Some background information is needed in the front-page article ''Ranchers Clash With Rangers in Wild West,'' July 13. As a retired member of the United States Forest Service, I would like to point out that people in the West have been making steady progress in conservation knowledge and practice.
In the past, federal agencies were more decentralized. The park service preferred to hire local people for seasonal jobs because of their work ethic and knowledge of the park. Now all employees must be selected from the Federal Register.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service poisoned squawfish, once considered a ''trash fish,'' in order to improve fishing on the San Juan River.
Now the surviving squawfish are considered ''endangered,'' and work on the Animas/La Plata project has been halted. This water project is needed to fulfill treaty obligations with the Ute Tribe. The US Forest Service sold large volumes of timber so that the parents of the baby boomers could have affordable housing. Now very little timber is sold, despite heavy losses from insects, disease, and fire.
It is the government that has changed, not the people. Part of the problem is that the environmental movement has been insensitive to what its actions may do to people.
Jack H. Ott Mancos, Colo.
Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ''Readers Write'' and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet E-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.