- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2000

Ali Bubba and his Forest Service thieves

President Clinton and his Forest Service are now attempting the largest land grab in U.S. history. It can be called the president's "legacy building" or "road management." It should be called theft. It affects all of us who use and enjoy our national forests.

These forests cover an area of around 192 million acres and are in almost every state. Congress has mandated by law that they be managed for multiple uses.

What Mr. Clinton and the Forest Service are now attempting is a dramatic limitation of access to our lands for those uses.

Mr. Clinton and the Forest Service have proposed that there be no road access to so-called roadless areas. They also propose closing ("decommissioning") existing roads.

The rationale for the action is that 383,000 miles of national forest roads already exist. But only one-fourth of these roads are arterial or collector roads that can be used by automobiles. Three-quarters are only passable with high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles. The Forest Service already has closed 76,000 miles of these roads. The national forest roads, by the Forest Service's own estimates, are used by 1.7 million recreation vehicles per day. From 1991 to 1997, the Forest Service has decommissioned obliterated more than 19,000 miles of existing roads.

The existing national forest road system has between one-third and one-fifth the road density (miles of road per square mile of area) of the United States as a whole.

These traditional access roads have been used for decades for vehicular access by fishers, hunters, campers, sightseers, miners, loggers, ranchers and others. But what the Clinton Forest Service wants to do now is stop us from using roads in the national forests. We will only be able to walk into these areas if the Forest Service gets its way.

The elite backpackers and the rich Hollywood landowners who adjoin our forests will have our lands to themselves. If we want to use our camper, drive to a campground, favorite fishing or hunting spot or pursue many of the other activities Congress allows, we will be out of luck. The "No trespassing" sign will be up. Older Americans and disabled Americans who must rely on motorized vehicles will be especially hard hit.

How much land is being stolen? A lot. Congress has designated 35 million acres of wilderness in the national forests lands already off-limits to motorized use. What Mr. Clinton and his Forest Service propose would, at a minimum, more than double or perhaps even triple the number of acres designated as wilderness.

This is not an issue that involves only the Western United States. It affects national forests from Maine and New Hampshire to Alaska, and Florida to California. It includes eastern forest access in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia. It affects us all.

The president, in his effort to be a new Theodore Roosevelt with a lasting legacy, on Jan. 11 designated 1 million acres in Arizona and points out West as National Monuments. The legacy that Mr. Clinton and his Forest Service will leave is not that of Teddy Roosevelt, but of "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves."

DAVID C. FREDLEY

Purcellville, Va.

David C. Fredley is a retired assistant director of minerals and geology management for the Forest Service.

Curious facts about NATO and International Criminal Tribunal

Is anyone really surprised about the quick reversal by Carla del Ponte, prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, in her decision not to investigate the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia ("U.N. prosecutor abandons probe of NATO strikes," Dec. 31)?

The tribunal's pretense in considering the investigation of NATO actions is certainly betrayed by its Web site (www.un.org/icty), which, with apparent conflict of interest, prominently displays a link to NATO's Web site.

The curious fact that the tribunal considered looking at the actions of the NATO pilots, and not the actions of those who decided to initiate and prosecute this campaign, is evidence of where the bureaucrats in the Hague Peace Palace are coming from. But alas, since the United States has a large role in producing and directing the show over the International Criminal Tribunal, it is certainly understandable why Mrs. Del Ponte would have an epiphany within hours of U.S. administration protests.

The current operative principle of the Western hegemony appears to be "might makes right," a principle that is, as far as I can tell, perfectly workable at least for now.

DANIEL G. HILBURN

Germantown

Let the folks of South Carolina decide about the Stars and Bars

Although I have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War, up until now my interest in that conflict has been nonexistent. Even though Baltimore plays host to Civil War re-enactments on special occasions and the Civil War Museum is a few blocks away from my home, my personal preoccupation with that struggle has been nil.

But now I am troubled after seeing the picture of thousands protesting the battle flag of the Confederacy flying over the Capitol of South Carolina that accompanied an article in The Washington Times ("Confederate flag issue crests with protest," Jan. 18).

In this age of diversity promotion, tolerance and "healing" rhetoric, it simply is wrong to interfere with another person's heritage and pride. There is no way I would sympathize with a cause that divided our nation, nor would I support any pro-slavery argument; nevertheless, it is callous and cruel to denigrate someone else's ancestors.

States' rights, an issue that figured prominently in the Civil War, should be respected in this instance. The flag issue must be decided only by the people of South Carolina.

If the governor of that state succumbs to outside pressure and lowers the Stars and Bars, rancor and bitterness will fly in its place by default. Our insistence on respecting all backgrounds and differences makes it imperative the folks of South Carolina decide the matter themselves. Let's end the Civil War once and for all.

ROSALIND ELLIS

Baltimore

Commercial surety bail a good tool for public safety

I am writing in response to D.C. Council member Harold Brazil's Jan. 17 column ("Halfway to justice?" Op-Ed, District Forum). Mr. Brazil is to be commended for making the District try to correct halfway house abuses, thereby increasing public safety in the city.

Unfortunately, he offhandedly dismisses the most effective pretrial release weapon in the criminal justice system, commercial surety bail, which he equates with criminals buying their way out of jail. Of all the forms of release pending trial, commercial surety bail, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is the most effective in getting defendants to meet their court dates.

One of the reasons is that the bondsman has a financial incentive to see that his charge gets to court on time or face loss of the bond. Yes, the defendant must pay the bondsman a premium (usually 10 percent of the face of the bond) for this service. Is that so different from the defendant having to pay lawyer's fees? The clincher, however, is that not only does the commercial surety bail system have the best track record, it operates at no cost to the taxpayer.

Representatives of the National Association of Bail Insurance Companies (NABIC) testified to this effect at Mr. Brazil's Sept. 20 hearing on pretrial system reforms.

NABIC officials also pointed out the positive results of the Houston Project, a joint operation between NABIC and the Harris County Pretrial Service Agency, wherein the failure to appear rate among felons was reduced by two-thirds, to 2.1 percent.

Given the success of commercial bail in enhancing public safety, Mr. Brazil should be encouraged to take a second look at its merits.

DENNIS A. BARTLETT

Executive director

National Association of Bail Insurance

Companies

Washington

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