environment and natural resources

Wolves in Yellowstone may aid aspen recovery

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A new study suggests that the decline of aspen groves in Yellowstone National Park during much of the past century may be at least partly due to the absence of wolves.

The loss of native aspen groves in Yellowstone and other areas of the Rocky Mountains is reaching crisis proportions, experts say, having declined as much as 50-90 percent in certain areas.

Now, scientists have outlined in more detail the magnitude of the aspen decline in Yellowstone National Park, and developed a new theory for the tree's decline within the park. It links those declines to the loss of wolves, a key predator species, and their interactions with elk and bear populations.

The study was done by Eric Larsen, with the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University, and William Ripple, professor of forestry and director of the OSU Environmental Remote Sensing Applications Laboratory. It was just published in the journal Biological Conservation.

"This hypothesis is not yet proven, and we're working closely now with National Park Service biologists in more than 115 permanent research plots to test the theory," Larsen said. "What is clear is that the wolves disappeared during the same era that the successful development of mature aspen stands ground to a halt."

The loss of aspen, scientists say, is an ecological crisis that's poorly appreciated by much of the public.

Aspen not only adds scenic beauty to the landscape with their rich golden fall color, but they are often the only significant hardwood present in these conifer-dominated ecosystems. Groves of aspens, which are biologically rich with herbs, shrubs, insects, birds and berries, offer a diversity of plant and animal life often exceeded only in riparian zones in the mountain West.

Using historic documents, aerial photographs, and dendrochronological, or tree ring dating techniques, Ripple and Larsen determined that Yellowstone Park aspen successfully recruited tree-sized aspen into their overstory from about 1751 to 1928, but have been unable to do so since. Various theories have been proposed to explain the lack of aspen overstory recruitment in Yellowstone since the 1920s, including the effects of fire suppression and a trend towards a warmer and drier climate. A key factor on which virtually all scientists agree is that elk browsing has had a major effect on suppressing the growth of young aspen in Yellowstone.

"During winter, elk browse off the aspen suckers, preventing them from growing to a full tree height," Larsen said. "But elk have been in this ecosystem for centuries, so the question becomes why are the aspen declining only now?"

One answer is that due to their protected status, elk populations may now be unusually high. However, there may be additional factors other than just the total number of elk present.

"The difference between the effect of elk on aspen now, compared to periods prior to 1900, may be a reflection of both their population levels and their behavior," Ripple said "Foraging behavior of elk may be influenced by the risk of predation on them."

Wolves are a natural elk predator, the OSU researchers say. Wolf packs not only lower the overall elk population, but may also change elk behavior by their very presence. Elk avoid areas frequented by wolves, which can include aspen thickets, and protect themselves by staying in open areas. By influencing both the total number and foraging behavior of elk, the wolf packs may historically have prevented extensive elk browsing in some of Yellowstone's aspen stands.

Seen as a threat to local herds of elk and bison, the wolves in and near Yellowstone Park were eliminated by 1926. By counting the annual growth rings on a sample of Yellowstone Parks' aspen trees, the OSU research has determined that the 1920s were also the last decade in which aspen overstory trees were able to regenerate.

"When the wolves were eliminated the aspen overstory began to decline, and young trees were unable to join the mature overstory," Larsen said. "Prior to the elimination of the wolf, we documented successful aspen regeneration for a period of at least 170 years."

The ecological link between wolves, elk and aspen is being tested with continued research in Yellowstone Park. The study is comparing aspen growth and survival rates both inside and outside the territories of Yellowstone's wolf packs. The researchers will acquire data on the amount of elk use of those areas and its effect on aspen growth.

This project and others are part of a larger "Aspen Project" at OSU, focusing on the condition of aspen throughout the western United States and Canada. More information can be obtained on the Internet.

"This is one of the most important tree species in these ecosystems," Larsen said. "And in the fall it provides much of the natural beauty in the Yellowstone forests. We have to determine what is happening to these trees and what we can do to prevent their decline."

Story By: 

Bill Ripple, 541-737-3056

Multimedia Downloads

Aspens in Yellowstone National Park

A withering stand of aspen in Yellowstone National Park reflect a phenomenon that researchers from Oregon State University believe is now far more widespread - the loss of wolves in the American West leading to the decline of tree and stream ecosystems.

