furniture. There is even talk about a “certified logging” program that would allow some trees to be cut and sold under strict controls. Profits would be distributed among tribe members and for every tree cut, a sapling would be planted.

Almir Surui is a very busy man, doing much traveling as part of his leadership. We hope that all goes well for him, and hope to read more about the Amazon rainforest in the future.

… to black bears …

There was a long and distressing article in the Aug. 2 New York Times about hungry bears in Tahoe City, Calif.

The Lake Tahoe area is experiencing a rise in home invasions by bears. Years of humans’ feeding bears and available garbage have urbanized black bears and a drought last winter has aggravated the problem. Some people fear that one of the measures intended to fend off the bears has actually helped increase the break-ins. Legislation has been pushed through to require bear boxes for garbage (locked metal containers) on new construction.

There are 250 to 500 bears around Tahoe, and everyone seems to have a bear story. Adult black bears can weight as much as 400 pounds, and while many have lost their fear of humans, they are capable on inflicting harm.

In the 17 years the Hyde family has lived at the edge of a national forest, bears have broken into their garage three times, but nothing prepared them for what they found in July, after returning from five days of wilderness camping. The front window of their sturdy mountain home had been smashed, and when Danny Hyde, a school principal, opened the front door, he discovered that a bear and two cubs had taken up residence. They were still inside, having ripped out cupboards, emptied the refrigerator and feasted on molasses, Fig Newtons, Thin Mints, Cool Whip, ice cream, honey and chicken chow mein. After Hyde yelled, they bolted out an open window. It took seven people five hours to shovel out the mess.

In an older house with wooden bars on windows and a radio blasting, bears plowed through the front door and left a calling card on the front stoop – a licked-clean container of Pillsbury chocolate frosting. At another house they clawed through a particle-board door and electrical wires, littering the property with discarded wrappers from M & Ms and other candies.

At lease three neighborhood families plan to give up their vacations to defend their homes. After the break-in at the particle-bard door, the owner had help from neighbors who screwed thick plywood to the gaping hole where bears had swiped the M & Ms. By morning there was a hole in the new plywood. The refrigerator door was ajar. The bears had returned.

What a story! I’ve been to Lake Tahoe, a beautiful place, but I’m glad I live in Portland, Maine.

… to birds

We received the May-June issue of “Guillemot” recently. It reported that the annual loon count was just being conducted. So we’ll look forward to the next issue for the count. We did report Aug. 2 that Watchic Lake in Standish is seeing them there this summer.

The newsletter did report many items of interest. A pair of mute swans are at Scarborough Marsh; there were reports of bald eagles across the entire state; several reports of whippoorwills in Maine excited birders, heard for the first time in years. A yellow-headed blackbird was reported at Scarborough Marsh in May but not seen again; and a brown pelican was seen June 17 in the vicinity of Harpswell, but never seen there again.

So keep reading. We expect to print more about the loon.

A big hit

Here is another recipe from October 1973. I wrote then that these bars were a big hit at a party for Portland Public Library librarians, given me by Bonnie Taylor, then head of the catalog Ddepartment.



1 cup flour

1/2 cup soft butter or margarine

3 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

Spread in 8-inch-by-8-inch greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.


1 eggs slightly beaten

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup coconut

3/4 cup walnuts

1/2 cup quartered maraschino cherries

Mix all these ingredients together. Spread on previously prepared and baked mixture. Bake an additional 25 minutes.

Let cool thoroughly before cutting into narrow bars.


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