I often get the chance to hear about issues facing visitation to our wilder lands. These conversations usually shake people into one of three groups, and such a polarizing effect tends to retard debate by eliminating the subtleties and complexities of the threats. What may help, in this case, is to get a real understanding of each group's sense of a place, and move beyond stereotyping and demonizing, to get to honest land management.
The three categories: 1) People who believe that the wild lands should be left alone; 2) people who believe that visitation should not be limited at all, and; 3) people who believe that access should be restricted for everybody but them. Of course, there are variations among people, and very few people hold strictly to one view, but the ensuing battles always bear the threat of regression into hostile camps, and these tend to be the camps. Let's consider the merits of each of these positions.
The first group usually has a serious love for the idea of wildness. These are typically the crunchy, gorp-munching neo-hippies, right? But, to take the extreme case, we all know it's wrong to eat the last puffin (and not just because they probably taste like rotten sardines). And we all know that we do impact natural resources by our physical presence, and sometimes the negative impacts of that presence may precipitate a total collapse. Also, people who believe this way about a place deeply feel a sense of inherent worth they know that place to contain. We do, too, or else why would we protect a place like Yosemite from resource extraction?
Next, consider those who want access to be unlimited, or nearly so. Though I'd be willing to guess those who read this blog are more likely to be turned off by this notion, we all use materials taken from these lands - wood, petroleum products, and mineral resources. But even on a smaller scale, removing resource extraction as a "visitation", and just considering visitors to, say, Yosemite National Park, we would be remiss to disallow visitation. The same sense of inherent beauty felt by the first group actually pulls this group in like a magnet. And, visiting beautiful places creates experiences that lead to a desire to protect them. As more and more people become urbanized, they visit these places less, and care about them less. In time, they won't want their money squandered on things they don't understand or care about.
People usually have a gut reaction to the last group. How can you feel so superior that only you should be allowed to visit a beautiful place?!? And yet, how many of us have a place or two where we go to get away from folks - a little backwoods spot, or little patch of overlooked land? How many of us would gladly tell people about this spot, and encourage them to visit, too? Belonging to a place is important for people. Knowing a beautiful place's nuances and little secrets, knowing how a place moves and lives over time, because of your time, is vital to humanity. People don't just visit sometimes; sometimes they belong, sometimes they are a part of the land, as much so as the other animals, the plants, and the soil. And just because they live next door to a place as gorgeous as Yosemite doesn't necessarily mean that they have to have their connection diminished by the masses come to buy their coffee mug.
All three groups fight because of the beauty and power of these special places. They also bring in other agendas (business, animal rights, etc.), which tends to cloud the proper choices, but hopefully, by honestly considering each perspective, we may come to some better management decisions.
2 days ago