[pct-l] PCT in the NYT

Slyatpct at aol.com Slyatpct at aol.com
Tue Sep 5 20:22:11 CDT 2006

Read at your own risk...
I saw this posted on another forum but couldn't find the link  proper....  
Food foor thought.

Staining the Land Forever 
Published: September 5, 2006

A highlight of my summers is the annual backpacking trips with my  children. 
This year I took my youngest, who is 8, through 65 miles of the Oregon  
Cascades, giving her the chance to suffer mosquito bites, slip on snowfields,  cross 
raging streams on rickety logs and enjoy other wilderness  thrills.

She is now a confirmed backpacker, and we’ve decided that we’re  going to 
hike together from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail — when  we’re 
both grown up.

This wilderness and trail system is a legacy of past  presidents, beginning 
with Teddy Roosevelt. There aren’t many ways in which our  lives today are 
shaped by a president who governed more than a century ago — or  in which 
President Bush will affect our grandchildren’s grandchildren in the  22nd century — 
but wilderness policy is one.

Until now, the pattern has  been for presidents of both parties to expand 
protections of natural areas, with  a bipartisan record of adding to national 
forests and other protected areas. Mr.  Bush has also added to the wilderness 
system here and there, but at a broader  level he has reversed the trend by 
leading a stealth campaign to tilt the  balance toward development. 

“There have been systematic efforts to  weaken protections for 
wilderness-quality lands across the public lands estate,  and to make it harder to protect 
these places in the future,” notes Peter Rafle  of the Wilderness Society.

Last month, a federal judge blocked an  administration scheme to harvest 
timber in California’s Giant Sequoia National  Monument, criticizing it as “
incomprehensible.” But step back and you see that  the administration’s approach 
is entirely comprehensible: it’s a systematic  effort to increase the private 
exploitation of federal lands even if that means  losing their character 

A few examples:

Last year, Mr.  Bush formally repealed President Clinton’s “Roadless Area 
Conservation Rule,”  which had provided broad protections for 58 million acres 
of national forest  lands without roads.

Mr. Bush has also used his “healthy forest”  initiative as a way to promote 
logging over wilderness. He is right that forests  are too vulnerable to fires 
today, but dispatching commercial logging crews is  not the solution for most 

In some parts of the country, Mr. Bush  in effect has adopted a “no more 
wilderness” policy. In 2003, the administration  announced that millions of acres 
of land in Utah and elsewhere in the West would  never again be considered for 
designation as wilderness. 

The  administration has offered oil and gas leases on 70,000 acres of 
proposed  wilderness in Colorado and 190,000 acres in Utah. Once oil or gas 
development  occurs, the land is lost — no longer eligible to be included in the 
wilderness  system.

Mr. Bush is trying to turn vast, pristine parts of Alaska into  oil wells; 
some oil and mineral development is essential, but the past  bipartisan sense of 
balance is lost. Mr. Bush is pushing to drill in many  Alaskan lands that had 
been protected by past Republican presidents. 

One  of my greatest outdoor memories is of spotting a herd of caribou in the 
Alaskan  Arctic, and then creeping up on them. Finally, they spotted me — and 
then they  rushed up for a closer look at a genuine human. Drilling would 
change this land  forever.

Many of these efforts took shape under Gale Norton when she was  interior 
secretary. Now that Ms. Norton has been replaced by Dirk Kempthorne, we  have a 
chance to pause and take a deep breath. Mr. Kempthorne seems more  measured 
than Ms. Norton, and let’s hope he’ll take as his model Gifford  Pinchot, the 
legendary Republican politician who founded our system of national  forests and 
coined the word “conservation” as it applies to wilderness.

A  week ago, I took my 12-year-old son out on his third trip around Mount 
Hood this  summer. The weather was glorious as we started, but by nightfall a 
cold rain was  pounding down on our tarp shelter. The next morning, we found 
ourselves  stumbling through driving snow — and wishing we were on a couch 
watching TV  instead.

But that’s the wonder of the wilderness, an essential part of  America’s 
greatness: time in the wild is the best way to tame our arrogance, to  remind 
ourselves that we are temporary intruders upon a larger canvas. It puts  us in 
our place, at times by freezing our toes.

So that’s why I mourn for  our wild lands. In 100 years, Mr. Bush’s mistakes 
in Iraq may not matter  anymore, but our wilderness heritage lost on his 
watch can never be  restored.

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