Ken Vanden Heuvel, (Aug. 19, “Misinformed on Wilderness”), claims Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is misinformed about the reduction of economic growth opportunities associated with designated wilderness areas. He cites Joseph, Ore., as an example of a community that has benefited economically from its proximity to large tracts of federally protected land.
As an avid outdoorsman, I am certainly not opposed to wilderness designations. However, I have talked to several private business owners in Joseph, and the outlook for the economy there is not good. While a few seasonal recreation and/or tourist-dependent businesses are doing OK, most are struggling to survive. Mining, timber, ranching and farming incomes have all declined sharply. The only economic sector that is experiencing real growth in Wallowa County is government. Federal, state and local government workers now comprise nearly one-third of all employment (source: Oregon Employment Department).
As our national economy continues to falter and gas prices continue to spike, less tourism means even less revenue for seasonally dependent businesses in towns like Joseph. Placing more people on government payrolls (or on welfare rolls) does not qualify as economic prosperity.