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Originally published November 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 14, 2007 at 2:25 PM

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Snohomish County opinion

The price of wilderness? Less than 2 hours of war

I have been lucky to have visited many of the states in our union, but unfortunately have never made it to Oklahoma. I wonder if that state's...

Special to The Times

I have been lucky to have visited many of the states in our union, but unfortunately have never made it to Oklahoma. I wonder if that state's Republican Sen. Tom Coburn has ever visited our state.

"Why do we live here?" people often ask. "Look around," is our stock answer. This state is beautiful, and we want to preserve it. Legislation to create the Wild Sky Wilderness Area took a major step toward accomplishing that with its unanimous passage in the House earlier this year. However, Coburn has blocked a vote in the Senate through a parliamentary hold on the bill.

According to Coburn spokesman John Hart, "Congress should have to do what everyone else does, which is making choices within their budget. Americans want Congress to live within their means."

The estimated cost of the Wild Sky bill would be about $19 million and protect 106,000 acres of wilderness in Snohomish County. It is saying a lot about the hard work, thought and compromise put into the bill that, in today's divisive climate in Congress, it could garner unanimous approval, bringing around pro-business and Republican critics in the process.

I do not know why the senator from Oklahoma would want to single-handedly derail a plan protecting part of the state of Washington. If this situation were reversed, I am sure he would be furious.

But, to Coburn's objection to the Wild Sky bill on the principle that Congress would be spending money it doesn't have, I have the solution.

Coburn's support for continuing the war in Iraq is evident. He was one of only nine senators who voted to block debate on President Bush's strategy in Iraq.

The current cost to fund the war in Iraq is $8 billion a month. I wanted to see how that related to $19 million. That was amazingly difficult, because I couldn't find a calculator that would allow me to enter that many digits: 8,000,000,000. But, I didn't give up, and finally came up with the answer.

At $8 billion a month, our government is spending $19 million on the war in Iraq every hour and 44 minutes.

Here is the way we can save our irreplaceable wilderness and find the money to pay for it at the same time.

Sen. Coburn should call his friends at the White House and ask them when they are finally planning to end the war in Iraq, and whether they could just do it one hour and 44 minutes sooner.

One hundred and four minutes! Given how long the administration is implying it wants to stay in Iraq, certainly it has enough time to clip off a measly hour and 44 minutes.

Cameron Castle is a freelance writer from Snohomish. E-mail him at Ch.castle@verizon.net

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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