- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

Theodore Roosevelt wouldn't bear ANWR drilling

I read with interest and some ire professor James Pruitt's assertions regarding President Theodore Roosevelt's conservation ethos, as quoted by John McCaslin in his Feb.13 Inside the Beltway column. Mr. Pruit asserts that Roosevelt would have supported oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) because "he worked to find a way of using America's natural resources for the benefit of Americans, while at the same time working to conserve them for future generations." Mr. Pruitt's analysis is half-baked, and his conclusion is wrong. First, he presumes that only the "use" of natural resources "benefits" all Americans; a presumption TR did not share even 100 years ago, before the greater press of today's ecological damage.
TR's genius lay in his ability to embrace both wings of the last century's conservation movement. He was a pragmatist, and his goal was to get the job done: to protect a resource for the greatest good. A first-class naturalist in his own right, he was great friends with John Burrows and John Muir, who represented the "preservationist" wing of the movement. At the same time, he fully appreciated the value of Gifford Pinchot's "multiple use" approach to our national forests. They worked together to set aside huge amounts of land for our national forests, both to preserve ecological values and to maintain the nation's supply of timber.
On the other hand, TR also thoroughly understood the need for preservation when it came to lands such as Yellowstone National Park or our National Wildlife Refuge System, which he founded and of which ANWR is a part. TR worked closely with George Bird Grinnell to get legislation passed that would preserve Yellowstone in an ideal state as it was before the white man came to these shores. At one point, Grinnell and Roosevelt fought hard to prevent the construction of a railroad across the park because they properly viewed this as a serious assault on the concept of a national park.
TR intended that wildlife refuges, such as ANWR, should be preserved for the benefit of wildlife. Today, these lands do far more than protect wildlife; they are linchpins in maintaining ecosystem function, in protecting water resources and climate stability. The "nonuse" of these lands is far more vital to our national interests than a six-month supply of oil. Today, the "use" and abuse of land resources far outweigh any restraint practiced toward them; it is an imbalance that threatens to wreak harm on the quality of American lives as it jeopardizes the health of the ecosystems upon which we and our economy depend. To suggest that TR would abrogate the principles upon which he founded our National Wildlife Refuge System for a short-term fix to our energy problem is nonsensical.

Brooklyn, N.Y.

President's 'hipness' unimportant

So President Bush has lost points with New York Times reporter Frank Bruni because, you report, "he knows nothing about the cable TV comedy 'Sex in the City,' or actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the handsome lad who caused feminine hearts to flutter in the 1997 film 'Titanic'" ("Profiles cast Bush as unhip," Feb. 12).
Big deal. I'm 42 years old, and I own my own business. My wife and I have two children. None of us has seen "Sex in the City," and none of us would know Mr. DiCaprio if we met him on the street. My whole family, however, would recognize Mr. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
We must be a good bit out of the mainstream if we know our nation's leaders by sight and not our nation's leading movie stars. Should we quit home-schooling our children and send them up the street to the elementary school? Maybe we should rethink our priorities.

Caldwell, Idaho

District's red-light camera conflict of interest

It is admirable that Mayor Anthony A. Williams wants to avoid a conflict of interest for the company operating the District's red-light cameras, but perhaps the mayor should examine the city's own conflicted interests in the matter ("Cameras for 'calm' or for cash?" Feb. 13). After all, with technology provided by private industry at virtually no cost and projected revenues of $160 million by 2004, the city has every incentive to install the cameras.
The current discussion over compensation for the camera contractor only highlights the city's true concerns. D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp even went so far as to complain that the District is not receiving a high enough percentage of the camera revenue. These cameras always have been about boosting the District's bottom line. Any benefit to public safety is just an afterthought.
Instead of allowing this invasion of privacy and tax on motorists to continue, Mr. Williams and the D.C. Council should recognize the inherent conflict of interest and look for less "taxing" solutions to traffic safety.

Policy associate
National Taxpayers Union

Britain's 'security' model coming to America

Regarding your Feb. 14 story "Vast network of cameras to monitor wide areas of D.C.," if D.C. residents want a glimpse of their future, they need look no farther than Britain.
Several years ago, in an effort to lower crime rates, British law enforcement began installing public surveillance cameras on the streets of London. On an average day in London, from the time an individual leaves his front door to the time he re-enters his home in the evening, he is filmed by more than 300 cameras. People's entire lives are captured and stored on government videotape. Meanwhile, as crime rates in Britain begin to rise, one must ask, "What useful purpose do the cameras serve?"
In addition to using the cameras, British police are amassing the world's largest DNA database. Prime Minister Tony Blair has endorsed DNA testing kits to be used by law enforcement personnel to gather biometric samples from individuals at routine traffic stops.
The tragic events of September 11 have hastened America's plunge toward a British-style police state. The rapid expansion of government surveillance cameras, most notably in our nation's capital, and the current drive for a national identification system that would document biometric information should serve as a wake-up call. "The land of the free" is quickly coming to resemble the oppressive society from which we fought to rid ourselves centuries ago. Americans must be wary of government's quest to monitor every aspect of our lives, lest we find ourselves dwelling in Britain's prisonlike atmosphere.

Legislative director
American Policy Center
Warrenton, Va.

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