Urban traffic congestion linked to "arterial" access

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Many of the "arterial" roads in America's urban areas are not functioning properly due to the poor location or design of access roads, experts say, and steps are urgently needed to recognize the seriousness of this problem and take steps to address it.

Some of that work is already underway in Oregon.

Recent research by engineers at Oregon State University, in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Transportation, has helped inject modern traffic science into decisions that often in the past were based on arbitrary estimates or may not have adequately considered our exploding traffic levels.

This issue is a concern of local businesses, developers and the traveling public, said Bob Layton, a professor in the OSU Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. The need is to balance ready access to businesses with driving efficiency, safety and convenience. And the significance of the problem, Layton said, is the reason that experts from all over the United States will be meeting Aug. 13-16 in Portland, Ore., to consider the problems in a conference titled "Taking Access Management into the New Millenium."

"Uncontrolled access to arterial streets can cause the traffic flow to break down, congestion to become almost intolerable and local businesses to suffer," Layton said. "As traffic engineers we've now developed some good tools and knowledge to help address this problem, but we have to convince both travelers and business owners that access management is good for everyone."

At the moment the effective functioning of arterial streets, which are the major connection between freeways and residential streets, are the critical link in our automotive transportation systems, Layton said.

"It's essential that we have an integrated surface street system with all types of roads, ranging from residential streets to high capacity freeways, that move traffic with safety, speed and economy," Layton said. "Right now the biggest concerns are with the urban arterials, and how well they operate is dramatically influenced by how access to them is managed."

Arterial streets in which access locations, spacing and design are not managed can result in delays, congested traffic, accidents and uneconomic public investment.

There are ways to address this, Layton said, such as controlling driveway access from stores or homes, improving the design of that access, installing medians to control where drivers make left turns, creating an adequate supporting surface street system, and providing appropriate turn lanes.

The impacts are serious. When a driver slows to about five miles per hour to turn into a driveway, while the rest of the traffic on the road is moving at 45 miles per hour, studies show the accident potential goes up by about 200 times. Every additional stop a driver has to make per mile raises fuel consumption by 20 percent and exhaust emissions by up to 50 percent. And 70 percent of all accidents at intersecting roadways are caused by drivers turning left.

According to Layton, some concepts developed in recent years have been touted as a panacea to arterial congestion, such as the two-way left turn lanes located as the "center" lane in a five-lane road. And those ideas can work, he said, up to a point.

"Research has found that two-way left turn lanes are effective only up to a certain level of traffic volume," Layton said. "After that there aren't enough gaps in oncoming traffic to use them safely. And people start to use gaps that are too short, an illegal and dangerous maneuver, as a way of getting onto a crowded road."

The approaches and criteria for access management that OSU researchers have developed and scientifically supported include optimal driveway spacing, appropriate use of medians, appropriate signalized intersection spacing, left and right turn lane standards and management of interchange areas. These are already being implemented around the state by the Oregon Department of Transportation and attracting interest from other states, he said.

"There's concern from business owners that controls on access are a threat to business," Layton said. "But in reality effective access management can set the stage for successful businesses, because people will more often use streets that allow them to get safely, quickly and economically get where they want to go. And conversely, they avoid locations with overly-congested roads or intersections."

The Portland conference next week is the fourth annual conference on access management, Layton said, attracting traffic experts from all over the nation who increasingly realize that dysfunctional arterials are a key problem in our congested urban traffic crisis.

"Traffic experts have known about this issue for some time, and we've recently made strides in making our analyses and standards even more scientific and rational," Layton said. "Now we have to work with city planners, business owners and the public to make the changes necessary to keep traffic moving. It won't always be easy but it can be done."

Story By: 

Robert Layton, 541-737-4980

Master Gardener program recognizes exemplary volunteers

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two Oregonians have been selected to receive statewide awards for their work with the Oregon State University Master Gardener program, and 25 individuals have been recognized as county Master Gardeners of the year.

Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who share with the people of Oregon their knowledge of sustainable gardening and OSU resources in home horticulture, according to Gail Langellotto, OSU Extension urban and community horticulture specialist and statewide coordinator of the Master Gardener Program. More than 3,500 people across the state have become OSU Master Gardeners.

