It’s time to do something, what exactly? More money, more enforcement, ?. What should we (jointly) do and who (what organization(s)?) should take the lead? Note: it’s not just National Forests and BLM.
Here’s a link to the commentary (in the Denver Post) and some excerpts, but I encourage reading the whole piece.
When talking with managers of state and federal public lands these pandemic days, two issues popped up: what to do about large amounts of human feces deposited in wild places and how to handle far too many visitors. Both issues have served as a wake-up call to both land managers and environmentalists about the downsides of recreation.
“It’s like we’ve stared into a future that wasn’t supposed to arrive for a few decades,” said Randy Carpenter, who works with the community-planning organization FutureWest, in Bozeman. “The crush of people and the ecological impacts of rising recreation uses is right here, among us — right now — and it’s transforming the character of wild places.”
A paper published in the scientific journal PLOS One reviewed 274 scientific studies completed between 1981 and 2015 that examined the effects of recreation on a variety of animal species across all geographic areas and recreational activities. Kevin Crooks, a conservation biologist at Colorado State University, said given what we know now, “It might be time to establish limits on public access to protected areas and encourage changes in the behavior of recreationists.”
Though conservation groups continue to point fingers at logging, mining and ranching, they’ve been slow to acknowledge impacts from outdoor recreation. Last winter, at a U.S. Forest Service meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, biologists noted that backcountry skiing and snowboarding were harming a dwindling, isolated herd of bighorn sheep. Displaying what can only be called a crass attitude, one skier was heard to remark: “Well, the sheep have had these mountains for 10,000 years. Now it’s our turn.”
I’d argue that it’s long past time to encourage changes in the behavior of recreationists. And it was only a matter of time before the “protected” line is drawn further and further up the Pyramid of Pristinity.
Some recreationists insist on a quid pro quo: They’ll advocate protecting public land only if they’re allowed to use some of it. It’s happened in Idaho over wilderness and recently in debates over how to safeguard wildlife habitat in the Gallatin Range of southwest Montana.
An outdoor industry eager to get its slice of an $800 billion pie helps fuel the rush to the West’s public lands. Farrell says that outdoor-product manufacturers push hard for increased access to public lands in part because more users boost their bottom lines.
Meanwhile, many state tourism bureaus – like those in Montana, Wyoming and Utah — spend millions of dollars advertising national parks and other places that are already uncomfortably overcrowded.
“Critical discussions about recreation are rare because these activities are layered with a thin veneer of innocence,” Farrell said. This recalls a narrative of heedless use that goes back to the 19th and 20th centuries: Exploit a special place until it’s used up and then move on, leaving waste, damage and displaced wildlife behind. The problem is there aren’t many true wild places left to exploit.
I don’t agree with Farrell on the outdoor industry critique- mostly because much of those bucks are for OHV’s and RV’s which already don’t belong in protected areas. Of course, OIA has a political slant, so the whole issue is very complex (outdoor industries and their attitudes to recreation access and other uses of federal lands).
And so it goes, “wild places” must have only few people, using preferred kinds of recreation. As we clamber up the Pyramid of Pristinity, we continually meet new enemies and they are all us. So what is to be done?