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Posts Tagged → public land

The Importance of Wilderness

Wilderness rarely makes it into the news.

It usually gets mentioned when a US president designates a new wilderness area, or adds existing federal land to an existing wilderness area. The acreage involved in those events is so large, usually so vast, that it must be newsworthy. It just has to be news. It is impossible to ignore it.

This makes the “very good” news.

Another way to get wilderness into the news is to raise the subject of natural resource management in a remote area that is not declared or designated wilderness, but which has a wild and untouched character. These reports are usually cast as a loss of innocence, a loss of wildness, a loss of something special.

This makes the “very bad” news.

Wilderness as a news topic usually involves one extreme or the other: Very good, or very bad.

The truth is that wilderness, those huge untouched areas with nothing but healthy flowing watersheds, breathing forests, and nearly unlimited wildlife habitat, are of mere flesh and blood. Wilderness gets such short shrift and limited coverage in the news media, because so few people know what it is. It is mythologized for better and worse. That it is nearly 100% public land can complicate things, politically, but the fact is, you will not find wilderness in any other state of being in a developed nation.

Most Americans do not have any real exposure to actual wilderness. Their hands-on exposure to it is either zero or merely driving through or around some wilderness area or region (like northern Maine), and admiring it from a car or picnic area. Few immerse themselves in it.

For me and for many people like me, wilderness is like oxygen. We just have to have it. We must have it coursing through our bodies, supporting our feet as we stand or hike or explore. There is nothing mystical about this experience. No transformative or spiritual worshipfulness. No beams of sunlight directed downward by heavenly forces. It is a purely physical connection that in the context of modern sedentary lifestyles becomes such a stark contrast and unusual experience.

Oh sure, we see the hand of God in Nature. Goes without saying. How can you not see Him there? The genius of life on Planet Earth is beyond magical, beyond scientific.

That I get an endorphine rush from every moment I am out in wilderness is an indication of my own “nature deficit disorder,” a topic worthy of a full discussion some other time and something most assuredly suffered by the vast number of Americans.

Why people do drugs of any sort is beyond me, because I can get a safe and natural high from watching a tree sway in a breeze, or a snowy hilltop dressed in silent snow, or a tiny junco flitting among the snowy branches of a small spruce tree. So much of what we call wilderness is really just the same things going on in your own back yard, except that actual wilderness has much less of some of that animal activity, and a lot more silence and serenity. In designated or de facto wilderness, we do see the more rare and cool “charismatic” animals, like moose, panthers, fishers, bobcats, marten.

As an experience, for wilderness lovers like me, wilderness excursion or immersion is just like eating, or breathing. Its quiet is a quantifiable value, like a gallon of gasoline has a price we pay to keep our vehicles going. People like me simply gotta have that wilderness experience to keep running. In modern American terms, it is like having a really big house. We feel like we belong and must be there, comfy and snug.

One of the challenges with wilderness designation is that most of it happens out West, where there are already hundreds of millions of acres of nationally-managed public lands. Already out there are big wilderness areas that a person could spend an entire summer exploring just one location.

Back East we have hardly anything resembling wilderness, and what we have is easily degraded. It is here in the East that the energy and money must be focused on setting aside wilderness while we still have some few opportunities remaining. Opportunities being those industrial lands no longer useful for commercial forestry or mining.

It is a lot more politically palatable to work on wilderness protections here, in the East, where the majority of the American population is concentrated. Many more people are excited about it here, and far fewer people feel like their livelihoods will be negatively impacted by public land and wilderness. Because we have so little of it.

Wilderness is important because it is in wilderness that our species evolved and lived happily for 99% of our time on Planet Earth.

Wilderness is our natural state of being, where we humans are most at home, most honestly, naturally ourselves. In modern times, it is where we are least distracted by “narischkeit,” meaningless chatter and buzz. In wilderness we can be honest, true, most mentally healthy, if only for a day or two.

This past Fall I killed the biggest bear I have ever seen in the woods, in a designated Adirondack wilderness area where I was on a solo hunt. It weighed close to 600 pounds, and its hide squared over six feet. Its hide is literally over twice the size of the 260-pound bear’s hide I sleep under in the winter. A true monster. The king of the mountain.

Know what’s neat about this hunting experience? This bear had probably never seen a human before, and he stalked and tried to eat me three times. The third and last time he tried was when I lost patience amidst growing fear that I was going to be eaten alive, and I shot him at thirty yards in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Just skinning him took almost two days, because his enormous carcass rolled under a log on a steep hillside.

It was predator versus predator, animal eating (or wearing) animal, the most basic natural law on Planet Earth.

Though I admit feeling remorse for having ended his kingly reign. I had been after a big buck, and only took my foe when he had willingly forfeited his nine lives over the course of two days with me on the mountain.

I have never felt so alive.

Wilderness, it’s in us. It is important to us, to be us.

To be human.

Amidst Obama’s Scorched Earth Exit, Trump Dept. of Interior Pick a Huge Bright Spot

As one might expect of a spoiled, petulant, over-indulged man-child, Barack Hussein Obama is not following traditional presidential transitions.

Instead of spending his time talking about the greatness of America, its promise, its successes, its opportunity, and peacefully transferring power to his successor, Obama has gone on a wild spree of destruction and mayhem across America and in the international community.  Aided and abetted by the mainstream media, which share his anti-Western Civilization agenda, Obama has not been held accountable.

“Monkey-wrenching” might be the right term for this bizarre display of poor-loser behavior.

