I would like to respond to the two gentlemen who took issue with my letter of Dec. 29 about our national forests belonging to all Americans.
I'm sure Dennis Watson, the good mayor of Craig, has the interests of his town at heart. Mayor Watson only needs to look around the Pacific Northwest to see that hundreds, nay thousands, of towns and communities which hung all their hopes on one single economic component ultimately withered and many died. Many have disappeared completely and are just ruins in the undergrowth. This is particularly true for timber-dependent communities. The former leaders of those communities are now forgotten. The good mayor can help his community and be remembered for posterity as far-sighted, by helping Craig diversify its economy into other and truly sustainable areas.
Alaska with all its natural resources is always treated like a third-world country by resource-extraction industries from elsewhere. They love to come in, rip it all out, and ship it off for processing, and all the processing jobs with it. The only jobs Alaskans are left with are the sweat slave labor of the extracting, jobs which disappear with the slightest change in the economic winds. We've seen lots of that recently and that's the reality.
Arguing for more roads for "transportation" is specious. The real reason is to access more timber. The Tongass is crisscrossed with roads which the U.S. Forest Service (and taxpayer) paid for and cannot afford to maintain. It is ludicrous to advocate more.
Mr. Winniford of Arizona seems to feel that the major forest fires down his way recently were somehow at least partly the fault of "environmentalists" and that President Bush was going to save the forests by cutting them. It's very handy to have scapegoats and heroes, misidentified though they may be. The fact is that natural forests have "managed" themselves successfully without human help for millions of years. It is the cut-over "stump farms" that need massive human help.
It has thus always been so.