Sometimes it helps to blow off steam at the powers that be. Following is the letter I dispatched to Newsweek magazine after reading its most recent issue. My letter probably will end up in the round file, the location many readers of this newspaper may feel it belongs. Regardless, we're Americans! Why not unload a timely opinion to the folks at the top?
Here it is:
To the Editor: In the Sept. 2, 2002, Newsweek, two items criticized President Bush's plan to reduce the bureaucratic red tape hindering federal forest management (Conventional Wisdom Watch, Perspectives). Both offered a simplified notion of what problems plague our federal forests while failing to confront the costs of doing nothing on federal lands.
I've toured federal forests in Eastern Oregon, both before and after catastrophic fires swept through this summer. Without having any affiliation with the logging industry, I can testify that lack of logging prompted by environmentalist litigation set the stage for devastating, high-intensity fires on these overcrowded, unhealthy, unmanaged stands of forest.
Anti-logging rhetoric, particularly from William Meadows with the Wilderness Society, lapses into fantasy. Let's remember that nobody proposes to log in wilderness areas, although wilderness areas are where the majority of our worst fires burned. Fortunately, unlike our neighbors to the west, we did not lose any homes.
It also might interest your readers to know that once our fires left federal lands and burned onto private timberlands, the flames slowed their advance and eventually could be stopped within a few acres. On federal lands, the fires grew so intense that firefighters were forced to retreat and build fire lines miles from the origin.
Our timber-reliant county has endured unemployment rates as high as 22 percent in the past 15 years. Meanwhile, the allowable harvest of trees on federal forests (which comprise about half of our county land mass) has dwindled to zero. It's a sad reality that our sawmills are forced to truck in logs from hundreds of miles away while citizens watch our federal forests burn down around us.
By the way, the more fire-resistant private lands where logging is permitted look like pristine forest, even after the fires. The unmanaged federal lands where this summer's catastrophic fires erupted and spread look like war zones after someone dropped an atomic bomb.
- David Carkhuff, John Day, Ore.
Anyone with comments about "Editor's Opinion" can contact David Carkhuff by calling 575-0710 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.