Travel plan

Debate policy without attacking personnel

There was no chance that the Boggy/Glade travel plan would be met with universal approval. Government actions, almost by definition, are unpopular in Montezuma County.

There was also no chance that the travel plan, the U.S. Forest Service or the entire federal government was going to go away.

So everyone involved knew more contention was coming. The philosophical differences will not be resolved.

To a certain extent - a lesser extent than currently exists - tension between interested parties is a good thing. It helps to maintain an awareness of what's at stake. It reminds us that others have a constitutional right to hold different values, and that some indeed do. It can create progress. Addressed properly, it can foster respect.

It can also foster distrust where none need exist and provoke behavior that is, at best, unproductive.

The travel plan is fair game. Discuss it, debate it, express disgust or approval or any response in between. Call, email or write to the editor, the district ranger, the forest supervisor, the Interior secretary, every elected official in Washington. Start a petition. Talk to your attorney. All those options are available to everyone.

But don't forget that policies are not crafted as personal insults, and a person is more than his or her job. Forest Service employees, like all employees, don't get to choose which parts of their job description they'll fulfill and which they'll ignore.

Because of those realities, the dialogue can seem extremely, and unfairly, one-sided. Public employees aren't supposed to hurl personal insults, and they do an admirable job of refraining from such unprofessional behavior. They can't ask backhanded questions about religion and politics. They can only talk about the policies that they have, at most, had a hand in writing and refining and will be tasked with implementing. Their influence doesn't extend to making public lands policies disappear, no matter how loud and how sharp the reaction may be.

Nastiness hurts, as it's intended to do, while creating no benefit for anyone. It often splatters innocent people. Hateful words aren't evidence of the validity or legality of a position. They're less likely to attract supporters or convince the undecided than they are to bolster opposing arguments. They often bubble up out of frustration and helplessness, but they don't change those conditions.

What they do accomplish is to make responsible government officials and their families far less likely to want to be part of this community, and for good reason. Driving away people who care about this place and want to live here isn't a good way to bolster one's position. Making them fear for their safety is not a decent way to treat one's fellow human beings.

Now, when violence seems to erupt so easily, it's ever more important to practice constructive dialogue. Words should be employed as tools, not weapons. Whatever one might think of current policies (about which a broad range of opinions exist), most locals respect public lands employees and believe they deserve to be treated civilly, 100 percent of the time