Of concern to everyone

Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2003

Monday's Empire was a study in irony. The right side of the front page carried a story about several American flags having been stolen and ruined. I could not help wondering what sort of idiot thinks it is acceptable to come in the night, when he thinks no one is watching, to appropriate something that belongs to other people and destroy it. Mr. Ripley and his neighbors have my empathy for suffering such a mindless violation.

The left half of the page was taken up by a story describing how our "representatives" in Washington have attached riders to the omnibus spending bill that would mandate more logging in the Tongass, exclude the Tongass and Chugach National Forests from the so-called roadless rule, and permanently prevent any appeal by the public of Forest Service decisions regarding future wilderness areas. And I felt violated - not just because time after time over the past decade a large majority of the American public has made it abundantly clear throughout the debate over the management of the Tongass that it prefers more, not less, protection for the forests and an increase in wilderness-designated areas, but because Ted Stevens and Don Young are attempting to use the camouflage of a critical piece of budget-oriented legislation to force their pro-development agenda down the public's throat. To do so, they are willing to take away the public's right to participate in the process that decides how public resources will be managed. (On Monday, eight Republican lawmakers signed a letter to the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee stating, "It would seriously undermine the legislative process to add new provisions behind closed doors and at the very last minute to a must-pass spending bill that is already four months late.")

The topping on my outrage came on page three, where I learned our recently elected governor has issued a "gag order" to prevent state fish and game biologists from talking to reporters about his efforts to hasten development projects affecting salmon habitat by moving control of the permitting process from the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Natural Resources - effectively traducing the biologists' right to free speech and forbidding them any opportunity to defend themselves against his charges they question the wisdom of the move because they have "hidden environmentalist agendas."

Gag orders? Behind closed door deals? No right of appeal? Excuse me, but I think I hear someone coming in the night, when they think no one is watching, to appropriate something that belongs to other people, and destroy it - namely some of our most basic rights. And no matter where you stand on the issues of how the forests, fisheries, or other natural resources should be managed, that is something that should have everyone's concern.

Lynn Schooler


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