The only glimpse of forest-management issues that suburban and urban voters may gain in an average week is from pundits on a news program such as "Seven Days."

"Seven Days" is Oregon Public Broadcasting's version of a roundtable-format debate show based on the model of the "McLaughlin Group." The composition of pundits (defined as "authoritative persons") on these programs can tilt public opinion in dramatic ways. The fact that these programs carry such influence is the reason why citizens of Eastern Oregon should take every opportunity to write or e-mail these program producers and support the dissemination of accurate information about the challenges to active forest management in Oregon.

Here is a letter that a staff member of the Blue Mountain Eagle submitted to the "Seven Days" program and sent via e-mail to 7days@opb.org:

Dear Morgan Holm, executive producer; Pete Springer, producer; and Gene Koon, director, of "Seven Days,"

I want to congratulate you on featuring the topic of President Bush's late-August visit to Oregon "to promote his efforts to speed up logging on fire-prone national forests" (aired Aug. 24). As a resident of Grant County in Eastern Oregon, I especially valued the inclusion of Bridget Barton of Brainstorm NW as a panelist to counter the view that environmentalist lawsuits have little if anything to do with the West's current problem with overgrown, fire-prone federal forests.

I'd like to take a brief moment of your time to share a few headlines and article excerpts from the Blue Mountain Eagle, the weekly newspaper in John Day. These excerpts should help explain the concerns of many rural residents who witness catastrophic fires summer after summer and the simultaneous decline in jobs and timber sales on our national forests due to frivolous legal opposition.

• "County jobless rate ties as highest in state" (April 16, 2003)"

"SALEM - February figures released by the Oregon Employment Department indicate Grant County was tied with Wallowa County for the highest rate of unemployment in the state. The estimated jobless rate for Grant County stood at 14.6 percent, down slightly from the revised January rate of 15.2 percent. This is the second consecutive month that Grant County has had Oregon's highest rate of unemployment, with an estimated 534 workers out of a job."

• "Year 2002 burns, snowfall balks as drought persists (year in review)" (Jan. 1, 2003)

"By July 15, 2002, fire season struck with a vengeance. Approximately 3,346,423 acres were on fire in the United States. Of that acreage, 94,428 was burning in Oregon. Seven new fires erupted in the state on July 14-15. ... These new fires brought the state's total to 12, more blazes than in any other state. The Monument Fire, which burned on the Malheur National Forest, erupted in the Monument Rock Wilderness Area, nine miles southwest of Unity and had consumed 17,300 acres by July 15. The Malheur Complex south of Prairie City doubled in size from July 14 to 5,700 acres by July 15. Evacuation plans were developed for several communities along Highway 26 and County Road 62."

• "Citizen appeals, fires thwart Malheur timber sales" (Nov. 20, 2002)

"JOHN DAY - Citizen appeals of timber sales on the Malheur National Forest prevented logging long enough to turn some of the trees into fire fuel.

"Grant County's 2002 fire season outran planners, helping account for the loss of substantial stands of timber scheduled for sale, according to a Malheur spokesperson. Examples include the Mag Timber Sale, located partly on the Prairie City Ranger District and partly on the Emigrant Ranger District (formerly the Snow Mountain Ranger District). The sale proposal was contested through the administrative appeals process, but the sale decision was upheld. Forest staff were preparing to sell the timber when half of the sale area burned in this year's lightning-caused rash of forest fires, according to Jennifer Harris, public information officer for the Malheur National Forest."

• Judge halts hazard-tree removal" (Feb. 19, 2003)

"PORTLAND - The Spray-based League of Wilderness Defenders-Blue Mountain Biodiversity Project won its case to stop a hazard-tree removal project in the Flagtail Fire area of the Malheur National Forest.

"Judge Ancer Haggerty, after hearing arguments in U.S. District Court in Portland on Friday, Feb. 14, ruled that the Forest Service could proceed with only one of seven planned timber sales under a categorical exclusion."

Bravo to Bridget Barton for standing up for the truth and sharing the true impact from environmentalist appeals and litigation, brought by those who oppose any form of active management of our national forests. To the panelists on "Seven Days" who tried to argue that environmentalist appeals and litigation have little impact on federal forest management: Tell that to the people of Grant County. Our struggling sawmills are forced to import logs from out of state while we watch Oregon's economy crumble and our national forests burn.

To submit testimony on the crisis on our national forests and reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire (as related to the Committee on Resources hearing held recently in Redmond), send your comments to the following e-mail address: Forest.Health@mail.house.gov or mail to Forest Health, 1337 LHOB, Washington, DC 20515 or fax to (202) 225-0521

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