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Our public lands are not for sale

Apparently many Republicans are just downright jealous of all the craziness on the left, with all that destruction and removal of historic public monuments and the resulting revision of history to fit politically correct narratives.

So now we get a bunch of Republicans who actively pursue their own form of crazy, just bound and determined to undermine whatever electoral and public trust gains they have made in the past few years. Among a surprisingly wide circle of GOPers and conservatives, the selling off of public lands is a surprisingly popular policy goal.

Nothing hidden about this goal, the proponents of selling off public lands are quite open about their intentions. Apparently they want the public to watch them crash and burn, because the public is going to do that to them, electorally speaking.

Because the public overwhelmingly identifies with and passionately loves our public lands.

Maybe I am some sort of leftist kook, at least according to these proponents of public land sales, because I also sure do enjoy public parks, and public forests, and public recreation areas, public wilderness areas, and public hunting areas, and public monuments. Yes the government runs these places, and while I am not a big fan of government, public land management is one of the very few things that government tends to do pretty well..so..what can I tell you, this is a not-so-secret Communist plot: As an NRA life member, trapper, and lifelong hunter, I am proud to be part of this plot to “steal” Americans’ property rights, which is one of the ways that public land is described by advocates of bargain basement sales of public property.

Seriously.

Advocates of public land sales actually equate the existence of public lands with the diminution of private property rights.

Never mind that nearly all (my highly experienced guess is about 99.5%) public land has been purchased at fair market value from willing, even eager sellers, who love their land so much that they want to see it remain as wild, open, untamed places for wildlife and the wild people who pursue wildlife, and not turned into ubiquitous, dime-a-dozen cookie cutter asphalt and concrete jungles.

Never mind that in many remote areas, public land is an economic engine that keeps running, and running, and running without much expense.

Isn’t it ironic that the people who want to sell off public lands also want to stop and prevent people from selling their private land to wildlife and parks agencies? They bizarrely claim that public land’s mere existence is a de facto refutation of private property rights!

Oh c’mon! These armchair conservatives are the ones monkeying around with private property rights, when they try to stop sales of private land to public agencies.

They are “armchair conservatives” because these are people who do very little outside an air conditioned office. Maybe they ski at a ski slope with artificial snow as their outdoor lifestyle. But they do not hunt, trap, camp, canoe, fish, hike or do anything else indicating that red American blood flows in their veins. Nope, these are strictly dollars and cents on paper people, no real life experience. They’d sell you their grandma for ten bucks, too. No heart, no soul, just money money MONEY.

And that is how they see public lands: Easy money, easy development.

There is a useful story about money, I think it was about a mere thirty pieces of silver being accepted for giving up one’s soul. Something like that, with the point being that money and self enrichment isn’t our primary purpose in life, and that the people who singularly pursue these two goals are often soulless enemies of all that is good and wholesome.

Several weeks ago the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a local park could not be taken from the taxpayers and sold to a developer to build homes on. You’d think this is a plainly obvious forehead-slapping fact, but it demonstrates that the effort to liquidate public lands is not just a Western phenomenon, but an East Coast idiot parade, too.

Fortunately, the new US Department of Interior secretary does not believe in selling off public lands, unlike the other candidate who was on her way to being nominated before this issue tripped her up with the Trump Administration. The new Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, is a retired Navy SEAL, hunter, and Western outdoorsman. He knows personally how important public land is to the identity of Americans everywhere.

Let’s hope Zinke can help his fellow Republicans wake the hell up on this issue, that our public lands are not for sale, before these fools get a good dose of electoral comeuppance from the American people who are barbequeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, and star gazing on public lands from sea to shining sea right now.

The empowered, independent feeling of eating less and doing much more

After ten days hiking through the Adirondacks’ most remote wilderness areas with our 18 year-old daughter, I had plenty of take-aways and contemplative thoughts that came home with me.

One of which was the empowered feeling of eating far less than I usually do, while performing at a far increased level than normally challenged. More on this in a moment.

Another take-away was that I am never too old to make mistakes, and one of the mistakes I made was taking an incredibly heavy pack on a rugged through-hike, where every extra ounce can make or break the trip.

My damned pack weighed 70 pounds and had everything but a Democrat in it. Some of that extra weight was due to Nina’s unusually specialized diet, due to a disease she has had all her life.  We had to plan for every food contingency, within the constraints of great dehydrated trail food I make at home. Dehydrated means it weighs a lot less, keeps longer, and is limited to certain meats, fruits and vegetables. Nonetheless, the extreme weight really beat on my feet on the rugged downhills, and it slowed us down.

