Executing Public Land Recreation — Lethal Injection Could Take Away Your Fun

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 8, 2000      

Note: This article covers the U.S. National Forest management planning process, exemplified in the White River National Forest, Colorado. It was originally published in Couloir Magazine, December, 1999. This version has been rewritten for clarity and broader focus.

I don’t look at recreation with just my narrow interests in mind. Nor do I look at recreation from the anti-human “us vs ecology” view taken by many environmentalists. Instead I take a broad view that values recreation along with ecology. I believe most forms of recreation can coexist with the land. My problem with much of our current land management trends is the anti-human philosophy underlying the process.. In time, this philosophy will adversely affect every sort of recreation, motor or muscle powered.

Bear in mind that while much of what I’m writing about below is specific to the White River National Forest in Colorado, other National Forests are in the planning process. Look carefully, and you’ll find many manifestations of the anti-recreation sentiment that’s my theme in the article below.


In 1999 the Forest Service here in central Colorado released Proposed Revised Forest Management Plan “D” for White River National Forest. By taking a major departure from present management style, the Plan views recreation as a destructive activity to be regulated and restricted. Machine or muscle powered user, while bickering with each other and divided by our differences, our land is being jerked out from under us like the proverbial rug. Only this mat covers two million acres.

Up front, the proposed Forest Plan appears to limit roads and motorized recreation, while letting most muscle powered recreation continue as-is (hunting, hiking, etc.). That’s somewhat true — for now. Indeed, it appears the Forest planners took great pains not to offend vocal “moral highground” groups such as elk hunters, hikers and backcountry skiers. If you read the plan with care, you’ll get a chuckle out of the obvious placation bones thrown to these groups (all of which I’m a member of). But in evaluating the Plan you have to look twice. You must look at the details of the plan documents — and you must look at underlying philosophy that will drive thousands of management decisions not written into the documents. As a total outdoorsman I’ve done both those things, and I’m alarmed.

White River National Forest.

White River National Forest. Click to enlarge.

The proposed plan is based on a form of management known as “closed unless posted open,” which means that any recreation, including hiking, is done by permission from the Federal Government. What’s more, the underlying philosophy of the Plan is tilted towards managing for “biodiversity.” That sounds good, until you realize that “biodiversity” can mean different things to different people. The Forest Service definition of the term appears slanted towards the radical environmentalist side: the view that recreation and biodiversity are, in most cases, mutually exclusive — that humans are a scourge on the land. In reality, in most cases, biodiversity and recreation can coexist.

How it works: Each National Forest in the United States is required by law to periodically revise a rule book known as The Forest Plan. These massive documents (our draft is 1,700 pages) define use for every square inch of federal land within Forest boundaries. The first step in revision is a massive gathering of data, much of this being subjective and influenced by biased observation, bogus assumptions, and the latest political trends.

Example: Plan documents state that “cross-country skiers…prefer…non-motorized areas outside of Wilderness; winter access in Wilderness is minimal because of avalanche…” That’s flat wrong. Many skiers enter legal Wilderness boundaries in the White River Forest. Indeed, one of our most popular lift accessed backcountry ski areas is in Wilderness behind Snowmass Ski Resort. What’s more, the huge Flat Tops Wilderness lives up to it’s name and includes plentiful cross-country ski terrain safe from avalanche (though hard to access without plowed roads). Much of our other Wilderness, though somewhat steep and rugged, also has terrain with little or no avalanche danger. For example, the vast Tellurium Park area east of the Harry Gates backcountry ski hut is avalanche safe legal wilderness.

If backcountry skiers such as myself need more terrain without snowmobiles, the logical solution is to snowplow existing roads that provide closer access to legal wilderness such as the Flat Tops, and to build a few more roads and trailheads that access Wilderness boundaries. Keep such access open in winter and we will automatically have all the non-motorized terrain we could ever ask for. After all, the White River Forest is 1/3 legal wilderness! No. The new Plan, with an anti-human bent predicated on false assumptions, seeks to concentrate everyone, including backcountry skiers (and snowboarders), in small areas near existing trailheads such as Vail Pass.

Example: Shed your assumptions about foot travel, an activity most of us assume is sacrosanct and virtually un-regulated. In Plan D, thousands of acres of land are proposed for “Primitive” and “Pristine” use levels (see footnotes), which turn out to be almost deserted. For example, join six hikers on a trail in a classified “Primitive” area, and according to the Plan you’ll need to be the only users on about 6 miles of trail — otherwise you’ll exceed the maximum use level! Sure, staffers at the Forest Service office will tell you that “Plan D doesn’t restrict hiking.” What they don’t tell you is “for now.” And all this assumes trails exist. Amazingly, there is even talk of closing several mountain trails and obliterating them through “restoration.” How about “restoring” such trails to their Pleistocene state, which means not touching them, since early native Americans certainly used many of the same trails?