Betty Faller from Tumalo is the 2009 Oregon Master Gardener of the Year, awarded for her outstanding and unusual service to the program and her community as a volunteer. Faller has been a Master Gardener 11 years and coordinated the Hollinshead Community Garden for three years. She also established a garden at Healy Heights Transitional housing apartment complex for homeless and low-income families.

She has served as the central Oregon Master Gardener state representative to the Oregon Master Gardener Association and is first vice president.

Rocky Bessette of Redmond received the "Behind the Scenes" statewide award for quiet and unselfish support to the community and local chapter or the Oregon Master Gardener Association as a volunteer. Bessette has amassed more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service over 11 years. She has served as secretary of the Central Oregon Master Gardener Association for seven years, newsletter editor for three years and mentor to new trainees for 10 years.

The awards are sponsored by the Oregon Master Gardener Association in cooperation with OSU Extension's Master Gardener program.

County Master Gardeners of the Year are:

Benton County: Kathy Butler, Kathleen Coleman and Kathi Tucker Central Oregon (Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson counties): Chris Miao Clackamas County: Herb Davis Clatsop County: Jane Donnelly Columbia County: Sheryl Putnam Coos County: Janne White Curry County: Tom Lewis Douglas County: Larry Sutton Central Gorge (Hood River County): Cindy Collins Jackson County: Clarence Wood Josephine County: Craig and Pattye Ingram Klamath County: Starr Cordy Lane County: Dianne Twete Lincoln County: Claudette Schroeder Linn County: Sheryl Casteen Marion County: Carol Horning Multonomah County: Sharon Baker Tillamook County: Jean Scholtz Umatilla County: Annette Frye Wasco County: Charlotte Link Washington County: Anna Stubbs and Carol Ross Yamhill County: Patti Gregory


Gail Langellotto

Risser-chaired panel recommends science "czar" for EPA

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A National Research Council committee chaired by Oregon State University President Paul Risser is recommending stronger scientific leadership and oversight at the Environmental Protection Agency.

In its report, the committee says that the EPA has become primarily a regulatory agency without a science mission, like the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation.

Yet in its strategic plan, the EPA acknowledges that environmental protection efforts need to be "based on the best available scientific information." And, Risser points out, "sound science" is one of the agency's avowed goals.

"The EPA has a director and it has legal and operational directors, but it has no high-level research advisers," Risser said. "The creation of such a top-level science adviser, or 'research czar,' if you will, would provide some much-needed accountability. There is suspicion by some people that EPA rules are promulgated by regulations and convenience more than by the best available science."

Risser was chosen to chair the Committee on Research and Peer Review in the EPA by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. Committee members included scientists, educators, and administrative leaders from top research universities, government agencies and private industry.

The committee's recommendation to establish a new position at EPA - deputy administrator for science and technology - would require authorization from Congress, appointment by the President, and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Risser said the deputy administrator would help identify and define important scientific issues for the EPA, develop and oversee strategies to both acquire and disseminate the best scientific information, improve the scientific outreach and communication efforts of the agency, and coordinate scientific quality control and peer-review efforts.

"The EPA has done a lot of good work for a long time, but it's path as a regulatory agency has, perhaps, diverged a bit too far from the scientific foundation that it needs," Risser said. "As we began the review, the agency understandably was a bit resistant, as are most people when asked to do things differently.

"But as they began to see the potential benefits of what the committee is proposing, they have been very supportive," he added.

The committee made a series of other recommendations as well. They include:

  • Require more independent peer-review for scientific research.


  • Empower the directors of individual research labs within EPA to have a higher degree of autonomy and decision-making ability, as well as accountability.


  • Continue to place a high priority on graduate fellowships and post-doctoral programs.


  • Create the equivalent of endowed academic research chairs in national laboratories.


  • Encourage more cooperation with - and awareness of - the scientific and research enterprises of universities, private industry and other government agencies.


  • Convert the position of assistant administrator for research and development to a statutory term of 4-6 years, and require more scientific, technological and academic qualifications.

The EPA has a lab in Corvallis on the OSU campus that may be affected by some of the recommendations. A program to provide national endowed research chairs could include one at the OSU lab, which Risser said earns high marks in its evaluation.

