Paths Diverge on National Forest Roads

Regarding your editorial "The Forests' Future" (Feb. 23), and the opinion essay "National Forests: Turn the Bulldozers Around" (Feb. 24): I applaud the authors for realizing not only the high costs (ecological, aesthetic, and recreational) associated with such highly subsidized destruction of our public lands, but also how little such wanton pillaging contributes to the overall timber economy.

Although the authors point out the benefits of intact forest systems in terms of watershed health and recreational opportunities, they fail to mention other important factors.

First, road building into vast undeveloped areas not only disturbs watersheds, it fragments the forest into smaller tracts (islands), cutting off essential travel corridors for large mammals such as grizzly bears and elk, and impacts nesting habitat for migratory birds.

Many species affected by these practices - such as grizzlies, salmon, and trout - are already on the endangered list. It's ironic how some members in Congress will advocate the appropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars annually to subsidize the destruction of these species, while allotting a mere fraction of that amount ($30 million to $60 million), for species protection; all the while blaming the Endangered Species Act for not adequately protecting species. And finally, let us not forget the additional costs we pay to clean up the messes these extractive industries leave behind.

John Gahr

Round Oak, Ga.

It is unfortunate that your editorial completely distorts the issue of what part the national forests play in our society's well being. It is true, timber production funded the construction of a majority of national forest roads. Most of these roads were also constructed at a much greater expense and higher quality standard than was required for logging. This was done to make use of an unparalleled natural resource that could provide innumerable benefits to society, including recreation and wood products.

Without most of these roads, the high recreation use of the national forests you highlight simply would not exist. National forest roads are investments in our society's future to protect, restore, and utilize a great national treasure. There never has been a "policy of ripping access roads through forests to accommodate loggers ..." Let's hope our leadership does not, in the future, develop policies that benefit only a few!

David Dahl

Vienna, Va.

War on drugs but peace for Chiapas

I feel I have to make comments on two articles, "Mexico Stung as Army Swarms Over Chiapas" (Feb. 5) and "Hostile Takeover in Drug Trade" (Feb. 12).

The Mexican Army has increased its presence in Chiapas over the last two months simply to ensure that order is maintained and food, medicine, and clothing can reach the most impoverished inhabitants of that state. It can be argued that the appalling killings of last Dec. 22 were a result of, among several other causes, the scarcity of federal military authorities in the area. Where the Army was in evidence, there were no killings simply because its mere presence prevented the many deep-seated local conflicts from erupting.

Arresting major drug dealers and extraditing them to the US (whenever appropriate) is indeed a major part of antitrafficking drug policy. That is why in the last few months Mexico has arrested six drug kingpins and lieutenants of key criminal organizations and has extradited and surrendered 13 individuals, seven of whom were wanted in the US on drug-related charges. In addition to these 13, Mexico signed the extradition of an additional 14 individuals, all of whom will be surrendered once their appeals or sentences are completed. Ten of these 14 are Mexican nationals, five wanted for drug trafficking (among them Oscar Malherbe, kingpin of the Gulf Criminal Organization).

Hctor Vasconcelos


Consul General of Mexico

Your letters are welcome. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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