Owl333’s comment here reminded me of the recent news stories about the BLM changing policies in Rabbit Valley, Colorado due to bad recreationist behavior. I like how the author of this op-ed in the Grand Junction Sentinel, Jim Cagney, a retired BLMer, characterized it as the need for an upgraded land ethic. a few excerpts:
The recent BLM proposal for revised management of the Rabbit Valley entails the construction of new campgrounds, with a prohibition on dispersed camping once the campgrounds are completed. Some people like to stay at campgrounds, but not me. I don’t want a requirement to pay to for a site that entails enduring other people’s raucous behavior, generators, music and lights when I’ve always been able to pick out my own spot, and use it for free. I never camp in the Rabbit Valley because it’s so close to home, but I enjoy dispersed camping, so it’s sad to see yet another area getting closed. Regardless, I’ll probably have to live with those new rules, because they’re a sign of the times.
Long years ago, when I first started working for the Bureau of Land Management, a veteran warden from the Wyoming Fish & Game offered me some profound insight. He said the freedom to utilize natural resources is divisible by the number of people attempting to use those resources. If I were the only person hunting, all the rules associated with modern game management would be pointless.
Meanwhile, increasing use and a lack of land-use ethic, associated with the more remote dispersed camping I prefer, carries a nasty progression these days. The landscape is dotted with big fire rings full of ash, broken glass and half burned garbage. Wishing to avoid the soot, trash, and ring of toilet paper on the perimeter, the next group builds another campsite nearby, creating a new route if necessary. Route proliferation causes erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, and degradation of legally protected cultural sites. Soil disturbance in desert environments causes dust-on-snow issues that reduce our water supply. No doubt the BLM is acting on the premise that outdoor recreation is a core economic driver for the Grand Valley, so we can’t afford to let our key attractions deteriorate.
I’m with Cagney on the preference for dispersed camping, and the hope that the behavior of some doesn’t ruin it for the rest of us. There’s also concern about the environmental impacts of the new recreation economy, including the carbon emissions from folks driving out to recreate. But who would want to try to keep people recreating on our public lands? And should people pay something for dispersed camping?