[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
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
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 Bush formally repealed President Clinton’s “Roadless Area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
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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