National Forests and Their Management

Your editorial "Forest Service Rot" (April 23) was right on target regarding the agency's past mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility. But any conclusion that Congress should play a large role in restructuring the agency is not in the public interest.

Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck has begun to move the agency in the right direction by proposing a temporary ban on logging road construction. Congress's response has been to threaten to cut the agency's budget and lambaste the new chief's proposals.

Mr. Dombeck is also attempting to make important administrative changes to remove some incentives that encourage irresponsible clear-cutting. As long as the agency remained beholden to the timber industry, Congress was happy. As the chief tries to introduce some balance, Congress is working overtime to stop his reforms before they get under way.

It's up to President Clinton to take the lead in supporting Dombeck and in demanding that the agency move away from tree farming and toward the protection of wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreational opportunities. The timber sales program operated at a net loss of $800 million in 1996. Since our National Forests now provide less than 4 percent of our annual timber consumption, it makes no sense to continue this program.

Melanie L. Griffin


Director, Land Protection Programs

Sierra Club

Attention to meticulous asset accounting is only important if the assets are to be sold or traded. Forest Service assets, although coveted by many politicians and a few industries, must not be for sale. They are a birthright of all citizens and future generations. As a forest scientist, I know that the fiscal accountability for how I spent money appropriated by Congress was both more strict and more efficient than procedures imposed on my colleagues in private industry and universities.

Albert R. Stage

Moscow, Idaho

Like the EPA, the politics tugging the Forest Service from all directions within Congress makes it virtually impossible to establish a consistent path that makes good conservation sense. Should the Forest Service please local constituencies, or do the National Forests belong to everyone?

Few federal workers are more committed to the mission of their agency than those in the Forest Service. Attracting the best people to work in Washington to lead the agency is difficult for the same reasons we find it hard to attract our best people into politics - the abuse isn't worth it. The best in the Forest Service are usually at the lowest levels of the organization.

Rich Fisher

Put pro golf before the cart

Regarding the opinion essay "Golf's 'Tradition' Handicap" (April 22): I enjoyed the column, but I must disagree. Walking is part of the game, the real game, of tournament golf.

I have a cart, and if I had to walk, I could not play. But I don't play in the PGA.

To say that walking is not part of tournament play is ludicrous. I believe Ben Hogan would have accomplished the Grand Slam in 1953 if he had been able to ride in that last tournament. And Ken Venturi did win the Open in 1964, dehydrated, almost delirious - how easy it would have been if he rode with a cooling breeze in his face.

I believe the Disabilities Act was meant to give the disadvantaged an opportunity, not an advantage, and anyway you look at it riding is an advantage. Change the rules in the PGA if you must, but some court shouldn't have any bearing on the subject.

To all true golfers, Casey Martin will always be admired and respected, but he will always have an asterisk after his name.

Stanley L. Morse

Rancho Mirage, Calif.

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