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Varied Attitudes About Public Lands

November 07, 2001

Staff writer Deborah Schoch's article "An Axle to Grind" (Oct. 23) was a fine example of why urban readers have such different attitudes about public lands than small-town and rural residents.

While Schoch terms John Gatchell as an "investigative hiker," it's not for nine paragraphs that she finally gets around to mentioning that Gatchell is a green activist, hired by the Montana Wilderness Assn. in 1985 and now its conservation director. Unlike his opponents trying to retain access to public land for play and for work, Gatchell is paid for, as Schoch put it, his "preaching."

Part of the reason that the debate over access in Montana is so vitriolic is because environmental groups get millions in tax-free grants for purely political activity while claiming their spin is "public education."

DAVE SKINNER

Whitefish, Mont.

*

Deborah Schoch's balanced and objective article about ATVs in Montana is deja vu for California off-roaders. Montanans could learn much from our experience with the California desert in the '70s and '80s, when we motorcyclists stubbornly cultivated a previously absent environmental ethic and established the user-funded Green Sticker program.

We accepted exclusion from vast areas with clear wilderness values and established others where our recreation would be welcomed, albeit strictly regulated.

Today, our bikes are licensed, muffled and spark-arrested. Competition events, once staged indiscriminately across the Mojave Desert, are now restricted to two small areas. Approved leisure trails are clearly marked; other areas are posted and left alone.

Violators are usually policed by we users who know that transgressions threaten our right to use public lands in the future.

Out of our experience grew numerous local clubs and the national Blue Ribbon Coalition, which, as the article notes, continue to work cooperatively with resource agencies to plan and execute balanced approaches to public land use that preserve wilderness values where they exist and recreation opportunities where they are needed.

Such is not the case for the anti-people eco-fundamentalists determined to outlaw ORVs from all public lands.

DAVID W. KAY

Culver City

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