About that food: As I have typically experienced in all of my past days afield, hunger feels a lot different at the end of a tough day. A handful of salty nuts and a handful of sweet dried fruit is usually sufficient to make me feel full and put me soundly to sleep in the tent. Breakfast is usually a large cup of dark sweetened tea and either oatmeal with dried fruit and brown sugar, or the same cold dried fruits and nuts. Then I am off with my kit, about to burn another 10,000 calories.

The meals I eat on these trips are at most a couple hundred calories, so there is a tremendous imbalance between output and input. That results in an extreme burn of body fat, among other positive effects.

So I wonder why I feel the need to eat so much more, so much that is physically unnecessary, when I am at home, or at work, and I am not churning through huge caloric burns?

As I stink at pop psychology, not venturing into the guesswork of why any person, particularly Americans, enjoy over-eating / binging will prove a relief to us all.

But I will say this: What an empowered feeling it is, what a sense of independence I had, from hardly eating a thing, while literally moving a small mountain on my back many miles each day. Each day I was able to successfully plow through the East Coast’s most remote wilderness on just a handful of home-made jerky, some salty nuts (salt is a necessity for our bodies), and some home-made dried fruit.

In the spirit of Independence from want, or mere feelings of want, I am committing to eating a hell of a lot less every day than I used to, not because it makes me look better, but because it makes me feel a hell of a lot better, more empowered, more in control, like I have achieved more with less than expected. That is a very good feeling.

 

 

For You, Land Dedication this Sunday

This Sunday at 1:00, in Clark’s Valley, Dauphin County, a wonderful ceremony will be held to dedicate a mile-long stretch of Clark’s Creek to the public.  Sold by Flemish Down LLC at a bargain sale price to the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, the pretty property was then flipped to the PA Fish & Boat Commission so that the public can fish and hunt on it until the next glacier comes through.

I had a hand in it.

I remain confused by fellow Americans who see land conservation as some sort of sinister plot, a “land grab,” and other negative epithets.  These same people have no problem with open land being converted to concrete, a permanent alteration of an otherwise functioning system that spews clean air and water without anyone lifting a finger.  If converting to concrete is good, and maintaining as a functional system supporting human life is bad, then I have to say that logic and reason are not behind the opposition.  These are mutually exclusive perspectives.

Put another way, if open land is bad, and developed land is good, from where do we get our food, water, and air?  Is land really only good and valuable if it has been developed?  Can humans replicate the free air- and water-producing services of open land?  No?

Other benefits of this land protection include stable stream banks, wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, public recreation, and so on.  Thanks to the generous Blum + Cameron family, the public now has a quiet place to picnic, fish, hike, and look at.  Last year we documented dozens of native wildflowers there, and to me, they alone are reason enough to keep this property open; I have yet to meet a human (common, easy to find) who looks or smells as good as a pink lady slipper, trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, or bluett (all uncommon, hard to find).

Your dog sniffed my crotch

It was bound to happen. Two lovely days on a wilderness trail with my young son ended as we rounded the trailhead and aimed for our truck 100 yards ahead.

Two recently arrived hikers were actively calling for a dog, and they asked us if we had seen it.

“No,” I said, and I quickly added that I’d appreciate the dog being leashed when it finally arrived.

As usual, the dog’s owner went into a description of his dog’s fine qualities, its gentle disposition, etc. and then out of nowhere, she appeared. And she made a beeline for me, barking aggressively right up to my knees.

Having been attacked by dogs, my reaction was not “Oh, your dog is so cuddly poofy sweetums wonderful.” Rather, I prepared to give the vicious beast a face full of heavy hiking boot. Thankfully, the owner intervened, but in a minute, the dog was off and running around, again. My small and vulnerable son was not yet into the truck, because I was still trying to get the keys out of the extra large pack.

And it all followed an online debate pitting clueless dog owners against dog lovers who prefer not to have their crotches sniffed by unleashed dogs on wilderness trails, far from help.

No surprise that I described my concerns to the owner, a nice young guy named Garrett, and followed it up with an email to the district ranger, asking that the state either require dogs to be leashed in that region, or banned altogether.

Folks, your dog may walk on water. He may fetch your slippers, keep you warm, and make you feel loved. That’s great. But he doesn’t have the right to run up to me and smell my crotch, any more than someone could do that to you. It’s so undignified, threatening, and uncomfortable. What’s truly sad is that it’s not the dog at fault, but its owner, who has put it in a no-win situation. A leash is just a few bucks, and can turn a potentially disastrous day into a happy day for everyone.