Letters for Oct. 15

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No drug testing

In response to the letter by Michael Turner, I am an airline captain with 34 years' experience, now retired. Michael, there are many of us who do not share your easy acceptance of random drug testing.

If 0.1 percent of a group is using drugs and the test is 99.9 percent accurate, then there will be one false positive for every correct positive result. At great expense, the random testing has proven that the users of drugs constitute a percentage smaller than 0.1 percent. As a result, innocent airline employees have had their lives ruined. There was never any indication that drugs were a problem in the industry. Panic instilled by the media and used by politicians was the problem.

The huge cost of this program -- the money paid out to the drug testing companies -- could have been spent better elsewhere. If the politicians and the CEOs had not succumbed to their fear of public panic amplified by the media, the money could have been spent on better airport security, the reinforced cockpit doors that we wanted, and captains' security briefings that included classified information higher than confidential. We would have had the intelligence that the White House had, that hijacked airplanes might be used as weapons.

Random testing of high school students should be a parental responsibility. Inform the parents of a possible problem and offer them the option of testing. In any case, random testing should be instituted only in a group in which the users constitute a large enough percentage to justify ruining the lives of the false positives.

Christopher Kipfer

Steamboat Springs

Grief counseling

I have been going to the grief counseling group at Yampa Valley Medical Center for about a month. I recently lost my mother, and before that my father and brother within a six-year period. I have never attended a counseling group. I just dealt with the sorrow when it emerged and tried to distract myself as much as possible. Thankfully, I have a wonderful sister, and we have assisted each other greatly with this loss.

I didn't think I would be able to talk in a group about the deep sorrow I felt or whether I wanted to go to such an intense place with people I didn't know. Also, I always felt I was strong enough to deal with it.

That may or may not be true; however, I decided to go to the first group meeting with Carol Gordon and Katie Thiel. I was nervous at first, and my words stumbled out amid tears, but I found a very safe place with Carol and Katie. I could talk openly and cry without feelings of being a burden or being embarrassed. After the first meeting, I was exhausted but felt I had taken a positive step to release the emotional pain with two knowledgeable, gentle counselors, and the other people in the group were extremely sympathetic and supportive.

The reason I am writing this is because I know there are many people who have lost loved ones and cannot bear the pain, have no one to talk to, or do not want to burden their family and friends. My message is: This group is a safe place just to sit and listen or to let it all out -- the pain, the anger, the frustration, the confusion, the deep loneliness.

Joan Remy

Steamboat Springs

Red pine, bad sign

The red pine trees and orange spruce trees you see intermingled with golden aspen in the National Forests are not usually part of the fall foliage show. These are the result of mountain pine beetle and spruce bark beetle epidemics that are killing many trees in the Rockies. Here are some facts about the beetles and what the Forest Service is doing to reduce their effects.

Insect epidemics are natural events in the life cycle of a forest. This area of the West contains many mature trees, which are usually good targets for both beetles. Dense stands of trees provide good beetle habitat.

Drought stresses trees, making them less resistant to beetle attack. A warm winter when temperatures rarely fall to 22 degrees below zero keeps more beetle larva alive and ready to emerge in mid-summer. Forests in the Rockies have experienced all of these conditions in the past couple of years. Mountain pine beetles attack live lodgepole pine trees. Spruce bark beetles usually start their infestations in dead and downed spruce trees and then move to live spruce as the number of beetles increases to epidemic proportions. The spruce bark beetle epidemic in and around Steamboat Springs started when high winds blew down 13,000 acres of trees overnight on the Routt Divide in 1997.

We cannot stop beetle epidemics, but we can slow down their progressions in some areas and manage high value stands to reduce their susceptibility to heavy mortality. The Forest Service's Bark Beetle Project in the Steamboat area has been focused on reducing the spread of spruce bark beetles for a few years now. Several timber sales north of Steamboat Springs and in the Green Ridge Project area near Rand will help reduce mortality associated with the spread of mountain pine beetles. Both projects use a variety of methods to combat further beetle infestation, including commercial timber sales. The sales north of Steamboat largely are "preventive thinning" treatments, while the Green Ridge area sales will use a variety of harvest treatments to reduce their susceptibility to mortality, salvage (cut and remove) trees already infected or killed by beetles, and harvest timber to regenerate some stands with heavy mortality. With all this activity, you may notice some open areas on hillsides in these treatment areas. However, these areas will regenerate and the new trees will grow into young healthy stands.

Beetles do not recognize land ownership boundaries and in many cases, the Forest Service has been working cooperatively with neighboring landowners to treat areas of beetle-infested forests.

The public's efforts to review and comment on these projects have been great. We thank those involved for their input. To learn more about beetle epidemics, visit the Forest Health Management Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r2/fhm. The Colorado State Forest Service offers some informative publications on mountain pine beetles and other insects on their Web site at www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/pubins.html. If you have questions or comments, contact your local district or e-mail r2_mbr_vis@fs.fed.us.

Mary Peterson

Forest supervisor for the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland

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