To the Editor:
I agree with Angela Eckhardt's assessment of the environmental movement and that science and economics should guide more of our land management decisions, but think her black and white view of the government versus the private sector's role is too overstated.
I believe history will show that management of federal lands has been mostly good in spite of some recent departure from active forestry. Conversely, private ownership does not always bring about better land management; witness the large percentage of neglected or mismanaged private timberland throughout the Inland Northwest. Additionally, even conservatives would agree that many worthy and oftentimes necessary conservation measures have been implemented on private lands because of government regulations and/or incentives.
I can think of three suggestions for improving federal land management. First, both the BLM land and National Forests should each be governed by an independent, lifetime commission whose membership would be drawn from the related professional disciplines, i.e. forestry, recreation, wildlife, road engineering, fisheries, recreation, etc. These would be appointed by the president and approved by Congress. Citizen appeals would be addressed by this commission and not by the federal courts. Second, individual states should be given more weight in management decisions on the federal lands within there borders. Third, to improve citizen input in management decisions, require at least half of all grade and high school students complete courses in forestry and agriculture.
There have been great successes in both agriculture and forestry in this country under the present system. Many changes need to be made but let's not entirely scrap this system.