Whose Frontier Will Be Preserved?

In the special report on the Oregon Trail, the article ``Fighting to Keep Their Frontier,'' Aug. 4, mentions the ``push to obtain legal protection for the `customs and culture' of the traditional rural Western life established by the early pioneers.''

That has a wholesome sound, more wholesome than the way many large ranches were obtained.

Preserve the ``customs and culture of the West?'' That culture, with its overgrazing and mistreatment of the land, is responsible for most of the erosion and loss of plant and animal species throughout the West. That culture drove the bison almost to extinction. That culture needs to be replaced by one that values biodiversity, by a culture with a land ethic. Some present-day ranchers are claiming US government land as part of ``their ranch.''

It is important to remember who the real owners of that land are - the citizens of the United States. Steve Hill, Las Cruces, N.M.

In the article ``Fighting to Keep Their Frontier,'' a descendant of 19th-century settlers was quoted as saying ``the rancher, miner, and logger are now the Indian, and the federal government is trying to remove them from the land.'' The author should have added that this is being done under the guise of environmentalism, but the removal of these people either doesn't significantly help the environment or it harms it. That's because rural people understand and work with the environment best. Y. Leon Favreau, Shelburne, N.H.

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