It's difficult to sympathize with the environmental activists who are weeping over the Forest Service's decision to stick with its management plan for the Chugach National Forest.
One might even suspect that they are shedding crocodile tears. After all, what did they lose? Of the 5.5 million acres in the forest:
1.4 million acres of western Prince William Sound will be designated wilderness (if Congress goes along; and that's admittedly not a done deal);
Another 1.2 million acres in western Prince William Sound will be retained in a primitive condition, though recreational cabins will continue to be used and floatplane and other aircraft landings will be allowed;
1.7 million acres in the Copper River Delta will be managed as roadless wildlife habitat; and,
1.2 million acres (the western portion of the Kenai Peninsula) is to be managed largely as back country, with recreational use including snowmobiling. Its facilities will include campgrounds. Limited salvage of beetle-killed spruce trees will be allowed along road corridors. Mining also will be permitted, but that will almost certainly involve just small placer operations.
Altogether, 99 percent of the forest will remain roadless. But nothing will placate green extremists. No amount of wilderness is enough for them, nothing except every single acre of every forest, park and refuge. And fie on people's needs the needs of people other than themselves, that is.
A spokesperson for the Alaska Center for the Environment bemoaned the decision and said most of the 30,000 comments on the plan wanted more conservation set-asides.
''I'm upset,'' she said. ''A lot of people put their blood, sweat and tears into the public process, and they've been ignored.''
Asked if the Forest Service knew where the 30,000 comments came from, one official said approximately 25,000 were postcards that were pasted inside a National Wildlife Federation member magazine. The cards were pulled out, signed and mailed, as instructed.
Several thousand other comments were on form letters resulting from mass mailings and appeals by the green groups. And approximately 2,000 were individual signed letters.
The planning process was a long one that allowed for the first time public participation in all meetings of the planning team, including experts in biology, forestry, engineering and other relevant sciences.
Many of the ''public'' participants at the meetings were the staffers and paid professionals for various interest groups, including and especially the greens. They, after all, are the ones with the time and motivation to attend such sessions.
While the meetings were going on, much of the real public was out in the forest having a good time.
The Voice of the Times - July 13
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