- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2000

I find it gratifying to see a voice of reason in the increasingly popular Forest Service proposal debate ("Forest Service proposal sees people as problem," March 7).

Shedding more light on the dangers of the Clinton administration's proposals concerning our public lands can only help more Americans see what is at stake here: freedom to enjoy public lands as they always were meant to be enjoyed responsibly, ethically, respectfully and completely.

A large and growing contingent of off-highway vehicle (OHV) users are becoming more vocal and better organized. They represent a broad spectrum of America techies, blue collar workers, men, women, the disabled, blacks, whites, Asians, urban professionals, rural folks and all kinds of people in between.

These people spend thousands of volunteer hours every year maintaining trails and roads, cleaning up forests, protecting and preserving our national resources.

These people support environmental awareness and help protect our resources through such groups as Tread Lightly, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, United Four Wheel Drive Associations, American Council of Snowmobile Associations, National Off Highway Vehicle Conservation Council and the American Motorcyclist Association.

OHV users do not support the president's roadless directive that could close millions of acres of prime multiple-use recreation areas that have established and legal recreational roads, trails and dispersed campgrounds. They do not support initiatives that would restrict usage to a small group of forest users.

Thanks to such articles as yours, more Americans are aware of these policies that are designed to create a legacy for the president not in the interests of the environment, and certainly not in the interests of the public.

ROB CAVALERI

Clifton

Editor's note: Rob Cavaleri is secretary of Off-Camber Crawlers, a local OHV group.

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A recent front-page story in The Washington Times ("Forest Service proposal sees people as problem," March 7) misses the forest for the trees while trivializing a serious debate of vital interest to America's hunters and fishermen.

The real story is exactly the opposite from what The Times reports. For about 95 years, the Forest Service has put the interests of the timber industry above those of hikers, hunters and fishermen. In recent years, however, the Forest Service has come to recognize that the economic value of recreation in our national forests is 30 times higher than that of timber.

Rather than keeping people out, the Forest Service is actually listening to the diverse needs and opinions of those who use our national forests for more than timber extraction.

A recent poll of America's 50 million hunters and fishermen sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance a coalition that includes the Izaak Walton League of America, the Mule Deer Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Trout Unlimited found that 86 percent of anglers and 83 percent of hunters support efforts by sportsmen and women to keep the remaining roadless areas in our national forests free of roads.

A recent survey by the Republican polling firm American Viewpoint found more than three-quarters of Americans support permanently protecting roadless areas in national forests a belief shared by 62 percent of Republicans and two-thirds of those living in the Western United States.

With more than 380,000 miles of roads in our national forests a distance eight times the length of the interstate highway system it's hard to argue that creating more roads will improve recreational access.

The Forest Service reports that less than 40 percent of current logging roads are properly maintained a sad state of disrepair that the Forest Service would like to correct, both to improve access by hikers, hunters and fishermen, but also to reduce environmental damage caused by abandoned logging roads sliding down mountains, polluting streams, and serving as dumping grounds.

The real forest debate is not about access, but about excess. When should the rapacious self-interests of the timber companies be curtailed to preserve the hunting, fishing and recreational interests of the American people?

The good news is that the Forest Service is finally turning to the American people for the answer to that question rather than the big lumber companies and their paid apologists on Capitol Hill.

PATRICK BURNS

Arlington

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