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ORANGE COUNTY LETTERS : What Will Be the Legacy of DeSimone?

February 26, 1991

I've read and reread Diane Klein's Jan. 29 column regarding environmentalist/wildlife activist Pete DeSimone ("His Down-to-Earth Message Needs to Get Out Quickly"), and I keep coming back to two questions: Does DeSimone's crusade to stop development in the Saddleback Valley represent a change in local Audubon policy? And/or, was Klein a victim of DeSimone's efforts to draw attention to himself instead of bring attention to the need for logical growth and prudent environmental management?

DeSimone's Audubon Society predecessor, Jeff Froke, had a reputation as a tough negotiator who understood the importance of balancing our need for open and recreational space with our need for various civilization-sustaining amenities such as shelter, travel, culture and commerce.

In fact, under Froke's leadership, thousands upon thousands of acres of natural open space (including endangered habitat areas and wildlife corridors) were exacted from local landowners by the County of Orange right here in the Saddleback Valley in exchange for the right to build a limited number of homes, establish new job centers, provide several schools, libraries, community parks, retail areas, as well as construct such important road programs as the Foothill Circulation Phasing Plan (a monitored, "Roads First" program designed to ease commuter congestion by providing parallel routes to I-5). Under Froke's leadership, we all won.

Yet, what will the DeSimone legacy be? Are we all supposed to adopt the selfish "not in my back yard" or NIMBY attitude that DeSimone proclaims? If so, what about the need to provide affordable housing and new sources of jobs in the Saddleback Valley for our sons and daughters? What about the need for more athletic fields, community parks, libraries, schools and museums? And what about the need to prudently manage our existing open space areas in an era of county and local government insolvency?

I suggest that DeSimone get back to the business of managing the natural resources that his predecessors obtained. Isn't that his job? I suggest that DeSimone stop his campaign to wage war with Orange Counry and instead prepare a platform for peaceful negotiations. By concentrating on the needs of the many instead of the needs of the few, we can strike a balance of open space and non-open space that benefits all of us--today and in the future.

TERRY OWNES,

Vice President--

Environmental Management

South Orange County

Chamber of Commerce

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