My Turn: We must respect integrity of the forest, system

Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2003

Deceit and trickery is not something to be proud of, but that's exactly what Don Young has expressed on public radio. I was disappointed and disgusted to hear this politician's blatant unprofessionalism as he gloated on KTOO that Republican "riders" had tricked environmentalists, so that these Republicans (Ted Stevens and Don Young) could pass new bills that would eliminate the public's voice on our Tongass National Forest. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me these politicians should be trying to work with the people and with Democrats to find common grounds, a balance. Instead I hear how proud they are of their schemes, trickery, and how the deceived their fellow Americans.

It's like nothing that anyone's ever done up to this point matters. Is nothing sacred? A new wave of political proceedings attempts to wipe out what other respected politicians and the public's votes have set into place for good reason.

How can we respect a system that is so flaky and sketchy? How can we trust politicians that demonstrate they couldn't care less about hearing the people's voice of contribution to issues that directly affect us all? Wow! What is going on here? This is a sad era for Alaskans and all Americans, as Stevens and Young try to take us back into a more archaic time of "leadership." What kind of example is being set here?

The Tongass National Forest belongs to all Alaskans, and every American, not just a limited few politicians and big corporations whose will is to dominate our national forest, our natural resources, our national heritage. This is why it is so very important the people have our voice of reason and balance, to contribute to this process.

What gives anyone the right to take our voices away? This is not the American way. It's completely un-American, unreasonable, and makes me seriously question the values of these politicians. In my eyes, this demonstrates sheer arrogance and their lack of respect for us, the people of SE Alaska, and the rest of America. These forests belong to us all!

If we allow these politicians to squelch our voices now, when will it happen next? Where will it stop? This is wrong and we need to speak up for our rights as Americans.

By allowing politicians to take away our voices, we're allowing and even encouraging the very foundation of the American democracy we are all so proud of to erode away before our eyes. That's nearly as wrong as what Young and Stevens are trying to pull off by cheating you and me out of our voice to vote for the Tongass NF designations.

So, it's up to all of us to set them straight. To educate, to lobby, to write letters, to make phone calls, to e-mail, to talk to friends and to spread the word. To say we're American and our voices count. To do all of these things now!

The integrity of the Tongass National Forest and our quality of life as Alaskans and Americans depends on our willingness to act now. The future rests in our hands. Do you want it or don't you? It's worth our time and efforts.

Tom Lee of Juneau is an avid outdoorsman and wilderness enthusiast who has traveled thousands of wilderness miles by foot and sea kayak in Alaska.

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