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U.S. Plan Runs Over Species

September 14, 2002

Re "Activists Challenge U.S. Plan for Desert," Sept. 7: When, oh when, are our national treasures going to be left in peace for future generations and the native species that have lived in them for eons?

As for opening up more of the fragile, beautiful desert to off-road vehicles, where is the sense? Paul Turcke, a Boise, Idaho, attorney "who has become a leading voice for off-road vehicle enthusiasts," says that allowing gas-powered machines with huge tires designed to grip and pulverize earth would do no damage to desert washes and that "good science" supports that. Where did this good science come from? And, more important, who paid for this science?

I have some property in Joshua Tree, and there is a wash near my house. I have seen firsthand the destruction of this wash by the assault of three or four kids on all-terrain vehicles. These industry shills have probably never even set foot in the desert. I invite off-road industry representatives to contact me, and I'll gladly show them what their good science results in. This madness has to stop.

Blake Simpson

Los Angeles

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The federal agency folks don't understand their job. They say their goal is to find the middle ground between users of the desert--and imply that environmentalists are just another user group and that plants and animals have no say. Wrong!

Since 1980 it has been their job to designate vehicle routes in the desert. Since 1990 it has been their job to incorporate the recovery of the tortoise into their management plans. The current plan does neither. They are not the "Bureau of Land Use Umpires," they are the Bureau of Land Management. Seemingly, once again, a judge will have to tell them what that means.

Elden Hughes

Chair, Sierra Club

Desert Committee

Whittier

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Special-interest groups consistently ignore the fragile nature of desert ecosystems. It is typical of these organizations--and the Bush administration, for that matter--to ignore the research and recommendations of ecologists, biologists, archeologists and other scientists with hundreds of years of combined experience in desert ecology. Turcke claims that it is possible to allow vehicular use in desert washes without harming the environment. Turcke's "good science" is evidently not that which is subject to peer review. Good science might be defined as "that with which we agree."

Michael D. Mauer

Los Angeles

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