Don Hopey captured the enthusiasm of West Virginians over the new wilderness areas in Monongahela National Forest ("Wild West Virginia Gets Wilder," April 12). It is high time that Pennsylvanians were afforded a similar cause for excitement.
As he noted, Friends of Allegheny Wilderness has been leading a citizen effort to protect some of the wilderness left in Allegheny National Forest, located 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. When the U.S. Forest Service issued a plan for the forest, 6,800 of the 8,200 public comments urged protection of more wilderness in the Allegheny. Many pointed out the need for greater balance between protected areas and lands available to the oil and gas and logging industries. So far only 2 percent of the forest has been protected as wilderness, and the Friends of Allegheny Wilderness AW citizen proposal would take that figure to just 12 percent.
Wilderness not only provides the American people with world-class recreation and wildlife habitat. Its watersheds supply us with clean water and healthy fisheries, its trees clean our air, and its appeal to boaters, campers, hunters and other outdoors lovers brings dollars into the local economy.
I urge readers to contact those who represent them in Congress in support of protecting more Allegheny forest land. Let's remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt: "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value."
WILLIAM H. MEADOWS
President, The Wilderness Society