"The lab here is regarded as one of the best in terms of quality," Risser said.

Risser praised the EPA for its work in measuring air pollution and constructing long-term models of pollution patterns and their effects. He added that the agency needs more scientific exploration into chemical derivatives of pesticides, especially "endocrine disruptors"; global change issues; ecosystems; and disease vectors.

Story By: 

Paul Risser, 541-737-4133


CORVALLIS - The biggest new threat to America's drinking water supplies - nonpoint source pollution - is documented in a new half-hour educational video released by the Oregon State University Extension Service.

"We All Live Downstream" explores urban and rural runoff and the problems it creates for surface and groundwater.

Nonpoint source pollution is carried by rain and irrigation that runs off farms, forests and city streets. It flows from construction sites, mines and septic systems and just about everywhere, experts say. As a national problem, it has surpassed "point source pollution," which involved industry and sewage treatment waste entering rivers, lakes and streams at specific points.

After two decades of cleanup, America's point source pollution is largely under control.

"We All Live Downstream" was shot primarily in Oregon's Tualatin River basin, but Ron Miner, OSU Extension water quality specialist, says its subject matter has implications for most every watershed in the country.

"This video should interest anyone who is concerned about healthy watersheds and clean water supplies," said Miner. "It examines how Oregon residents and government officials are trying to reduce nonpoint source pollution, and offers a variety of tips that can help Americans protect their drinking water sources."

"We All Live Downstream" (VTP 021) costs $30 (including shipping) and may be ordered by mail from: Publications Orders, Agricultural Communications, Oregon State University, A422 Administrative Services Building, Corvallis, OR 97331-2119.


Ron Miner, 541-737-6295

Japanese agreement with OSU lab paves way for smoother trade of straw

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Straw from tall fescue and perennial ryegrass that has been tested for alkaloid toxicity at Oregon State University’s Endophyte Testing Laboratory – and is below the threshold considered harmful to livestock – can be traded directly to Japan without further testing.

An agreement was reached this week between representatives of the Food and Agricultural Materials Inspection Center in Japan and the OSU laboratory, operated by the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Essentially, it means that we are like an extension of a FAMIC laboratory,” said A. Morrie Craig, a professor of veterinary medicine at OSU and director of the Endophyte Testing Laboratory. “This will make it easier for Northwest grass seed growers to market the straw left over after harvesting the grass seed – and it’s a clean industry.”

In 1998, Japan temporarily refused shipments of straw from Oregon after the deaths of dairy and beef cattle were traced to toxins produced by endophyte, a fungus bred into perennial ryegrass and tall fescue to promote hardiness and disease-resistance. Unfortunately, when stressed, the endophyte produces alkaloids such as Ergovaline and Lolitrem B, which can be toxic to livestock at certain levels.

“The trend has been to produce grasses with higher endophyte levels because they are so good for lawns and golf courses,” Craig said. “And that can create a problem when you’re trying to market the straw.”

Craig and his colleagues at OSU and within the grass seed industry developed a program to test Oregon straw for endophyte and alkaloid levels and initiated a protocol they called “Solution by Dilution,” which mixed alkaloid-free straw with straw that contained high levels of alkaloids to bring the overall levels down to a safe threshold.

For the past decade, Japan has been accepting Oregon straw – only after it has been rigorously tested by one of its six FAMIC labs. Straw sent to the OSU lab for testing has been retested in Japan. Now the lab protocols – and results – are close enough for the Japanese agency to accept OSU test results, Craig said.

The OSU lab tests about 3,700 samples each year and in the process has developed the kind of “traceability” system that Japan requires and the United States is trying to emulate.

“What has happened during the past 10 years is that we have learned a lot about endophytes and alkaloids,” Craig said. “Endophyte levels are influenced by the variety of grass, geographic location, soil types, precipitation and when that precipitation occurs. As the plant is stressed, it produces alkaloids and that process also has a lot of variability.

“The ‘Solution by Dilution’ method has been working, but it always has been considered a short-term solution,” Craig added. “We’re working on a long-term solution that would make all Oregon straw safe to eat for livestock.”

