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Stewards of our Public Lands

For almost 40 years, the United States Forest Service (USFS), which manages our extensive National Forests from Alaska to Hawaii to Maine, has had its budgets cut or delayed. Forest rangers on the trail are not a familiar sight like they used to be. Campgrounds have been privatized and fees have been instituted for area visits, to make up for budget shortfalls. The USFS manages a "Land of Many Uses" - recreation and timber sales, setting up conflicts between users. Hikers want motorized traffic restricted, cross country skiers want snowmobiles banned, environmentalists want logging stopped. The USFS is enjoined by the U.S. Congress to resolve these conflicts and preserve our forests for the general public. Environmental organizations have for years lobbied Congress to reduce the USFS budgets under the guise of protecting our forests from loggers overharvesting timber. The result has put a crimp on the USFS ability to manage our forests through selective timber harvesting to control overgrowth resulting in ever increasing fire danger. The USFS is our forest manager. Imagine what it would be like if the forest were privatized for recreation or industry - for the benefit of the few. Imagine what it would be like if environmental organizations controlled access to our public lands only as they and only they saw fit.The USFS has only 5 billion dollars to manage their entire system - a small fraction of our trillion dollar budget. A country that can't take care of its backyard can't take care of itself. In the White River National Forest, in Colorado, one of the most heavily used forests in the country, I once met the "Lone Ranger", the only ranger out on the trail, patrolling the forest from Silverthorne to Vail - due to budget cutbacks. Trees can't vote, you can.

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