Dozens of useless but expensive new regulations with no basis in reason or science are being rammed through the executive branch. Same for executive orders. Nearly a thousand violent federal prisoners are being released, having obtained clemency from Obama; these scary men will surely bring unlimited suffering and horrors to American citizens over the next couple years. Like the Guantanamo Bay jihadists released by Obama for the AWOL traitor Bo Bergdahl.

Internationally, Obama has abandoned Ukraine to Russia, Iraq to Iran, Syria to Russia and ISIS, and Israel to its insane neighbors plus all of the anti-Jewish bigots around the world. Failing to veto a bizarre attack on the Jewish state at the useless United Nations last week, the Obama administration left the tiny island of democracy to its own devices while empowering the most radical, evil, violent anti-Western foes attacking Israel today, and America tomorrow.

This destructive scorched earth retreat from a failed eight years is the best that Obama can do. It just highlights his hatred for Western Civilization, Christianity, Jews, hard working normal American tax-paying citizens, goodness.

But you know what? Donald Trump is giving us hope every day for all of the great and positive things his administration will begin doing in three weeks.

My favorite two choices by the incoming Trump Administration are the selection of outsiders at EPA and the Department of Interior.

At EPA, Scott Pruitt is the right guy to take the fight over fake “climate change” directly to the religious fanatics promoting it.

I know EPA well.

It is where I started my career after graduate school at Vanderbilt University, and where I spent exactly seven years vainly trying to figure out liberalism and bureaucratic obstructionism. Oh I did some amazing jobs at EPA, and I had a big impact. But I grew tired of the liberal culture there among the staff. I grew tired of policy battles initiated by unaccountable bureaucrats at war with capitalism (yes, this is a straight up true fact from my own amazing experiences at EPA).

For me, changing EPA’s name to Department of Environmental Health would signal the correct staff culture change and professional alignment. “EPA” connotes a certain outsider status and identity, which suits radicals and gives cover to bomb-throwers in the taxpayer-funded ranks.

At Interior, Congressman Ryan Zinke is a perfect fit, and actually pretty inspiring from what I have read about him.

Zinke is a former Navy SEAL. Need anyone say more….a selfless, patriotic hero, basically. Thumbs up.

But Zinke is also a conservative conservationist, a rarity in my experience.

He’s a hunter. Thumbs up.

Way too many Republicans and conservatives actually oppose environmental protection and wildlife conservation, because in a certain simplistic view, these things get in the way of unbridled, maximal development. And if a bunch of Marxist econuts say one thing, then the truth must automatically be the exact opposite (not…why do conservatives always allow the Left to define the green battlefield?).

It is embarrassing, no, make that humiliating, to hear some Republicans slavering over the opportunity to liquidate public lands. This is proof that the Left does not have a total lock on policy insanity.

America’s public lands are a beautiful treasure, a dowry, a gold mine of recreational opportunity and personal exploration, a huge temple in which to worship God from desolate mountain tops to silent, tranquil remote valleys. I am blessed to have been able to really explore many, many national and state parks and forests from Maine to California over my 52 years, and God willing, I have plans for a lot more exploration of new places across America the Beautiful.

Camping, hiking, fishing, trapping, hunting in far-flung wilderness places are all favorite activities for me and for tens of millions of other Americans.

Being from Montana, Zinke innately understands the personal connection  healthy-minded Americans have to their scenic public lands.

Yes, it is true that public lands are a big government footprint in some places. But they are also one of the very few things that government seems to be able to do pretty well. Though I would suggest eliminating the Bureau of Land Management, as its original charter has long since expired and its staff culture sucks. And I would also look into creative ways to resolve some of the longstanding conflicts over natural resource management and extractive activities on public lands. And multiple use policies require some fine tuning. Like allowing hunting and trapping in the remote areas of most national parks.

I speak from experience here, too, having directly worked with the National Park Service, US Forest Service, and staff from other federal resource agencies.

Not all of these challenges, or problems (yes, they are problems when they threaten to destroy entire pristine watersheds) require an either-or decision or black-and-white policy view. A lot of nuance can be brought to bear. Zinke seems like the guy to do that, which is incredibly refreshing.

See? The clean fresh breeze is blowing out the stench already. Despite the evil darkness of the Obama years, the penetrating shining light of the incoming leaders lightens and cheers my heart, gives me hope from the change.

Zinke and Pruitt cannot be confirmed soon enough.

Let’s make America great again.

It’s official: Sunday hunting in VA

Two weeks ago the Virginia state House passed a Sunday hunting bill out of a committee that had bottled up similar bills for decades before. It was a surprising statement that it actually got through committee.  Then it passed the full state House, which surprised even its most ardent sponsors.

Well, today the Virginia state Senate passed the companion bill.  It allows hunting on private land on Sunday, a private property rights win if there ever was one. If you pay property taxes, say on a remote mountainside property, and you are deprived of 14.2% of your full use of that property for some vague reason, you might get frustrated.  It is your property.  You can shoot 1,000 bullets at a target on Sunday, but you cannot shoot just one at a squirrel.  Laws like this are by their definition arbitrary, the bane of democracy.

Virginia’s governor says he will sign the bill into law.

Welcome to the modern era, Virginia! We are envious of you.

Kudos to Kathy Davis of PA-based Hunters United for Sunday Hunting (www.huntsunday.org), who has devoted the past two years of her life to this issue, and who helped a great deal with getting the Virginia law passed and the lawsuit filed there.  The lawsuit compelled the state legislature to act, before a judge ruled against the state and the entire state was opened up.  While I would like to see public land open for Sunday hunting, I am satisfied with private land as a start to implementing it state-wide.  This really is an issue of the most basic American rights.