- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

Environmental policies aggravated fires

Thank you for your article on the Clinton administration's diversion of money from fighting the fires in the West to national monuments improvement and land acquisition ("Money to fight fires was diverted," Aug. 21).

Lest we forget, too, the administration has limited access to national forests. It has bulldozed existing roads, prohibited cattle from grazing on the lands and even used guns to chase off maintenance men who attempted to repair roads into canyons, etc.

Young men in the West make money by driving in and foraging for dead wood and selling it for firewood, and cattle graze the underbrush and keep trails clear. With more dead wood and brush left in the wilderness, forest fires burn much hotter. These fires cannot be extinguished, as I understand it.

Thanks, President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

The best environmentalists are the local ranchers. They love the land, and they work long days to preserve it. Wilderness areas don't make sense except to environmental extremists who get their ideas during all-nighters at the White House.

SUE SMART

Omaha, Neb.

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Has any consideration been given to the environmental community's contribution to the incineration of the American West?

For years, various national environmental organizations have fought steadfastly against any sensible range or fire management of our private and national forests. These groups always hide behind the Endangered Species Act, and their irresponsible single-mindedness has contributed greatly to our current crisis. For years, landowners consistently have been singled out, financially punished and even prosecuted for what questionably has been called poor land stewardship.

Now comes the federal government enforcing irresponsible, wrongheaded policies causing massive environmental damage. The loss of endangered species and their habitat is incalculable. It begs the question, if landowners are liable for the destruction of endangered species and their habitat, why not the environmental organizations whose activities often have forced the implementation of these disastrous policies?

ROBERT BRANDES

Fredericksburg, Texas

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Regarding your Aug. 21 article, "Money to fight fires was diverted," it would be useful to discuss the real question: What has made these fires so severe?

If your reporters were to get out West, they would notice dead trees laying all over the landscape like kindling. The mismanagement of our forests since environmentalists came into vogue is now costing lives as well as hundreds of millions of dollars.

Their alternatives, clear-cutting federal land or enforced neglect, are shortsighted. It's time for conservation, responsible stewardship of our resources and prosecution of overpaid incompetents who think summer is the best time to burn off brush.

If these bureaucrats who keep acquiring public lands cannot manage them, the only alternative is a return to private ownership of the land. For many of the same reasons, our beautiful Rockies are beginning to look like the devastated Amazon Basin.

JOHN KIRCHER

Rifle, Colo.

U.S. drug certification policy shifts blame

I agree fully with those who claim that the U.S. policy of certification of foreign countries based on their efforts to combat drugs is hypocritical and imperialistic. Your editorial "Certified politics" (Aug. 21) helps make this case by pointing out our unwavering and unjustified support of a major drug-trafficking country such as Mexico.

Yet your conclusion that this ineffective and divisive process should be preserved and shifted to the Organization of American States rings hollow and stands at odds with the rest of your editorial. The very concept of certification, as your editorial points out clearly, shifts the blame from the largest consumer of illicit drugs to the hapless conduits for their production and distribution.

No certification program, no matter how independent it may be, can ever free itself from such a flawed premise. This assumes, of course, that the United States would agree to allow such an organization to dictate our economic and foreign policy.

Pointing fingers never will solve the drug problem.

JOHN CORBETT

Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Is Gore's education plan Cuban-style schooling?

At the Democratic National Convention, Vice President Al Gore said he wants to set a specific goal for the first decade of the 21st century: high quality universal preschool available to every child, in every family, all across the country. But he didn't tell us why we need this new government intervention. If he wants to create a new entitlement of day care for mothers who need to or want to work, he should say so.

We can debate the merits of that proposal. But let's not pretend it is better for 4-year-old children to be under the control of the teachers' unions than their mommies. But maybe, considering the universality (mandatory nature?) of his proposal, Mr. Gore really does believe a village can raise a child better than parents. If that is the case, then why not go all the way and have state-run boarding schools, such as the ones in Cuba to which the Clinton administration returned Elian Gonzalez?

Mr. Gore, at least be honest. Are we debating socialism or communism?

MARY BETH STYLE

Centreville

Convention riot crackdown justified

I have a flash for Nat Hentoff and the ragtag collection of anarchic whiners he claims were brutalized by the Philadelphia police outside the Republican National Convention (Op-ed, Aug. 21): The great American right to free speech does not mean carte blanche to break the law. Contrary to what Mommy always told you, our democratically enacted law applies to you, too, and not just those laws you find convenient.

The demonstrators in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles were clearly not there to demonstrate, as that can quite effectively be accomplished within legal constraints. Those rioters went with the express purpose of (and, indeed, engaged in training to) disrupt vital medical and other transportation services, stop citizens from getting to work or recreation, and divert limited law-enforcement assets away from protecting the law-abiding public. Those who now bleat the loudest (as they are trained to do) about the supposed violation of their rights by the police couldn't care less about the rights of an entire city of lawful Philadelphians.

Mr. Hentoff cackles on like Chicken Little about torture of prisoners, brutality and false arrests (offering, curiously, not a shred of evidence of a single such incidence), and he goes off the edge of silliness by implying that the Philadelphia police are the American equivalent of the Red Army at Tiananmen Square.

By all evidence from even the liberal press, the Philadelphia police handled those self-obsessed rioters with more than reasonable care. That the officers failed to carry them like Mandarin royalty when they refused to walk, or didn't serve them tea and cookies while they refused to give their names under arrest, hardly makes a case for a latter-day Gestapo.

We should always zealously guard the right to legitimate freedom of expression, but those who pout because the law cannot bow to their every radical whim, who generously grant themselves license to ignore whatever laws they please in their cause, are in fact treated too leniently. We should provide set-aside spaces for legal demonstrations, where appropriate, but we should rigidly enforce severe fines and jail terms for they who so self-righteously anoint themselves as being above the rule of law that governs the rest of us.

WILLIAM SLUSHER

Charles Town, W.Va.

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