I'm sure you're all aware of Sally Jewell's nomination for Secretary of the Interior. Did you all read this from The New York Times blog by Timothy Egan? It got me feeling a little territorial:
For all the ranchers and wildcatters, the loggers and right-wing county commissioners who clamor for control of the nation’s public lands, the dominant user is an urbanite, who bikes, skis, rafts, climbs, hunts, fishes, watches birds, waits for sunsets with a camera or finds an antidote for “nature deficit disorder” in a weekend on a high plateau. Yet this silent majority is taken for granted.(emphasis mine)
When I first saw this coming across on posts by Facebook friends, I cheered. Public lands are extracted from maybe more than they are protected and preserved. The rest of us who appreciate nature are sort of bulldozed by the corporations who stand to make a fist full of dollars.
But I kept coming back to that bit about urbanites who bike, ski, and raft. I have a deep appreciation of nature and a solid belief in preserving and sanely managing the lands we all supposedly share, but I'm not an urbanite and I don't have the money to head out in the yonder to bike, raft, and ski. At least not very often. The cost of getting out there plus the cost of the gear needed to recreate adds up to just too much. So I camp when I'm able, hike a bit, ski maybe once or twice a year if I can manage it. Even with that little bit, I'm way ahead of lots of folks who rarely, if ever, have the chance or can afford to enjoy our public lands.
Sally Jewell represents one of the biggest sellers of outdoor gear in America, whether she still works for them or not. REI, which started as a hole in the wall in Seattle, has grown and spread and put a few local outdoor gear places out of business--basically had the same effect Barnes & Noble has had on the indie bookseller. REI is cheaper, but much of their stuff is priced out of reach for anyone with little or no expendable income. REI was founded to serve an elite group of mountain climbers. Will how our public lands are managed shift from one elite group (oil and gas corps) to another (wealthy urbanites)?
Urbanite outdoor types do their share of messing up public lands, too. Downhill skiing is hardly environmentally friendly, but maybe cross-country is. Getting to any of these places to raft and bike takes a good dose of fossil fuels, staff to clean abused bathrooms, empty trash, pick up trash off the ground...many areas now have limited permits due to heavy traffic from the recreation-seeking
And then there's this:
" ... those who value the prairies, canyons, mountains and grasslands of Interior for something other than extraction have been largely missing from the debate. . ."Uhm, if most of the voices getting heard are those of oil and mining companies, aren't all of the rest of us who care about the planet not getting heard? Not just the well-off urbanite who can afford to be out there with all that made-in-China gear, shooting the rapids and swooshing over the snow?
And, believe it or not, plenty of ranchers and farmers also value the prairies and canyons and etc. It's part of the reason some live in those out-of-the-way places. I know of a couple of Eastern Oregon ranchers who make regular recreational use of the mountains and canyons when they have the time.
I think this diary is more of an observation and a caution than a complaint. I worry about our public lands becoming reserved for the elite. I hope that there are programs to help others get out there to recover from nature deficit -- for the chance to ever experience the natural and the wild at all. What comes to mind right now is Outward Bound, Oregon's Northwest Youth Corps (I think WA has something similiar), Youth Conservation Corps, etc. I was a YCC participant years ago. A handful of the kids I worked with were low income city kids who had never been in the woods. And those kids weren't out recreating; mostly they worked pretty damn hard for the experience - the experience was the real pay - the money didn't add up to much.
I don't know a lot about what's available to help people enjoy the great outdoors who may not otherwise have the chance, so share what you know in the comments.
Don't get me wrong, I would rather that people who can afford to be out there hiking and rafting have a say in how are public lands are managed than just the big oil and mining companies, but I hope that group includes die-hard conservationists to maintain a balance. I applaud Sally Jewell's nomination. And REI is a leader in sustainable business practices, so worth paying attention to, even if they don't really feel like a co-op. Not to me.
Maybe I'm worrying over nothing, but Egan's blog, after some thought, got up my nose a little because of the elitist slant.
Anyhow, I'm here looking for other thoughts and discussion.
4:22 PM PT: Community Spotlight! I expected this diary to go unnoticed. Thanks Rescue Rangers!