Trashing Public Land

In the Opinion page article "End Environmental Extremism," Jan. 29, the author attempts to take advantage of people's general dislikes of extremism to promote his own extremist agenda, which is a radical plea to end public control over public land.

The author criticizes government stewardship of public lands; he correctly notes that widespread problems such as clear-cutting of forests and overgrazing of public range land are the results of wasteful subsidization of the timber and cattle industries. However, problems on our public lands and the misdirected government policies that have caused them are not the result of "command-and-control regulation" as the author implies. Rather, the rape of public lands has occurred because the agencies responsib le for stewardship of those lands have acted more as adjuncts to the timber, mining, and cattle industries than as regulators.

The best way to prevent further subsidized destruction of public lands is to stop the subsidies, which include such taxpayer-supported endeavors as Forest Service road-building into pristine areas for timber companies, below-cost timber sales, and range "improvements" for welfare-ranchers.

The view that our national forests and other public lands are simply "federal timberlands" lies at the heart of many environmental difficulties with which the West is faced. And privatization of public lands would be the most extreme manifestation of this mistaken view. Daniel M. Vernon, Stillwater, Okla.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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