I want to thank writer Lynne Bama for her story on land trades, and particularly for showing the connection between 19th-century land grabs and the present-day subsidization of corporations through exchanges (HCN, 3/29/99).
Lynne called me a "one-woman truth squad," which I took as a compliment, but which belies the efforts of scores of other citizens around the West working their tails off to bring reform to the land exchange process.
Letter-writer Andy Wiessner makes much of "pragmatic" environmentalists' support for the Huckleberry Land Exchange, but this says far more about the pitfalls of pragmatism than it does about land swaps. As long as enviros support trading away what they judge to be less important public lands for the sake of their special places, the timber, mining and development corporations have them exactly where they want them, duped by the "win-win" scenario.
The assumption that all lands should be consolidated is also overdue for re-examination. Yes, the checkerboard is a land-management nightmare. But if the fragmented state of some public land is used to justify the trade of any and all forested checkerboards, we are in a heap of trouble - in many areas of the Northwest, the only intact forest the public owns is in these square-mile or smaller sections. Over much of the landscape these are the last refugia for native species, yet they are being bartered for corporate clear-cuts.
Wiessner's statement that all exchanges are processed in public is inaccurate. Many are implemented through legislation that waives public review and environmental laws. In fact, the Plum Creek exchange of which he is so proud was enacted as an appropriations rider - engineered in a backroom deal between Plum Creek, Sens. Gorton and Murray, and "pragmatic" enviros who waived the democratic process for the sake of their special places.