For the week of June 17 thru June 23, 1998  

Mark of success?

It’s easy to tell when a science experiment fails. The mouse dies, the rocket crashes or the chemicals explode.

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and the U.S. Forest Service have called user fees on the national forests an "experiment."

But what kind of an experiment has no mark of success?

Most researchers start out with a theory they test against reality. For example, medical researchers will test drugs to find out if they shrink cancerous tumors. They inject experimental drugs into cancerous tumors in animals or humans. Then they watch to see if they shrink. If they shrink, the experiment is a success.

The Forest Service isn’t saying how it will determine if user fees are successful

The fees are a hot topic of conversation in the Wood River Valley. People are divided. Some want to do something nice for the forest. Some want to do something nice for themselves, like making sure the trails are clear for their mountain bikes.

Others are concerned that there are no guarantees the fees will not increase, that they will be spent in the forest that generates them, or that forest budgets will not be reduced by same amount collected from users each year. Double taxation is also an issue.

Some are concerned about the overtones of having to carry the "proper papers" just to walk on public lands. Users who do not pay the fees may be fined.

There are many measures of success, but we fear the measure on this so-called experiment is a variation of the one used by armed robbers: They are successful if they get away with the money without getting caught.

It’s a poor way to measure success. The public deserves better. The "experiment" deserves to fail. If it doesn’t, the next piece of legislation Congress should entertain should be a bill to ban Craig and other fee supporters from having anything to do with any bill that deals with anything even vaguely scientific.


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