Subject: Re: public lands and their use Date: Nov 4 14:08:12 1994 From: Dennis Paulson - dpaulson at ups.edu
OK, I *am* back from class, had a good lunch and raring to go. It's Friday afternoon, with reduced anxiety about what I have to accomplish this week, and an almost-weekend attitude of "time to enjoy life."
Peter's comments underscored my suggestion that parts of national forests be closed to hunters so others can enjoy them with little fear (except for bears and mosquitos and poison ivy). He also made the point of how many other "recreationists" there are out there whose presence really does disturb if not destroy the natural environment that is being "preserved." For years I have been arguing that there should be playgrounds for snowmobilers and 3/4-wheelers, some percentage of public land where they can go play but not bother the rest of us. That seems a fairer and certainly more likely solution than to say "out of the woods" to them. It's a solution that accepts cultural pluralism, the same way our laws and customs are supposed to accept if not promote other pluralisms such as racial, sexual, religious, and national. I feel as if I have little in common with a pack of yahoos roaring through the woods on their snowmobiles, but who am I to say they don't have the right to practice their particular brand of recreation? Obviously they can't do it in my backyard, but isn't "public land" for the public? And, to avoid as much as I can being a hypocrite, I'll have to say that even though I may never go out in a snowmobile, I'll bet it's a lot of fun.
One of the arguments that I've heard about snowmobilers, off-road vehiclers, etc., is that our prejudice against them is deserved because they're spoiling the place for everyone else, while we nature-lovers don't do that. Well, spoiling the place for everyone else is just what Homo sapiens is best at. You might just as well say that by building Seattle, people have spoiled the place for everyone else. Building all those highways spoiled the countryside, yet the millions of people who drive on them are clearly the ones who call the shots. Dog-lovers spoil Magnuson Park for "the rest of us," yet there are far more dog-lovers than birders. Even birders "spoil the place for the rest of us" when one of them scares a bird away that we wanted to get a better look at. We just have to figure out ways to accommodate the different kinds of people with whom we share a park, or state, or world, while trying to do our best to have our particular influence felt as strongly as possible, as Hal wrote.
We may just have to divide up public land in different ways than we have. Of course the scary part would be if someone determined that--based on a thorough survey--the national forests would actually belong to the snowmobilers except for a token 3% for nature-lovers. We really do need to understand how many of us there are, as several have written, and how we can work together to make our influence felt. Then we can either accept what the numbers tell us or start working even more diligently than we have to tilt the balance in our favor.
Believe me, I'm trying to argue for a balanced approach, as well as playing devil's advocate to some degree. If you want my gut feeling, I've always been inclined to string piano wire across trails down which snowmobilers and 3-wheelers come rocketing. I recommended heat-seeking missiles to the Department of Wildlife when they were trying to keep ORVs off the Ocean Shores game range. And, like Gary Larson, I'd like to give the deer and elk rifles with which to fight back!
Dennis Paulson phone: (206) 756-3798 Slater Museum of Natural History fax: (206) 756-3352 University of Puget Sound email: dpaulson at ups.edu Tacoma, WA 98416