Sunday, October 3, 2010

Creating a Responsible Environment

I am sure that all of us, at one point or another, have been in a situation where we felt like we were destined to fail. Maybe it was at work with a new policy that was implemented or a supervisor that was trying to prove a point. Maybe you were involved in an extracurricular activity where the demands of the group exceeded the potential of the group’s ability to actually reach their goal. Or maybe a new law was put into practice that, when applied in the real world, was hopeless at best. Often while out with my family enjoying Gods Country I can’t help but feel that much of our current policy and management practices in regards to public lands is creating an environment for people to fail to recreate responsibly.

o Restrooms
People have claimed that there is a problem with visitors to Whitney Pockets inappropriately using the site as a restroom facility. I agree that this is disgusting however there is a relatively easy solution to this problem. Instead of making this a big deal and using it for leverage to push your group’s agenda, focus your energy on fixing the problem. Build a facility. Whitney Pockets is the end of the oil and the gateway to Gold Butte. Instead of squandering time and resources on such things as BLM corrals and closing trails we should work to create and environment for people to recreate responsibly. If we create a situation for people to fail they will. I propose we focus our energy in positive means and work to build Gold Butte as a place where people and families can responsibly enjoy our greatest asset, public lands.

o Camping
I have heard, from both the BLM and other groups, that they report people camping illegally. Again to reiterate what I proposed for the restroom issue; Instead of making this a big deal and using it for leverage to push your own agenda, focus your energy on fixing the problem. Clearly define the areas where you want them to camp, educate and share maps and information with them and the problem is fixed. If you build it they will come.

o Roads & Trails
Roads are the means by which our public lands are controlled. If there is one issue that you can count on to get people stirred up it is roads. Roads have been closed at Gold Butte. Some are categorize as “Temporary Closures” and others have just been closed and marked as “Restored”. I am sure that in some people’s minds the road closures make sense and under certain rules and regulation it is even legal. However the current practice, by which these closures are carried out in my opinion, is where much of the contention is created. This combined with the new mantra of, “if the road is not marked open then it’s closed”, is quickly eroding what is left of the public’s trust in the BLM.
The current practice of temporary closures to roads with little or no information disseminated to the public is criminal. If there is a legitimate reason for a closure then there needs to be a legitimate plan to bring that road back open. Share with the public in an easy and transparent manner the details surrounding the management process. If people or agencies believe there is a problem with people creating new trails and going off-road we need to educate the users of where and which roads are open. Disseminate maps, mark trails and educate the users. Create an environment where the users feel a part of the process rather than against it and progress will be made.

o Cultural Sites
There has been damage to cultural and historic sites. Has the damage been over stated for peoples own agenda? I don’t know. However I truly believe that the overwhelming majority of people who use our public lands have no intention of purposely damaging our cultural sites. What is the remedy? Despite the message that special interest and the environmental lobby take to Washington it is not closing our public lands to the public. The answer is education, community stewardship and fostering a positive relationship where collaboration from all sides can take place. 

The public has the potential to be the greatest asset that public lands, as well as the agencies who manage our public lands, could ever have. Instead of alienating what could be its most powerful partner, our agencies should work with those who truly love public lands to foster a working relationship and build a true stewardship for public lands. The agencies will be able to better direct their funding to keep our greatest asset accessible and open for the public to enjoy. We need to provide a setting where we can freely and openly take the problems and complaints that people raise and then create practical policy that will resolve the issue. We need to create public lands policy that creates an environment where people can recreate responsibly.