Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Exasperation breeds indifference

Nothing mysterious about the low turnout at Blaine County hearings into whether roadless areas on public land should be retained or thrown open.

People are exhausted and exasperated. They have defended the nation's environment and public lands only to see the Bush administration engage in cynical bait-and-switch shell games.

Millions of man-hours by government officials and conservation groups, and who knows how many millions of dollars in studies, went into the roadless policy formulated over the last 20 years.

Yet President Bush has begun to dismantle well-crafted public lands policies across the board. Abandoning the roadless policy would mean new riches for extractive industries that gave handsomely to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Opening national parks to more snowmobiles is another bow to industry at the expense of the environment.

The Bush come-on would do honor to a snake oil salesman. He's told governors to hear out the public, then Washington will decide whether to keep roadless area rules and regulations.

Conservationists who've watched this president turn the clock back on public lands policies know full well what's ahead. The White House will open roadless areas permanently, with perhaps a sprinkling of exceptions to give the impression of compassionate environmentalism.

Collecting public comments will not end until spring. Written comments can be sent to the Blaine County Commission.

Even worn-out defenders of Idaho's natural grandeur must muster strength to drop a note of encouragement asking to keep the current roadless policy.

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