Locals don't own public land

  Dear HCN,

I am writing in response to Jane Braxton Little's article regarding the Quincy Library Group legislation (HCN, 3/31/97). Little incorrectly characterizes the struggle over the legislation as one between grassroots and national groups. That is not true. A host of grassroots groups, many of them based in the Sierra Nevada, have signed on to letters opposing a bill. Notwithstanding that the legislation itself is poorly crafted, it would, if enacted, set a dangerous precedent whereby local "consensus-based" groups could get their members of Congress to introduce legislation mandating management of our nationally owned public lands.

While local collaborative efforts are important in helping those with differing viewpoints better understand each other and work toward resolution of problems, they should not be used as a foundation for legislation. The national forests belong to all the public, not just to those who live in the affected region or who choose to participate in consensus efforts.

We who live in the rural Sierra Nevada and elsewhere in the West are subject to an inordinate amount of pressure to compromise our environmental principles for the sake of going along with the group. The environmental forces outside of the Sierra, representing statewide and national constituencies, play an important role by continually reminding us of our obligation as local conservationists to those who don't live here but feel as passionately about the range's wildlands as we do.

Finally, "local control" is often used by members of the "wise use" movement to attempt to keep decisions affecting federal lands at the local level. The conservation community must not play into this. Local control means local responsibility, and that means, among other things, ensuring that all Americans have a say in how their public lands are managed.

Sally Miller

Lee Vining, California

The writer is president of Friends of the Inyo, a grassroots group based in the Eastern Sierra Nevada.

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