As American citizens still able to enjoy pristine wilderness, set aside as public lands by past generations, it is our right to vote for representatives whom we trust to value and maintain them.
It is also our responsibility to keep these officials informed of our expectations once they are elected. By communicating with our lawmakers, we can help protect our national assets. Laws governing air and water pollution need continuous attention from all of us. We still have clean air to breathe, which is not the case in Mexico City or Bombay. Our streams and oceans can still support marine life. However, these things are increasingly at risk, and too often special interests set agendas for our public servants.
Our public lands are some of our greatest national treasurers. We are able to withstand natural disasters without our topsoil being washed into the sea, as it is in Haiti, where forests have been shaved off the land. Nearly everyone who lives here benefits from these lands in some way. Some people derive a livelihood from their bounty; others find recreation and rejuvenation. Our homes are beautified by art created by those who have visited these wild places. Even if we are unable to go there ourselves, we can find inspiration by reading the poetry and reflections of those who have. Public lands are where we can reconnect with the goodness of the earth.
We entrust the care of our public lands to our elected officials. It is their job to manage them for the good of all of us; the lands are not theirs to give away to their own special interests. It is our job to help them remember why they are in Washington, and whom they are there to serve. Washington is a long way from Alaska, and the lands that mean so much to us here can become just bargaining chips on pieces of paper to politicians. The Cape Fox-Berners Bay land swap bill would give away up to 12,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest near Juneau to private corporations who stand to make big profits, in exchange for 3,000 mostly clear-cut acres near Ketchikan. If you think this is not only bad business but also a bad idea, then Sen. Lisa Murkowski (phone 202-224-6665) and Sen. Ted Stevens (202-224-3004) need to hear from you. Our great-grandchildren deserve to experience the awesome beauty in public lands.