News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel Can you put this mountain in a jar for me?

There are people who believe they can take a chunk of this planet, or a population segment of a species, put them into a jar and preserve them.�

I run into this idea each time we discuss prairie dogs, the Cheyenne River wilderness proposals, or Forest Service road closures.�In each there are elements who want to "preserve" or "save" something in its "natural" state. First off, "unchanged" is not natural.� Change is natural.

In the dictionary I find "conserve" has two definitions.� One includes protectionism and preservation of a condition.� The second definition is wise use and not wasting something.

I believe nearly everyone is a conservationist. I have yet to meet someone who says, "I want to be a fool and waste our resources." That is about the only person who would not fit into either definition of a person who "conserves."�

I know a few who are "preservationists."�Not all of them admit it, but underlying their arguments you can hear the voice of John Muir (early wilderness advocate) shouting at his friend Gifford Pinchot (father of the Forest Service) for allowing sheep to graze in the back country and disturb Muir while he was using nature and solitude to commune with God.

Following in the footsteps of those two, some of our leaders tried to satisfy everyone with an international treaty, which took effect on May 1, 1940.� Member states agreed to go home and pass laws to create national parks (usable), national reserves (usable), nature monuments (scientific or government use only) and wilderness areas (no motorized or commercial use).

To be fair, I should add that John Muir and his followers don't view meditating in the woods as "no use." However, to be fair to the rest of us, it should be conceded that vast unroaded areas are not usable to the overwhelming majority of us.

The 1940 treaty defines wilderness as, "A region under public control characterized by primitive conditions of flora, fauna, transportation and habitation wherein there is no provision for the passage of motorized transportation and all commercial developments are excluded."

Since that time the United States ratified 23 additional environmental treaties, passed hundreds of laws, and enacted thousands of regulations trying to balance the conflict between wise use and no use.�

We did all that on the assumption that preserving the natural conditions surrounding something like bears will allow the bears to thrive again.

Guess what! The bears disagreed.�They prefer non-wilderness areas in most cases.� We also learned that we can't preserve habitat for one critter without doing injury to many others.

Maybe it is time for Congress to divide up the public lands into usable lands under one agency and unusable lands under another. Those who use the lands could pay for their management and wilderness experience seekers could pay for non-management of their areas.

That would be fair and make sense. Congress will probably do that about the same time they figure out how to put a mountain into a jar.

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