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Debate Over National Forests Branches Out

August 08, 2004

Re "Our Forests May Be on a Road to Ruin," Commentary, Aug. 4: The trouble with trying to convince the Bush administration that it is doing irreparable harm to our forests and our environment is that it does not see a problem with cutting down trees and building roads through our national forests. While interviewing a young Republican about renewable energy for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal a few years back, he told me: "So what if we run out of oil? We'll discover some new technology to take the place of fossil fuels. In the future, we won't even need oil, so why worry about running out of it?"

The more I observe the Bush administration's total disregard for the hard-fought environmental protection laws put in place by former administrations, the more I realize it has the same idea. Perhaps, the administration's thinking goes, we can placate future generations by replacing forests with artificial trees, like the ones we see on our highways to cover up electrical poles. It is up to all of us to bring them back to reality.

Charles Hildebrand

Los Angeles

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As a professor emeritus of forest science, I find President Clinton's statements on the national forest roadless rules to be misleading. Only Congress has the authority to designate wilderness areas. In his July 2003 decision, U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer said the Clinton administration's designation of 58.5 million acres as roadless areas "was a thinly veiled attempt to designate 'wilderness areas' in violation of the clear and unambiguous process established by the Wilderness Act." He also said that by pushing through the roadless rule in its waning days, the Clinton administration bypassed the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and did "lasting damage to our very laws designed to protect the environment."

Readers should not be deceived by statements that the sale of timber from the national forests is a giveaway to the timber industry. The Forest Service first establishes a fair market value as a minimum bid and then requires companies to bid against each other. The winning bid is frequently two or three times the minimum as companies struggle to stay in business.

William McKillop

Walnut Creek, Calif.

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