Debate is key in land-use decisions

I was disappointed to see you endorse the negotiations between the Interior Department and Utah over road claims in that state as a solution to the controversial subject of wilderness ("Taming 'Wilderness,'" Editorial, Aug. 7). Because wilderness can be formally designated only through an act of Congress, the public is ensured a democratic debate before any areas are removed from commercial development and motorized use. In fact, wilderness designation generally takes years and involves extensive public participation, protracted negotiation, and, ultimately, broad public support.

The closed-door negotiations between Interior and Utah locked out the public and short-circuited a fair wilderness debate. The road claims asserted by Utah, and validated by the Interior secretary, use a legally questionable and obscure provision of a 150-year-old law to lock up public land as "nonwilderness" and authorize road building and other development before Congress has a chance to settle the issue.

It is possible to reach consensus, settle differences, and - as your editorial suggests - find common ground in deciding which public lands to manage as wilderness. But this process of fair and open engagement will never occur when the opponents of wilderness resort to backroom negotiations and anachronistic loopholes to avoid a public debate.
Dave Chadwick
Boulder, Colo.

Israel's barrier to peace

Regarding your Aug. 8 article "Behind the barrier": Thank you for your revealing article on the wall Israel is building to enclose Palestinian lands. The details in your report contrast noticeably with Amitai Etzioni's claim that the "fence" will eventually make Israelis and Palestinians "good neighbors" ("A fence to make good neighbors," Opinion, Aug. 6.) The map in particular gave me a shock. It shows very clearly that the Israeli government plans to squeeze the Palestinian people into a territory less than half the size of that marked out for them by the Green Line. They will be cut off from their best agricultural land and from the water of the Jordan River.

Neighborly behavior starts with friendly - not hostile - gestures, and security is built on mutual trust. How can this terrible barrier, which probably will force an entire population into permanent, humiliating isolation, foster an atmosphere of trust? The United States should not be subsidizing this project with loan guarantees or any other support.
Nancy Morgan
Ithaca, N.Y.

Although it seems that Amitai Etzioni makes a simple and clear argument about why a fence could lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he forgets to mention one simple thing: Israel continues to exercise its power within the areas that are fenced in. Israel maintains and extends its power into each and every facet of Palestinian life.

This is why it is an occupation, and this is why, when you build a fence around it, it just becomes a huge jail. That makes this fence different from the others mentioned. Israel has a right to respond to attacks, and it has a right to take steps to limit the risks to its own people. And, yes, peace can come if you imprison everyone who disagrees with you. But is not liable to be a good peace or one that can stand the test of time.
Omair Ahmad

'The real Liberians'

Regarding your Aug. 6 article "Battered Liberians aid each other": Your piece on the Liberian volunteers' dedication and bravery was so welcome. That is who the real Liberians are - not the terrible drugged children and thugs who claim to be leaders.
Jo Sullivan
Lynn, Mass.

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