Despite what was reported in the Sept. 25 front-page story "Oil and Gas Hold the Reins in the Wild West," the Interior Department's decision to remove Colorado's West Douglas wild horse herd was not "recently unveiled"; it was made in 1975. The article also said that in Wyoming's Jack Morrow Hills, the administration opened 63 percent of the land for leasing. Almost 100 percent of the area was open to leasing under the prior plan -- this administration closed 37 percent to leasing. Further, the amount of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land disturbed by roads and infrastructure for development is 1 percent.

The article suggested that the Desolation Canyon and Book Cliffs areas in Utah may now "sprout oil fields." These areas are part of a 550,000-acre Wilderness Study Area complex and are off-limits to development.

Perhaps most unfortunately, the article referred to federal land-use plans as a "little known policy tool." Land-use planning is not a policy tool; it is the law and the mechanism by which the BLM determines the level of all activities, including recreation and grazing, as well as wild horse herd levels.

Planning decisions are made in an open process that encourages public expression. This administration has encouraged even greater public participation in land-use planning by engaging local communities as cooperating agencies on many of its plans.

REBECCA WATSON

Assistant Secretary for Land

and Minerals Management

U.S. Department of the Interior

Washington