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January 08, 1968
SWINGING AN AX
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January 08, 1968

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SWINGING AN AX

The ridiculous and recurring conflict between the Department of Agriculture, which administers the Forest Service, and the Department of the Interior, which governs the national parks, never has been more evident than in the dispute over Mineral King Valley in the Sierra Nevada. By historical quirk the valley, one of the most beautiful in the West, is not in the Sequoia National Park, which borders it on three sides, but in the Sequoia National Forest. The Department of Agriculture sought to convert Mineral King into a $35-million year-round resort, which would be constructed by Walt Disney Productions, and to build an eight-mile access road through the national park. For the past year an argument has raged over the advisability of such a plan.

The dispute was never one of simple black and white. On the positive side, the resort would offer an outlet for Californians seeking wholesome recreation—skiers would have access to superb slopes, and summer visitors would be able to hike, pack trip or ride the lifts to see the views. And the Department of Agriculture would receive half a million dollars in revenue each year from the Disney company.

On the debit side, another sliver of American wilderness would disappear, and part of a national park would be paved over. Those opposed feared the project would be scaled too large for the valley and would introduce, for instance, air- and water-pollution problems.

Last week, upon getting absolute assurance from Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman that the Disney resort "will be a model project that will be copied, not criticized," Interior Secretary Stewart Udall decided to go along. A Forest Service official says strict controls will make certain that the resort "very definitely will not have a honky-tonk atmosphere."

There is no reason why Americans cannot use the resources of their land, but continual tugs-of-war on such issues settle nothing. What the country needs, as we have said before (SI, Dec. 11), is a National Council of Ecological Advisers, a reasonable, concerned group of men who can study a proposition and make wise—and authoritative—recommendations.

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY
We received word the other day that Private John Wooden Legs of Lame Deer, Mont, had posted the highest score ever recorded in basic training combat-proficiency tests in Company E, 4th Battalion, 3rd Brigade at Fort Lewis, Wash. He ran the mile in 5:34 in full combat uniform and boots. The letter noted that running was nothing new to the Wooden Legs family, who are Northern Cheyenne Indians. Great-grandfather Richard Wooden Legs, the first to bear the name, was given it because he could walk great distances. He also apparently could fight, being on the winning side in the Battle of Little Bighorn against General Custer. Just coincidentally, Lieut. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, a great-grand-nephew of the General Custer, commands a battalion at Fort Lewis. Private Wooden Legs has never met him.

MATCH POINT

When Australia overwhelmed Spain last week 4-1 in the Davis Cup Challenge Round in Brisbane, there were so few people in the grandstands it looked like a tea party in the outback. The best single-day attendance was 6,500. Tennis officials recalled the days back in the '50s when the cup would draw 25,000 people on an afternoon, but they now would have a hard time giving away that many seats. Like everyone else, the Australian tennis fan has become disenchanted. A representative of a sporting goods company said, "Our tennis sales are off 40%. When people aren't interested enough in a sport to go out and watch it they don't play it either. We need open tennis badly, including open Davis Cup play."

Australia votes next month on whether or not to allow its amateurs to play in an open Wimbledon. New South Wales, one of the six states within the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia, has already voted yes. If three other states do so, Wimbledon wins.

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