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Another Voice

Residents' Committee's form must follow function

By JERRY LAMAITA

Special to the News

I don't have any particular political stance, nor do I hold myself out as a rigid environmentalist, I don't buy organic foods, and my house is made of wood.

However, from merely an observational standpoint, I could not help but notice what appeared to be quite a contradiction at the Meadows ski trail meeting. The Hood River Valley Residents Committee testimony seemed to center on a strong concern for the adverse environmental impact that a cross-country ski trail would have on the south side of the valley. A cause that we can all relate to, however the dichotomy arises when one takes the time to examine both the environmental practices and the history behind the actions of members of the Committee.

In the mid '60s several prominent Committee members were heavily vying for the permit to operate a ski area in the National Forest. They lost their fight to the group that currently operates Mt. Hood Meadows. Since then, there has been a formal four-decade attempt in the courts, at the administrative level, and in the media to stop every single project undertaken by Meadows management. Either that group had a sudden epiphany of environmental consciousness or, perhaps, more realistically, we are witness to a case of sour grapes that has existed since Lyndon Johnson was in office. I can't help but ask myself: if it was completely acceptable for one group to develop a ski area in a virgin forest, why is it so abhorrent for another to have done exactly the same?

With respect to the comment concerning practices that "threaten the health of forest and agricultural properties," a comment that seems to codify the stance of this group, I find mentioning these two in the same sentence akin to the cat guarding the henhouse. The mutual exclusivity of the health of a forest and the health of a farm are not subject to debate, just look at the Amazon. After all, you first had to first eliminate the forest to get the farm. In addition to deforestation, farming practices that utilize massive amounts of pesticides, inorganic fertilizer and polluting smudge pots to control frost is the absolute antithesis of a virgin forest. In fact, one could draw the conclusion that the large-scale inorganic farms owned and operated by several prominent Committee members, gives rise to the abstract possibility that environmental saber rattling is merely being used to deflect scrutiny from their own dirty environmental practices. That, of course, could be the view if one were, say, an environmental purist.

So while Committee members fertilize their farms and log their land, run cattle and alter the course of rivers, you have to ask yourself, what's the agenda here? The appeal to all our sense of environmental stewardship is compelling; we all struggle with the need to protect public lands, with the economic realities facing families, with well-managed recreation. However, as well intended as some groups' causes at first blush seem to be, the message and credibility is rendered meaningless when form does not follow function.

In life, if you position yourself as arbiter, remember not to hold others to a higher standard than you hold yourself.

Jerry LaMaita lives in Parkdale.

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