Babbitt didn't know best

  Dear HCN,

Ed Marston believes that a reborn Department of Interior under Bruce Babbitt has led America out of the darkness of greedy natural resource extraction interests and into the warm sunlight of enlightened environmentalism (HCN, 1/15/01: Bush administration faces a reborn Interior).

I am not so sure. Clinton-Babbitt forced their own personal value system onto the rest of us in the West, often with the sensitivity of a crowbar tongue depressor. Those values catered to special environmental interest groups; undermined science-based management of federal lands; developed plans and action programs without any regard to state and local governments; and undermined the people's confidence in the integrity and professionalism of government agencies.

I do not expect the Bush-Norton team to roll back environmental laws and cater exclusively to natural resource extraction interests. I do expect they will provide a wide range of goods, services and uses from the public lands while maintaining the ecological health and integrity of those lands.

Marston's willingness to place all of his faith in a government bureaucracy instead of the values and beliefs of many Western interests does not convince me that he is ready to embrace the change in public-land management that is about to occur. I suspect he is still desperately holding onto the government-knows-best philosophy of the Babbitt era. I believe that era ended with the exit of Clinton-Babbitt out the back door of the White House.

Jim Gerber
St. Anthony, Idaho
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