Western lands aren't just for Westerners

Your April 17 opinion piece, "Bush's drive for Western balance," by William Perry Pendley of the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) represents a particularly hypocritical and self-serving point of view that is becoming common in the Western US. It is ironic that the Western states that complain most loudly about federal government intrusion are also the most dependent on government subsidies. The MSLF is supposedly in favor of "free enterprise," yet they advocate using public lands to subsidize rural job creation at the expense of conservation.

Mr. Pendley's complaint is disingenuous when he writes that rural Westerners are "denied the ability to use" public lands managed for conservation. What he is really saying is that some rural Westerners imagine that if there were no restrictions, they could get rich developing land that doesn't even belong to them. The truth is, federal lands belong to the whole American public and they are one of our national treasures. For example, the area now included in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument had been proposed as a National Park since the 1930s, yet Pendley thinks the best use of this remarkable, pristine landscape would have been a coal mine.

I am increasingly unimpressed with the attitude of some rural Westerners who view public lands only as a potential subsidy for their own get-rich-quick schemes. I am a lifelong Westerner, and I volunteer in support of "America's Redrock Wilderness Act" to protect more of Utah's federal land as wilderness. Everybody who cares about the West, regardless of where they live, needs to speak up and take action to help protect our Western wilderness against the kind of resource privatization advocated by Pendley. These lands belong to all of us, not just to a few rural people who own property nearby.

Amy Brunvand Salt Lake City

Unease under the new administration

Regarding your April 9 article "For swing voters, second thoughts on Bush": President Bush's decline in popularity has as much to do with psychology as the economy. Since Mr. Bush was installed in the White House there has been a creeping sense of doubt as to whether we really have a democracy.

A dangerous world seems a little more dangerous since the Bush/Cheney takeover. Clean air, safe drinking water, preservation of wilderness seem to be at risk - a dark feeling of backsliding into the default mode of old, outmoded ways of thinking has left many frustrated and unsure of our country's direction.

The White House seems humorless and its sense of secrecy, suppression of innovative ideas, and derision of anything smacking of "liberal," is depressing. And many worldwide feel Americans have become the arrogant, elitist neighbor that the rest of the world would do well to shun, if only they could.

Bill Clinton may not have been perfect, but I sure felt better about our future when he was in office.

Lynn Highland Morrison, Colo.

Star pilots

I enjoyed your March 29 article entitled "Star pilots," as I am an observing assistant, telescope operator, night attendant, etc. at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. I do, however, like the ring of being deemed a "star pilot." It was actually a topic (tongue-in-cheek) at our last meeting.

I must tell you though that if you write another story about star pilots, we operators here at the W.M. Keck Observatory on the top of Mauna Kea are the top guns.

Meg Whittle Honolulu

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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