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Guest Editorial

Public lands should be just that - public

BY DOC HASTINGS

The over 200,000 acres of federally owned land in Central Washington present many opportunities - as well as unique challenges - for our communities. Our public lands serve multiple purposes - providing recreation opportunities, forest products and wildlife habitat.

Public lands are held in trust by the government. It's the responsibility of the government to ensure that these lands are widely accessible and managed responsibly. It should never be forgotten that American taxpayers pay the bill for managing these areas - and public land use policies should reflect that.

Our public lands should be just that - public. It's as simple as that.

I believe our public lands should be managed in a balanced way, with the most environmentally sensitive areas set aside as wilderness, and the rest open for other uses as guided by local input and the forest planning process.

This multiple use approach guides my decisions on land policies because I understand the important recreation, economic and environmental benefits our public lands offer.

In recent months, I have heard from hundreds of Central Washington residents who enjoy riding horses on public lands and who want to make sure the practice is preserved for their children and grandchildren.

The Right to Ride Livestock on Federal Lands Act is an example of a common sense, multiuse approach to public land management. The bill has been approved by the House of Representatives with my support.

The bill would ensure that all trails, routes and other areas on federal lands that have historically been used by horses and pack animals remain open and accessible for such use. This type of recreation and exploration has been part of our nation's tradition for hundreds of years - going back to the days of Lewis and Clark. It's just one of the ways we can preserve the multiuse nature of our public lands and I'm hopeful that the Senate will act quickly to approve the bill so that it can be signed into law.

Preventing public lands from becoming a burden on local governments, enabling open access, and providing for responsible management are keys to ensuring the continued benefits that Central Washington's many public lands have to offer.

Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's 4th Congressional District.

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