OSU has received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop that solution, which Craig said is modeled after an effort to make cattle less susceptible to tansy ragwort, a weed that produces toxins that can be deadly to livestock. The solution, he said, may be in developing a feed supplement that includes the type of microbes that essentially destroy the toxins.

Keeping cattle safe from endophyte-triggered toxicity is no small matter. Some 55 percent of the fiber diet of Japan’s prized Kobe beef comes from Northwest straw. Each year, Oregon and Washington ship 33,000 containers of compressed straw to Japan and Korea.

The Pacific Northwest grows about 70 percent of the seed for the cool season grasses in the world, and OSU’s Endophyte Testing Laboratory has begun to develop guidelines for endophyte and alkaloid levels for each of the 100 or so varieties of perennial ryegrass and tall fescue.

More information about the laboratory is available at: http://oregonstate.edu/endophyte-lab/. Additional information on endophyte toxins can be found in an OSU Extension publication (EM 8598), available online at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/em/em8598-e.pdf


Story By: 

Morrie Craig, 541-737-3036 

Multimedia Downloads


OSU student worker Dustin Galbreith runs through some of the protocols for the university’s Endophyte Testing Laboratory for Toshiaki Hayakawa, director of the lab division for Japan’s Food and Agricultural Materials Inspection Center (FAMIC) and his colleagues, Akiko Takahashi and Yukinobu Hakamura. (photo courtesy of OSU’s Jill Bartlett)


MONMOUTH - Free water testing, food, entertainment, art projects, well drilling demonstrations, more than 1,000 involved students and many other activities will be part of the Children's and Community Groundwater Festival on Friday, April 12, at Western Oregon State College.

This festival, which is the featured event of the Oregon Groundwater Awareness Week proclaimed by Gov. Kitzhaber from April 8-14, is free and open to the public.

Student activities will be held early in the day and everyone is welcome at the Community Festival from 4-8 p.m., at the Werner College Center, corner of Monmouth and Church Street in Monmouth.

"Creating public awareness of the need to protect groundwater is one of the key goals of the Groundwater Festival," said Loretta Brenner, coordinator of the Groundwater Community Involvement Program in the Oregon Water Resources Research Institute at Oregon State University.

"Contaminated groundwater is difficult, costly, and sometimes impossible to clean up," Brenner said. "The festival offers tips on what home owners, farmers, businesses, students and communities can do to reduce the chance of contamination. It should be fun and the activities relevant to both rural and urban residents."

With a "hands-on" emphasis in the children's part of the festival, about 1,000 Oregon students and teachers will learn about water resources and pollution prevention as they tour a well drilling rig, create a group art project, take a TapWater Tour, and build a groundwater model for their classrooms. Winning entries in the student groundwater poster competition will also be on display.

Other activities during the community part of the festival include

  • Free testing of well or tap water for nitrate pollution
  • Well maintenance, wellhead protection and drilling displays
  • Booths, displays and workshops on prevention of groundwater contamination, septic systems, water conservation and other topics
  • Door prizes, entertainment and a pasta buffet from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m., cost $3.

More than 70 percent of Oregonians are at least partially dependent on groundwater for their drinking water, Brenner said, and in many rural areas groundwater is the only drinking water source.

Nitrates from fertilizers, gasoline, industrial solvents, household chemicals, pesticides and bacteria all pose threats to the state's groundwater supplies, she said.

Information on Oregon's Voluntary Wellhead Protection Program will be featured at this event and community representatives are encouraged to attend.

The festival co-sponsors include the Oregon Groundwater Community Involvement Program, Oregon Children's Groundwater Festival, and Western Oregon State College.

Activities are supported by several other state universities, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Health Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Extension service, water conservation districts, water resources departments, city and county governments and other agencies.

Anyone who is interested in getting a free water test for nitrate contamination should:

    1) Collect the sample the day of the event and keep it cool.
    2) Rinse out a clean pint size container or jar several times and let air dry.
    3) Let tap water run for several minutes to flush out the line.
    4) Fill the jar and cap tightly.
    5) Attach a label to the jar including name, address, phone number; township, range and section numbers found on property tax statements; and whether the water is from a private well or public water supply.

More information on water testing or other activities can be obtained by contacting Brenner at the Oregon Water Resources Research Institute at OSU, telephone 541-737-4022; or Julie Magers at the Children's Groundwater Festival, telephone 503-725-8288.

