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The "Multiple Use Doctrine" for management of public lands served a valuable purpose when it was first legislated. Obviously, the competing positions were to allow the entire U.S. citizenry, as absentee landlords, to have a voice in daily management decisions over vast areas that they had no knowledge of, or to simply place faith in rural westerners to not overreach in our use of a common resource in which we hold only a minuscule ownership interest. With competing positions this untenable, compromise presented the only viable way forward, and mandating multiple uses meant that a structure was created that ensured at least some balancing of competing interests. Easterners couldn't freeze frame "The West" into one vast panorama of natural beauty (seemingly at least, but with far more complex elements than any photograph could capture), and self interested westerners couldn't recreate, while pocketing all of the resulting profits, the various environmental wastelands that selfish mismanagement had saddled scores of eastern communities with.


   Greatly digested, this was the state of affairs when The Wilderness Act was passed in 1964. Prior to that the millions of acres of public lands west of the Mississippi (Alaska presents a special case) had both a very checkered past and present. Literally.

       Almost nothing coherent was being done with any of it, anywhere. The National Park SysteM , of course, had intervened in the case of places so large, so fantastic, and so well known that the sheer, drop dead beauty of the places moved our collective conscience to an inevitable preservationist conclusion.

     But what of the places, so common among the vast open reaches of every Mountain West and Pacific West state, that would cause every Easy Coast road touring family to stop for photos every mile or so, but which we westerners had come to take so for granted that all we could see was the potential to blade open another gravel pit, or to run another dozen sheep across?

         Compromises were required again, and the generic dividing line this time became "roadless" status. With the exceptions being, of course, all of the original (as well as all of the subsequent) explicit Congressional Wilderness Designations (think, here, the Wasatch Wilderness areas in the Salt Lake City watershed, etc,). For those, "wildly beautiful" or "beautifully wild", was the standard applied. And this was, and is, sufficient because Congress votes the Proxies of the citizen landowners.

        And what once was, so forever can be. Wilderness is in the eye of the beholder. Or at least certainly so when the beholders, and even more so those couple of hundred million owners yearning to first bring their families to behold, dream very powerfully that that which they picture in their own minds will still be here when they finally create the reality of showing their children what their many stories told the kids would be there for them to see.

        When we in the west destroy those dreams of collective landowners, and even more so when we do so solely for glaringly selfish ends based entirely in our own misguided conceptions of "entitlement", we commit acts that are, at best, borderline obscene. So we who most sanctimoniously profess allegiance to "property rights" are, in fact, repeatedly, grossly, and unrepentantly the very worst offenders imaginable.

        Which truth really does cry out for the next major compromise. "Wilderness" protection shall be available to our wildly beautiful public lands, including those that may have already been used and abused. And our concept of wilderness protection will be modified to pragmatically accept the principle of "easy come, easy go". Or at least easy go to the extent that we agree in advance that "Wilderness" will mean protection, not fanatical adherence to some virginal ideal. And the new concept of "available for future use" (applicable to all "Wilderness") will be understood to apply only to uses which provide "significant public benefit".  These, then, are to be developed under the mandate to degrade the wildly beautiful characteristics of the place in question only to the minimum extent required to bestow said benefit. And then return it (either in whole, or at least in part) to our inventory of Wilderness.

        Save it all first, and then use what must be used while still saving what can be saved. Not a catchy slogan like "Multiple Use" but a principle that would be far more popular with, and beneficial for, the owners of our public lands than the current political stalemate the Western United States finds itself locked into.

Originally posted to oldpotsmuggler on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 02:27 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting take. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I agree that we can simultaneously preserve and utilize these areas. As you point out, one man's spectacular vista is someone else's back yard.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 03:17:02 PM PST

    •  If you mean (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happy camper

      we can simultaneiously do our best to preserve it all, and only utilize what we really must, I'm with you.

      If you mean beat the heck out of it all we want, and still put a billboard up on the Freeway saying "Charming Acres Next Exit", that's where we're already stalemated at.

      •  I live in MI (0+ / 0-)

        a state with large amounts of state owned, public forest land. For decades we have managed to allow logging, ORV use, camping, hunting, horseback riding, hiking, etc. without wrecking the woods. The loggers are required to replant trees, the ORV clubs do trail maintenance and build bridges over stream crossings, and everyone generally gets along while sharing and preserving the resource.

        It can indeed be done. Nobody gets everything they want, but we generally get what we need.

        "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

        by happy camper on Fri Feb 04, 2011 at 07:20:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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