Environmental debate warped

We agree with the recent minority opinion of a federal judge that the courts are substituting their vision of best forest practices in place of the expertise of forest managers who are hired by the government to do just that.

But while we have little use for environmental groups or judges that want to bring all natural resource activities to a standstill, we also see that the Bush administration has been its own worst enemy in trying to loosen the gridlock strangling rural communities.

Look no further than the office of the vice president of the United States to see why people suspect the administration is not playing by the rules in its environmental policies. Late last month a Washington Post story showed how Dick Cheney manipulated environmental regulation involving the Klamath Basin water dispute in 2001.

Cheney personally contacted Interior Department employees and essentially demanded that the agency clear the way for the release of irrigation water in the midst of a drought. Tens of thousands of Chinook salmon died later that summer in the tepid waters of the Klamath River, an event laid at the feet of federal water policies.

It's that kind of political gamesmanship by the White House that makes it difficult for neutral observers to think that the professionals at the various federal agencies are doing their jobs in an unbiased way. They may want to, but will their bosses on the other side of the country let them? Given what we now know about Cheney's involvement in the Klamath fiasco, who can be sure?

So that leaves us to determine the best environmental course by trying to figure out how much to discount the claims made by either side in a natural resource issue. Environmentalists tell you the sky will fall if even a relatively small amount of timber cutting or water diversion is approved. And we have an administration equally prepared to distort the truth to prop up its view of the world.

The best route to managing natural resources is to hire competent people and let them do their jobs. We trust that in the vast majority of cases those managers are trying to do just that. But when their bosses put politics into play, that trust is lost.

If you picked up Sunday's paper you might have noticed two articles in the A section. One on Page 4A reported that Oregon's Legislature failed to adequately fund students with special needs. The increase of $1 million allotted for special needs will not allow for added personnel in an area faced with a growing need for services.

A second story on Page 10A featured students from Africa's Guinea studying under airport lights because only a fifth of the people have access to electricity.

It's hard to read both stories and not make some comparisons. While our state struggles to meet the many expectations in providing the best education possible for its students, what we consider a setback must pale in comparison for students spending their evenings searching for some light to study by.

Education is not dependent only on books, buildings and teachers. Education also is dependent on students willing to take advantage of what is available. Despite some problems, students can get a quality education in Oregon, but we wonder how many would make the effort that others in the world routinely undertake to expand their horizons?

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