Story By: 

Loretta Brenner, 541-737-5736

Riparian zones recover quickly after fire, need little management

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Riparian zones in many Pacific Northwest forests return to health fairly quickly after forest fires and may eventually provide the same ecosystem services and largely the same species mix, with little need for replanting or management, a new study from Oregon State University concludes.

It has been long understood, researchers say, that riparian areas are among the most important features of the forest: They harbor multiple species, a broad range of plants and trees, provide clean water, and are a key part of both the terrestrial and aquatic food chain. The shade from overhanging trees helps cool streams and nurture fisheries. Because of that, it has often been believed that after a fire they required special attention to prevent erosion and streambed damage, and were often targeted for that.

The new research concludes that the streams often do just fine on their own, and surprisingly quickly.

“In the past, most studies of streams after fire looked only at the short-term effect on fisheries,” said David Hibbs, a professor in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. “And there was a risk-averse approach to streams after fire, because we knew how important they were. So they were often managed fairly heavily after a fire, without a lot of evidence it was really necessary.”

The new study, just published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, focused on areas burned in the 2002 Biscuit Fire in southwest Oregon and the 2003 B&B Complex Fire in the central Oregon Cascade Range. Areas were studied at two- and four-year intervals after they burned, to measure the amount of vegetation and streamside recovery.

“Other studies have observed that in some cases trees and shrubs were sprouting almost immediately after the fire, within two weeks,” said Jessica Halofsky, a lead author on this study, formerly an OSU doctoral student and now a research ecologist with the University of Washington. “That’s really amazing. And fireweed moved in very quickly to provide shade, cover and bank stability.”

After that, residual live trees dropped seed in following years, leading to pulses of tree seedling development. As often occurs after a fire, there was some heavier stream flow and higher rates of flooding for a period, which caused some erosion and sediment movement.

Some fire effects are temporarily harmful to salmon and other fish species, other studies have found, but in the long run highly positive. Post-fire flooding scours streams and moves sediment around, creating new and clean gravel beds, new inputs of large woody debris, and in general helps to rejuvenate the long-term health of the stream for fish spawning and survival. Hardwoods such as alder that can fix nitrogen, an important forest nutrient, may also play a role in riparian zone recovery.

The natural tree reproduction in and near the riparian zones was impressive – in streams in the B&B Complex Fire, four years after the fire, there were more than 27,000 seedlings per acre. And the study indicated that the mix of species would ultimately resemble what it was before the fire, more hardwoods such as red alder near the streambank and on the flood plain of larger streams, more conifers as you got further away from the stream and higher in elevation near its headwaters.

“The species mix seems to be largely dictated, in the long run, by the hydrology of the local area, not so much the fact that a fire came through,” Hibbs said.

The study also concluded that the tree mortality after a fire was about the same in riparian zones as in the surrounding uplands. However, due to the higher moisture level in riparian soils, there was more organic matter left on the forest floor near streams to help stabilize soil, retain nutrients and result in less exposed mineral soil.

“Generally, this research suggests that a lot of post-fire rehabilitation in riparian zones isn’t necessary following most fires,” Halofsky said. “The cover, stream shade and recovery of plant and animal species occurs rather quickly, without management. These are very resilient ecosystems.”


Story By: 

David Hibbs, 541-737-6077

Multimedia Downloads

B&B Complex Fire

Two years after the B&B Complex fire, vegetation and resprouting hardwoods in riparian areas are already providing stream bank stabilization and erosion control, even in areas with widespread canopy mortality

Biscuit Fire

A red alder seedling is coming up two years after the Biscuit Fire

Biscuit Fire 2

Nearby, riparian vegetation has adapted to disturbances and flooding fairly quickly in its recovery after the fire


CORVALLIS - A new study has found that American attitudes toward illegal aliens in the United States are built upon the same variables that fuel prejudice against African Americans, homosexuals and other minorities.

The strongest, most common variable among people who have negative feelings toward these groups is "authoritarianism," according to Knud S. Larsen, a professor of psychology at Oregon State University and principle investigator in the study.

"These people are generally submissive to authority, preoccupied with status, preoccupied with conventional middle class values, and they persistently denigrate minorities," Larsen said. "They make their way through society by conforming and they have a very jaundiced eye toward those who do not conform."

