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Owyhee initiative ignores majority interest

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The HCN article on the Owyhee Initiative was superficial, misleading and omitted several key points (HCN, 12/8/03: Riding the middle path). None of the ostensibly green groups at the table is fighting for what is best for this ecosystem: real wilderness on a big enough scale for native wildlife to flourish. The Idaho Conservation League, The Wilderness Society and The Nature Conservancy ignore the reality that land with more cattle troughs, fencing and pipelines is not true wilderness. Instead, this process has degenerated to a sellout so they can cynically proclaim that they obtained "wilderness designation" in Idaho for the first time in over 20 years.

Your spin referring to cowboys as "kings" and giving up a portion of their "kingdom" does a grave disservice to the 280 million Americans who actually own these lands, many of whom undoubtedly would be opposed to the giveaway of their legacy if they were aware of this phony collaborative process.

Finally, from a taxpayer’s perspective, it makes no sense to spend hundreds of thousands of federal dollars on fencing, pipelines and other range structures on grazing allotments that generate only a few thousand dollars in lease payments annually for the U.S. Treasury, with livestock grazing continuing to damage irreplaceable streams, uplands and wildlife.

Rather than propping up extractive interests which are fading, Idaho’s politicians should look to the future, and help secure meaningful protection on behalf of all Americans for these large-scale wild areas that can provide revenues from hunting, fishing, birdwatching and pack trips. To the enviros at the table, I say: Abandon this travesty, work for regime change in Washington, and seek national exposure and support for real wilderness designation for the Owyhees and Idaho’s other wild areas.

Debra K. Ellers
Boise, Idaho
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