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Letters to the Editor for March 20

Mining regulations need to be stricter

According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research organization, hard rock mining has caused some of the most extensive, severe, and longest lasting environmental damage in U.S. history. Thousands of abandoned mines continue to pollute our public lands across the West. South of Roseburg, runoff from acid-leach mining operations has rendered 18 miles of salmon-rearing stream totally lifeless. How do these companies get away with it?

Unfortunately, the current law governing mining on public lands is partly to blame. The law dates back to the land-rush days 1872, when the U.S. government defined hard rock mining as the 'highest and best' use for public lands. The 1872 law has no royalty requirements on the minerals extracted and requires only minimal environmental oversight.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Maria Cantwell of Washington are crafting a bill that requires stricter environmental oversight, funds for cleanup, the payment of royalties, and environmental buffer zones for our iconic national parks and monuments. Oregon's Sen. Gordon Smith, also a member of the committee, is a key swing vote on this issue and may be the biggest hurdle for passage of this much needed legislation.

MICHAEL O'CONNOR

Portland

It's our duty to vote for noble leaders

Many American citizens today are old enough to have lived in the 1920s and '30s, when at that time we were encouraged to study U.S. history in grade school to learn how it all began - how the noble men of that age, with unity of purpose, principles of the Bible and love of country, in foresight, understood the need for a guideline to serve all generations to come, with fairness and equality. It was called the U.S. Constitution. It took long hours, hard work and, most of all, respect for each other's differences, before a democracy was in place.

We learned how each part of the government serves the purpose of keeping us united, regardless of our differences. Understanding the basic differences between the Democratic and Republican parties was necessary and helpful throughout the years to help us better understand what we were voting for, however we chose to vote.

To say that we, the people, are being short-changed today by the corruption in government, in my humble opinion, is like putting the cart before the horse. It is the people's solemn duty and responsibility, provided to us by the U.S. Constitution, to vote into public office those people who unselfishly honor and respect the Constitution as well as their oaths of office. And those who seek this high calling as their first and foremost ambition deserve much thanks and appreciation.

By the same token, by the power of our vote, if we choose, we may vote 'out of office' those people whose behavior threatens to weaken and destroy the very democracy that so many Ameri-cans have sought to preserve.

As 14th President of the United States Franklin Pierce said, 'While all people cannot be expected to hold the same opinion, they can unite in a common objective and sustain common principles. If we forfeit the wise council of the great statesmen of our time, we will surely have failed the lesson they taught us that, a united people is a strong defense against anarchy or tyranny.'

Perhaps the children will show us the way.

IRENE STRUZNIK

King City