Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wilderness as a Trophy

Originally Printed in the Moapa Valley Progress August 24, 2011

I vividly remember my first deer hunt. I got a little forked horn, nothing spectacular in comparison but it was my first deer and so a great success in my rite of passage.

I remember sitting around the fire with my old man that night. The silhouette of my hanging deer drawn on the cedar trees by the flickering light of our camp fire on a cold autumn night told of the day’s earlier event.

I remember the twinge of disappointment I felt at not bringing home that trophy buck yet still proud at the day’s success.
As we crouched over the Dutch oven, eating the choice cuts out of the cast iron with our knives, I asked my father of his first hunt and if he was able to bring home a trophy buck. His answer and the simple lesson taught within have stuck with me over the years.

He said to me, “Ya know a lot of things have changed since then. It wasn’t the big commercialized enterprise that it is now. If we hunted then it was because we were hungry. We didn’t hunt so we could put a mount on the wall to showcase our trophy, we hunted because we needed meat on the table during the long winter months.”
He reflected that no, he didn’t specifically remember the first deer he brought down. But he remembered many cold fall mornings on back of a horse glassing the country side, knowing grandma was home waiting for him and depending on the days success.
I have thought about that night a lot over the years, listening to my father talk of how the simple act of bringing down a deer has evolved over the years, even within the short time from one generation to the next. However, the sport of trophy hunting isn’t exclusive to big game hunting. This progression, or regression depending on your stance, has also taken place in the hunt for Wilderness.
When the “Wilderness Act” was put forth and passed in 1964, I suppose that it was founded on a legitimate reason to protect some of those remaining places where man is visitor.

However much like my father’s story, the original intent has transformed throughout the years. It has evolved from protecting wilderness into manufacturing Wilderness. The objective for which Wilderness was created has fatefully deviated from its original course and intent.

The hunt for Wilderness has become more about the trophy than it has about the ideals for which it was created. People have made it their livelihood to become hired guns that hunt for Wilderness.

These people or groups have had their sights set on Gold Butte for many years. Whether it is for personal gain or for their own satisfaction and glorification, the trophy hunt for new Wilderness that has ravaged the west needs to stop.

No doubt Gold Butte is an amazing piece of our country but a bureaucratic label that has been demeaned and reinvented over the years to fit a narrow special interest agenda is not what will protect it for future generations. Special interest groups who pander to the emotions and simplify the debate down to ‘save it or destroy it’ degrade all interested parties and promote the partisan rancor that plagues our political system.
Wilderness will not save Gold Butte.

As William Cronon has written in his article The Trouble with Wilderness, “The time has come to rethink wilderness. We live in an urban-industrialized civilization but at the same time pretend to ourselves that our real home is in the wilderness. Wilderness is not quite what it seems.”

I am not advocating that there be no protection for Gold Butte and I point out that this is not the case. Gold Butte is currently protected as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

The continual solicitation to manufacture more Wilderness within the region of Gold Butte is nothing more than a special interest trophy hunt with their agenda at heart and not what is best for our public lands.