Here are some excerpts from recent editorials that appeared in Minnesota newspapers.
If there is a better example of pointless lawmaking than the bill encouraging freeway motorists to drive in the right lane, we sure haven't heard of it.
The bill moving quickly through the Legislature would require motorists to drive in the right-hand lane of four-lane highways except when they are passing or preparing to turn left. While the spirit of the bills is not in contest -- after all, it is best to drive in the right-hand lane -- the sense of making law on this issue is questionable.
For starters, neither version of the bill imposes a penalty on those who don't follow the law. Toothless laws are bad laws, as Minnesota's earliest attempts at seat belt legislation proved.
More significantly, right-hand-lane driving has much more to do with courtesy than with safety. Sure, it is an irritation to find a slow driver blocking higher-speed traffic in the left lane. But even the slow driver is probably doing the speed limit and the high-speed traffic is most likely well in excess of the legal limit. So who is in the wrong?
Nor would the law be particularly enforceable. What's the sense of State Patrol officers spending their time pulling over lane-offenders instead of drivers who are committing more serious offenses? ...
... there is absolutely no need for lawmakers to waste their time on legislation that will produce no results and which is simply not needed. ...
-- The Daily Journal of Fergus Falls
A welcome consensus is developing in northeastern Minnesota: To reduce risk of wildfire after a ''superblowdown'' cut a 30-mile-long, 4- to 12-mile-wide swath of forest in the Boundary Waters wilderness, we're going to have to fight fire with fire.
The U.S. Forest Service has prepared a plan of action. It promotes a needed change in policy, recognizing the important, natural role of fire in regenerating the forest -- and protecting human settlements outside the wilderness.
The Forest Service hopes to refine the plan by the end of summer, release a draft by December, get comments and make further revisions by April 2001 and start fighting fire with fire in the wilderness in fall 2001.
The sooner prescribed fires can create a barrier linking lakes in the wilderness to protect lives and property outside the wilderness and restore the natural fire regeneration of the forest, the better.
Amazingly, after more than 80 years of fire suppression, the new consensus has generated little controversy. So-called ''prescribed burns'' of 8,000 to 12,000 acres each year should be a regular management tool in the wilderness to reproduce natural fire conditions.
The aim should be to set up an ongoing fire rotation for the whole 1.1 million acres of the Boundary Waters wilderness. We now know that if we had allowed natural fires to burn old and dead trees years ago, instead of suppressing fires, fewer trees would be susceptible to blowdowns like the one that occurred July 4.
Certainly, minimal use of chain saws, portable water pumps, and helicopters and other aircraft for prescribed burns violates wilderness values much less than if we did nothing and waited for wildfire.
Then we'd need all the machines we could find to suppress fire. Better to use a light hand and allow minimal motor use where needed to fight fire with fire than to wait for catastrophic conditions where we'd need substantial aerial attack and other mechanized equipment.
The July 4 blowdown should be seen as an opportunity to make permanent changes in the way we manage the forest -- and not just as emergency action.
-- Duluth News-Tribune
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