An estimated 500,000 illegal aliens enter the country each year and the increasing numbers have prompted both political rhetoric and legislative action. In 1994, California voters passed Proposition 187, which sought to eliminate welfare, and other medical and social benefits for illegal aliens.

Other, more spontaneous responses from individuals have ranged from name calling to violence.

Larsen said racism and other forms of prejudice increase during times of economic strife in society. Social psychologists refer to the phenomenon as the frustration-aggression hypothesis or, more commonly, "scapegoating."

Scapegoating, he points out, is a convenient way to vent anger without taking on the real problem.

"Rather than deal with the trials and tribulations of our complex and often frustrating economic system, certain people target and blame minorities and the focus now is on illegal aliens," Larsen said.

Larsen said there often is an element of justification behind the attitudes - in the case of illegal aliens, the fear that our society is not equipped to handle a huge, comparatively sudden influx of additional people.

But, he added, negative attitudes toward aliens do little to address the problem.

"People see illegal aliens as a growing threat, not just in the U.S., but in Europe," Larsen said. "However, instead of dealing with the issue rationally (and through due process), the responses have included an increase of Neo-Nazism in Germany and a rise among the radical right wing in France."

The OSU study found attitudes toward illegal aliens were strongest on issues of access to U.S. borders and American payment for the care and education of illegal aliens. One of the strongest perceptions, Larsen said, is that illegal aliens cost the U.S. millions and millions of dollars each year.

"Other studies have shown that, overall, illegal aliens contribute more in economic worth than they cost," Larsen said.

The issue of what to do about illegal aliens won't go away, Larsen pointed out, and it likely will escalate.

"There are people all over the world right now, living more or less in crisis," he said. "They can't make enough to buy food, or there isn't enough food to eat. Or the government cannot provide the services that the citizens think it should.

"Those are dangerous times," Larsen added. "That is when fascism can rear its ugly head."

Story By: 

Knud Larsen, 541-737-1365


CORVALLIS - Music, speakers and how-to demonstrations highlight Oregon State University's annual Earth Week Celebration.

Activities are free and open to the public and start on the 26th anniversary of Earth Day - Monday, April 22, said Julie McGowan, an OSU junior in science, and events coordinator.

Focal point of the week is "to celebrate the Earth and get out all information possible to promote environmental awareness," McGowan said. Events are sponsored by Associated Students of OSU Environmental Affairs Task Force.

Top draw is an information fair scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, in OSU's Memorial Union Ballroom, McGowan said. The fair features ways to decrease the environmental impacts of everyday life.

Earth Week activities include:


Monday, April 22

  • Noon: William Lunch, OSU associate professor of political science, will speak about the concepts of Earth Day; OSU president Paul Risser also will speak. (MU lounge) Tree planting at OSU's Gilbert Hall follows.


Tuesday, April 23

  • 1 p.m.: A series of presentations by the Corvallis Environmental Center, including the Oregon bottle bill expansion initiative, the sustainable forestry initiative and the clean streams initiative. MU Room 211. Time subject to change.


Wednesday, April 24

  • 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Information Fair, featuring ways people can learn to live in closer harmony with the earth. Memorial Union Ballroom.


  • Noon: "Oregonians for Environmental Rights," a talk hosted by the Corvallis Environmental Center. MU lounge.


  • 6-7 p.m.: Survey on public perceptions of forestry issues, hosted by the Corvallis Environmental Center. MU Martin Luther King Jr. Room.


Thursday, April 25

  • 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.: "Vegetarian Table," an exhibit on vegetarian eating by the Vegetarian Supper Club. "Waste Audit," by Campus Recycling explores what enters the garbage stream at OSU. Both events in Memorial Union Quad.


Friday, April 26

  • 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.: Campus Recycling display. MU Quad.


  • Noon - 2 p.m.: A series of speakers will discuss environmental issues, topics to be announced. MU lounge.


  • 7 p.m. - 11 p.m.: Singer Rob Hoyt takes center stage at a musical Earth Week celebration hosted by the Corvallis Environmental Center. Refreshments will be provided. MU lounge.


Julie McGowan, 541-737-2101