I’ve been thinking about “thought channels” in terms of a floodplain. It seems like for whatever reason, many folks are in channels. But Covid and the Biden Administration provide an opportunity for a dam release, where new ideas can be exposed , and new, possibly better, and less oppositional channels or even thousands of rivulets form. Example: old channel “on federal lands, industries are bad and recreation is good.” New set of rivulets: “on federal lands, some industries (e.g. solar and wind development) are good, and some recreation (overdoing it, not just OHV’s or MBs) is bad. Let’s look closer.
I’ve found it really hard to get out of today’s thought channels, as the folks who have power in the different channels don’t particularly want to be flooded with new ideas and partnerships and thereby lose their power. I don’t think this is conscious, but they are in a channel, like a fishbowl, where that’s the way the world looks. To my mind, we’re all trying to do good, with different ideas of what that looks like.
So thanks to Dana for submitting another story on “overrecreating” in Southern Colorado, written by the Durango Herald. I think it’s a problem in other places (based on an RVCC Zoom call), including people tromping about on private land (!) in the west, but I haven’t been able to find many news stories about it. I was on a Society for Environmental Journalists Zoom call, and only a few of those folks were interested. Others were more interested in potential violence cropping up in the Interior West due to the policies of the Biden Admin and what we might call potential Bundification (these journalists were not residents of the interior west). I continue to be fascinated by what (some) non-residents think is noteworthy about us and what concerns them.
What’s Going On: More Poop
All those hikers and campers take a significant toll on the alpine tundra, an already fragile landscape.
For one, hikers have been constantly going off trail, causing erosion and damage to sensitive vegetation. Campers, too, have been seen frequently having fires above tree line. And both have been known to leave behind trash.
The big issue, said Brent Schoradt, executive director of the San Juan Mountains Association, which works in partnership with the Forest Service, is people failing to pack out human waste and toilet paper.
The Ice Lakes Trail is headed toward a permit system after unprecedented high use in recent years has caused damage to the landscape.
Courtesy of MK Gunn
Over Labor Day weekend, SJMA tallied nearly 2,000 hikers and 215 overnight backpackers, and while people are encouraged to carry out their waste, it’s anyone’s guess who actually followed the rules, Schoradt said.
“In a huge use area like that, even burying your waste is not advised,” he said. “People think hiking is the lowest impact way to be out on the landscape, but with those sheer numbers, you’re still having an impact.”
Role of Social Media:
The Ice Lakes Trail has always been a popular spot for day hikers and backcountry campers, but in recent years, the power of social media has caused visitation to blow up.
Can Volunteers Help?
Shout out to the San Juan Mountains Association!
The effort was replicated again this year, albeit under a tent rather than a tiny home, and has had success in mitigating some of the impacts of having so many visitors in one area.
“We want to kill them with kindness and enhance everyone’s experience,” Schoradt said. “The last thing you want to do is give a sense that it’s a free-for-all.”
But, while the volunteers’ efforts have gone a long way to help curb some of the impacts at the Ice Lakes Trail, Forest Service officials say it’s time to increase management measures, namely, through a permit system.
There was an interesting comment about to the story..
I suggest giving priority to residents in the area and not to out of state or even out of town visitors farther than 100 miles away. Some of us moved here from out of state in order to be close to these areas and it is very unfair not to consider our requests first as property and sales tax payers who support the economy on an ongoing basis
This is definitely an out-of-the-traditional channels topic. Generally, it seems like we think “NFs belong to all Americans so everyone should have an equal chance.” But if it were a Rich Person Owned Resort with thousands of acres around a community, we might expect that the concept of “being a good neighbor” would also be involved. For example, we remember the story about Weyco in SW Oregon, in which individuals in the community were concerned that Weyco was charging for access. Is it basically some kind of property rights question?
There are also concerns regarding social equity- should poor local people get preference over better-off tourists? (Conceivably people from outside Colorado must have some money to get here and spend time). OTOH, dispersed camping costs less and may be more affordable to people coming from out of state? Or we might want to give permits preferentially to those communities who have traditionally not recreated on federal lands. What do you think?