Managing High-Profile Adventure on Public Lands

Scott Jurek (photo from the Brooks Shoes website)
Scott Jurek (photo from the Brooks Shoes website)

While I’ve been away, the Denver Post has run a number of interesting original articles (kudos to them!) and I am very ..slowly..trying to catch up. This one is not about the Forest Service, but does talk about tensions rising over different uses, a familiar theme.

Here is the link (hint:turn your volume all the way down before you go to this link) and below is an excerpt.

Detractors come out

“Corporate events,” he wrote, “have no place in the park and are incongruous with the park’s mission of resource protection, the appreciation of nature and the respect of the experience of others in the park.”

The post spurred more than 800 comments from detractors.

Bissell’s response was in stark contrast to that of Yosemite National Park managers, who saw opportunity when Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson finished their record-setting climb of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in January .

When the rock-climbing legends returned to the valley below El Capitan, a park-service-provided lectern stood ready before a phalanx of news cameras eager to catch the pair’s thoughts after their 19-day ascent.

“Forging a connection”

“So much of what we are doing is forging a connection between the parks and visitors so people understand why parks are here and people appreciate the environment we try to create,” Yosemite assistant superintendent Scott Gediman said.

The two parks’ reactions to internationally acknowledged athletic feats reveal divergent approaches to stewardship of public lands and highlight the increasing struggle for cash-strapped land managers dealing with inspiring, yet unpredictable, athleticism inside the country’s preserved wildlands.

“Most people are not going to do those things, but the value is that they are inspiring,” said Christian Beckwith, whose annual SHIFT Festival in Jackson, Wyo., gathers outdoor leaders to consider conservation alongside adventure and culture. “You might not be able to run the Appalachian Trail in 46 days. But you still might be able to go out for a run this evening and dig a little deeper because you are so fired up. The challenge is balancing that inspiration with the impact and long-term sustainability of our natural resources.”

When regulations for public lands were first etched into law decades ago, the rule-writers never suspected GoPro-strapped athletes would be leaping from quiet peaks with wingsuits or exploring remote backcountry on lightweight personal rafts.

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