Public Places vs. Privatized Practices

I was going to call it Militias and Our Public Lands, but 4 P’s sound so more catchy. The reality is what is generalized by some and trivialized by others, is in fact a complex history where local solutions have evolved over a century involving virtually every player from the Piutes to ranchers, to business and environmentalists.

The group that took over the headquarters at Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge is called Citizens for Constitutional Freedom and have characterized the actions of the federal government as tyrannical and overreaching from what I can best ascertain are based on two primary incidents: an uncontrolled fire adjacent to the refuge by the Hammonds (Dwight and Steve) that resulted in jail time and an increasing refuge size dating from 1908.

Two articles, both footnoted in the above link to the Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge help frame the actions in an historic context, here and here.

This is one of two rusting vehicles at the Wallstreet Mill area near Barker Dam.

This is one of two rusting vehicles at the Wallstreet Mill area near Barker Dam.

I personally think the problem is perspective, or lack thereof. But even if we were to play out the intentions of the militia in question, we’d still be faced with a major conundrum of how to use and manage the land. If armed ranchers can take over public lands, should armed environmentalists do the same? In other words, we’d have a shit show.

Though ranchers have grazed cattle for a century or more, such actions aren’t eco-friendly. They are historical and very much a part of our ‘Merican heritage, but as science has begun to take hold by offering perspective on how we use land and resources, we now better understand that compromises are in order. The current refuge is a culmination of over 100 years of decision-making that today is prioritizing natural habitat while compromising and continuing to offer some level of water fowl hunting and cattle grazing, among other uses. In fact, the “locals” are mostly content with the final 21st century decision:

The number of cattle allowed to graze within the refuge remained at a steady level throughout the 1990s and 2000s. As the need for a comprehensive management plan for the refuge was realized, ranch operators were concerned about the possibility of further reductions in grazing allotments. Drafting of a new management plan began in 2008, and was a collaborative process involving varied stakeholders in the refuge’s future, including ranch operators. The final plan, completed in 2013 and intended to inform refuge operations for the following 15 years, was accepted by both refuge managers and cattle owners as an agreeable compromise between potentially opposing interests in the land. Grazing was allowed to continue under the plan, and is seen as a valuable tool in some areas to combat invasive plants that threaten the refuge’s habitat quality; however, the extent of grazing may be reduced in specific areas if it is scientifically shown to be detrimental to the refuge’s wildlife.[5]

Of course the Paiute would probably prefer to be relocated to their ancestral lands and not the Yakima Reservation 350 miles north in Washington.

Aside from the subtle bias that pervades the wikipedia article and the two referenced articles, they still do a good job putting in context the broader picture of the land’s history.

Here is another take on the situation that I found worth reading at the Mojavedesertblog.com:

The militia’s alternative is to return to a corrupt giveaway of public lands that only leads to destruction and privatization of our natural heritage, a trend we had decided decades ago was not in our national interest. [emphasis the author]

The militia say they are speaking for the public, but they are actually speaking for a small slice of the population that wants to do what they want with our lands without limitations or costs….

It is true that most of the public lands are out west, but it’s also true that the environmental movement also didn’t take hold until the west was mostly “tamed.” From an impressionable perspective, the west was very impressive, to say the least. From Yellowstone to Yosemite and the first comprehensive environmental approach to state rule, we ‘Mericans have painstakenly worked to secure as much land as possible for future generations that reflect science-based land management over privatized land use that’s expressed solely by the owner.

From a climbing perspective, public lands are a climber’s best friend. It’s the one place we can chime in on the land use policy and actually be affective, instead of playing nice to private land owners in hopes that they can “respect” our interests just enough to allow us to do our thing. And as we all know, most don’t understand why we do it.

In the east and south, land is mostly held by private land owners. But let’s take an even more extreme take on “perspective:” take the boulders of gritstone and Grès (England and France). If you actually tried to comprehend how much stone (boulders and cliff stone) was actually chopped up for walls, castles and various other monstrosities that we visit on our days off, it could be more than most all the bouldering we now know of in the west. Seriously! This was from a state that was totally privatized, so to speak. Lords, merchants, kings and queens, they all needed their special behemoth structures to show the world who and what they were.

Stark contrast is evident between Wonderland of Rocks and Queen Mountain along the southeastern edge of Wonderland.

Stark contrast is evident between Wonderland of Rocks and Queen Mountain along the southeastern edge of Wonderland.

In Joshua Tree National Park, domestic animal grazing has left its scar in what seems like everywhere. But you’d have to know what to look for to think or know that. Some say that the park service (including monuments and wilderness areas) are trying to turn the land into a museum, reducing impact to an absolute minimum. Maybe so, but remember most our lands after the aboriginal peoples were forced onto reservations (basically building-less concentration camps) has been heavily impacted by westward expansion that focused on land use for the primary purpose of making money or carving out a living.

These are to be shot on sight, but them liberal commie rangers allow them to roam freely. What's the world coming to?

These are to be shot on sight, but them liberal commie rangers allow them to roam freely. 😉 What’s the world coming to?

The mining, grazing, hunting, agriculture and logging have taken their toll. Especially with logging, we may never know to what extent the massive old-growth forests were like, as what we have now are just bits and pieces.

I’m not against multi-use land management, but I’m also for serious preservation of ecosystems. Take for example the bison and wolves of the great plains. Both of these go directly in the face of established land use practices today. Wolves will kill and eat your grandmother, if ranchers and other ‘Merican rural folk have their way while bison will sicken our cattle and destroy our ‘Merican way of life. (I really like that world ‘Merican… if you replace the “r” with an “x” it becomes Mexican!)

Anyways, the point is we can do quite a bit more land preservation before we even the score caused by the last several hundred years of “progress.”

Sweet sunset!

Sweet sunset!

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~ by r. mulligan on 2016/01/10.

2 Responses to “Public Places vs. Privatized Practices”

  1. Awesome. Thanks Rob.

    The whole Burns situation is such a joke. We were thinking of doing a brewery take over. The beer overlords just need to give me all the beer that is rightfully mine!!!

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