Three provocative essays

  Dear HCN,

The Feb. 20 HCN had three very provocative opinions expressed on its back pages. I was startled, however, by Ray Rasker's comments which followed "Education ... is an important determinate to individual success ..." He meant that old-timers need to become educated, which is true.

I had assumed that he was going to say that newcomers need to educate themselves about the land into which they move, which is just as true. Very many newcomers are as well-meaning as a missionary and as ignorant as a rock. Of course, many old-timers also are remarkably ignorant about the land where they have a long personal history. But the old-timers seem less impudent and self-assured in their ignorance.

I reread John Walker's plea to be allowed to endure privations on the land he loves several times, trying to find something wrong with it. I failed. His argument is tightly built, without cracks, and competent. This is the best writing on any subject that I've read in a long time. It will not be recycled into my wood stove.

Jon Margolis' characterization of Westerners as cry-babies was imaginative but contained one glaring example of faulty reasoning. Demanding subsidized use of public resources is completely different from demanding that managers of public lands contain forest fires within public lands. I believe it is obviously unjust for my neighbor (public or private) to be permitted to drain his wetlands and dump all that water on my land, or to spray pesticides which drift or migrate to my land, or to allow his wildfire to pollute my air and spread into my trees or home.

Most of the taxpayer millions spent fighting fires last summer was spent on public land. That the first priority of fire fighters was to keep the fires from spreading to private homes was entirely appropriate. The appropriate second priority would be to keep wildfire from spreading to privately owned trees. Doubtless public lands could be better managed with regard to wildfire. Once the smoke was in the air, however, the public land managers had exactly the right priorities: Stop our fire before it invades the lands of our neighbors, who are not responsible for it.

From reading some comments about last summer's fires and those of preceding summers, I suppose that some people would judge my attitude toward fire to be unreasonable. Such people view wildfire as an ungovernable natural force such as weather or gravity before which property lines are not relevant. I might as well complain, they think, about the earthquake that radiates from an epicenter on my neighbor's land and tumbles my house. Some of these people even view wildfire as a positive thing. That such people are wrong to the extent of being silly is self-evident (reference my comment above about ignorant as a rock).

Kent Dannen

Allenspark, Colorado

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