It's up to us to protect public lands

To the editor,

Two recent Telegraph articles about public lands issues (Silverton scoping on travel plan, June 13; and USFS rule change, June 27) bring to attention the ongoing problems with “public input” and federal agencies following (or not) policies/rules coming from congress or the current administration.

On the BLM side of things, Elijah Waters was quoted in the Silverton scoping article as saying; “Roads & trails on public lands are very important to the economy of Silverton and SJ County.” This is the same BLM official who post-Silverton Mountain Guides scoping on expanding/changing the “pods,” or areas where Silverton Mountain could take its helicopters to heli-ski, ignored the vast majority (85 percent) of public comment on the issue to approve the expansion (perhaps following “economic” benefit analysis?)

Which leads to the other Telegraph article, and whether a Forest Service rule change that would allow “categorical exclusions” would further limit or exclude public input, that then might lead to further “economic or extractive” impacts on our public lands. So as far as I can tell, giving USFS or BLM officials any more leeway in deciding for themselves what is in the best interest of the public is not advisable, as they are already influenced by the whims of Washington politics (just think about the Village at Wolf Creek) and may not even take into account the input the public does give them (think about SMG and heli-skiing). We need to keep the public in “public lands” debates as much as we can.

Democracy is messy and not as expedient as less representative forms of governing. It’s a price worth paying to help preserve what’s at stake of being lost (wildlife, quiet, wilderness, roadless areas ...). Speak up and be heard. And call them out when they don’t listen, and act against or try to weaken set policy by supporting those who monitor public lands issues (think local nonprofit environmental orgs.)

– Tim Thomas, Durango