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Our Opinion: Taking more away

February 02, 2001

There's a saying in Spanish that goes like this: grano a grano el buche se llena. What it means is that grain by grain a chicken's maw will fill.

In this case the only maw being filled is that of environmental groups that have had their way with a slew of closures and restrictions placed on accessing our local desert areas.

A conservative estimate places the affected acreage at more than 100,000. We're told the final of five agreements, or stipulations, has been issued.

Limitations have been placed on off-highway vehicle use, OHV competitions, camping, road-building and mining, and the deception via brochures of where people should camp.

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All of this comes at the economic detriment to the local community. Perhaps in the eyes of environmentalists and federal district judges, effects of actions taken by people are only of concern when they affect flora and fauna, not other people. Unfortunately, many off-roaders have brought some of these actions on themselves by doing idiotic and often spiteful things and being disrespectful to the desert and everything in it.

Meanwhile, there appears to be some tension in the environmental positions taken by at least one of the three groups involved in the threatened lawsuit against BLM: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

According to a recent news story out of Phoenix, PEER has come out against a bird hunt by the Hopi Indian Nation that would allow the tribe to kill 40 golden eaglets for religious ceremonies. (Note: The Hopi are an independent sovereign nation that has never signed a treaty of any kind with the United States government. The nation is located in the Four Corners area.)

A PEER official is quoted as saying the proposed rule to allow the eaglet killings was "ramrodded through as one of the last acts of the Clinton administration" and that PEER wants Congress to ultimately decide the controversy.

We agree.

We don't understand then, why PEER has no problem with local desert closures that are being ramrodded through by the same administration through a failure to oppose them in court instead of by congressional act.

The lead organization in the lawsuit, the Tucson-based Center for Biological Control, has said on the record that the closures are the result of good-faith negotiations and that the introduction of legislation in Congress by Rep. Duncan Hunter to reverse the closures was a "sneak attack."

Thus, while one environmental group says Congress should settle an environmental issue, another wants Congress kept out, preferring instead that one unelected man in black robes decide the issue.

Separately, an op-ed piece recently printed in an area newspaper from another PEER big shot proclaims the sand dunes are no longer usable by families because of trouble-makers. The author seems to imply many of the 80,000 people who visit the dunes are criminals. The author rehashes old information in an internal BLM report swiped by PEER members who work for BLM and made public to smear sand dunes users.

We don't know if this PEER person has ever visited the dunes, but we have, and we can say with authority there are thousands of families having good clean fun, although we do agree that the many knuckleheads who drink and drug and speed and litter in the desert and dunes need to be brought under greater control, and if that means bringing in bigger contingents of federal and other law enforcement folks at times, so be it.

With the confirmation of Gale Norton as secretary of the Interior, perhaps some common sense will be injected into the lopsided exclusionary actions being taken under threat of lawsuit.

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