Friday, July 16, 2010

What do You See?

The Great Outdoors is a classic 1980’s John Hughes film starring John Candy and Dan Aykroyd. It is about two families who vacation in a beautiful mountain lake village and the adventures they have while enjoying the great outdoors. I have great memories of watching this movie when I was a kid and still today, when watching it with my kids, this movie is still great. There is one scene in particular however that had never caught my attention until now.

The scene I am talking about is set with Chet (Candy) an all American family man and Roman (Aykroyd) a die hard businessman sitting out on the deck of the cabin overlooking the beautiful lake and the men enter into a conversation about what they see.

Roman - "I tell you what I see when I look out there. I see the undeveloped resources of Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin, and Michigan. I see a syndicated development consortium exploiting over a billion and a half dollars in forest products. I see a paper mill and if the strategic metals are there, a mining operation. A greenbelt between the condos on the lake and a waste management facility focusing on the newest rage in toxic waste, medical refuse. Infected bandages, body parts, IV tubing, contaminated glassware, entrails, syringes, fluids, blood, low grade radioactive waste all safely contained sunken in the lake and sealed for centuries. Now I ask you what do you see?"

Chet - "I see trees."

In conversations that I have with people who are concerned or interested about Gold Butte and when reading different articles about people’s ideas about the issues that face Gold Butte I have to ask myself, what do they see?

Is there a Roman Craig out there lurking about trying to exploit Gold Butte?

Is it the threat of big development and a housing tract?

Is it the potential that this area has for renewable energy and becoming a field of solar panels and wind turbines?

Is it the threat of the Boy Scouts of America trying to take a group of boys out on an outdoor adventure?

Is it the threat of ATV riders out enjoying the trails?

I know politically it would be a lot easier to get things accomplished if there really was the obvious threat of a Roman Craig trying to exploit the natural resources held within this desert landscape however this isn’t the case. Even if that was the threat that Gold Butte faced its current status as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) protects it from those blatant exploitations.

Everyone at the table seems to be talking about protection and conservation however everyone has a different view of what conservation is and the line between protection and restriction is blurry at it best.

Is restricting access through vast amounts of wilderness areas the best way to conserve and enjoy our public lands?

Is the status quo of public lands management going to work for this large area with a growing number of outdoor enthusiasts?

For me neither of the above statements is going to provide us with a sustainable future for Gold Butte. The solution is somewhere is the middle. I truly do not see how some new bureaucratic categorization such as NCA is going to solve the problems people see at Gold Butte. It is still the same agency that is going to manage these public lands. The first thing that people in support of the NCA throw out is funding and getting more rangers for policing. However when I talk to our political representatives and the BLM and ask specifically how many more rangers will it take to “adequately” police Gold Butte, and exactly how many new rangers will we get when it becomes an NCA, I cannot get an answer. People always focus on the rare and truly uncommon infractions that occur on our public lands. The use these rare examples for ammo to punish the majority of the public who obey, respect and help enforce the rules and regulations that keep our public lands open.

The way I see we need to stop pretending a congressional mandate with over generalized cookie cutter language, saddled with a polluted history of restricted access, can be the solution for an area with a rich history of multiple use. The way I see it the only way to come up with a sustainable answer for Gold Butte is to sit down with the BLM, our political representatives and all those who feel they have a vested interest in our public lands and come up with a real, common sense solution that will deliver a viable public lands management strategy for Gold Butte. This will not only create a sustainable solution but it will also hold everyone involved accountable instead of being a quick win in an election year and a victory for a special interest group with a narrow agenda.

Now I ask you, what do you see?