Example: You think mountain bicycling will continue as-is? I examined the plan’s maps with local mountain bike activist and trail expert Steve Wolf. As Steve ran his finger along the dotted lines of his favorite bicycle routes, his frown deepened as he realized trail after trail was slated for closure. Why the closures? There is only one answer: in view of the Plan’s underlying philosophy, mountain bicycling is destroying biodiversity and must be curtailed.

With such false data and bogus assumptions to work with, the fed’s next step is the public scoping process, wherein those who can spend the most money and throw the most paper have the most influence — provided such input is aligned with the anti-human, anti-recreation “Forest Service National direction.” For example, funded by Aspen area wealth, our local environmental groups have made a religion out of negativity and nay-saying. According to them, White River Forest is on a quick road to oblivion caused by humans. The USFS appears to consume such sentiment with gusto, then use it to justify their anti-human stance. But is our forest damaged enough to need draconian action? Or, as the environmentalists claim, does the future bode so ill we need to start heavy recreation restrictions immediately? No to both.

I’ve wandered the backlands of White River National Forest for over forty years. While this is not virgin rain forest populated by stone age tribes (other than during the 1960s); it’s arguably decent and bio-diverse.

Logging is so politically incorrect it’s nearly extinct in the White River Forest (it’s declined 70% on federal land in the last decade, see notes). Mining has all but ceased as an industry, and in retrospect caused little lasting or incurable damage (when considered as percent of the total land).

In fact, one of the most heavily mined places in the White River Forest is the Aspen area, now considered by many to be one of our state’s most beautiful places, and the chosen home of many outspoken environmentalists, who presumably live in the former mining district because it’s so nice! If this isn’t cognitive dissonance, I don’t know what is.

Commercial grazing continues to be questioned, re-invented, and refined. Backpackers claim they see fewer people than in the late 1970s. Climbing 14,000 foot peaks is popular and causing erosion, but enjoy any of our hundreds of peaks under that magic number, and you’ll likely be alone. Bears breed, mountain lions stalk, coyotes howl, and our nation’s largest elk herd thrives. Go for a hike or jeep ride and the lush forest will astound you with it’s wealth of flowers, bugs, birds and beasts. Travel in winter, and you’ll enjoy thousands of peaceful acres dormant under a protective white blanket (including legal wilderness that comprises a full third of White River Forest acreage). Sure, in some areas you can still step in a cow pie or hear a snowmobile, but overall we have a huge tract of prime backcountry around us.

And the future? It’s always amusing to watch anyone (including myself), of any political stripe, trying to base policy on a crystal ball. In some cases it’s necessary, but so often proves to be a joke. In the case of recreation we have seen some large increases. But let’s not forget alpine skiing, which is flat or shrinking. What’s to keep other forms of recreation from following the same pattern as alpine skiing? Most importantly, demographics show an aging population with most of our population growth coming from other cultures that don’t participate heavily in outdoor recreation. Thus, implementing extreme restrictions based on guesses about future growth could well be unnecessary. Certainly we must be conservative when caring for creation, but there is a difference between conservatism and fanaticism.

But reality doesn’t matter to the Forest planners. Muscle power or carbon fuel — be it winter or summer, disabled or spry, old or young, backcountry skier or lift skier, in view of the proposed Plan you’re mostly a destructive nuisance in need of severe limits. Now, our recreation needs in central Colorado are second fiddle to goals of the land manager bureaucrats who lap up the latest theories of green activists, partisan (and perhaps over-educated) wildlife biologists and biodiversity fanatics. When theories fit their agenda they become facts that support the claim we’re being shut out to help the forest. That’s a false claim. This apocalyptic shift in management policy has deeper roots.

Follow the green trail back to Washington. With the demise of extractive industry, along with spending cuts, the Forest Service has less money for recreation management. On top of that, national USFS policy is now slanted towards an anti-human view based on faulty environmental ideals. Divided, we recreationists have less political clout than cow dung, we cost money to “manage,” and we give little money back. What’s more, without logging and mining to beat on, we recreators are now whipping boys for the environmentalists: our ski areas are too big, our cars use the roads too much, our public backcountry huts are developments, our dogs pollute, our tracks deface pristine slopes, our tents are ugly, our lug sole boots erode the trails, snowmobiles are the devil, our backcountry ski tracks might make life hard for Lynx…Thus, through economics, green idealism and apathy, we’ve let recreation become a scapegoat and political football. Look closely, and you’ll see the whole process bears a nightmarish resemblance to lethal injection execution.

How it works: The first step in government sanctioned death is when they strap you down in the execution room. In the same way, we recreationists are immobilized by divisiveness. Then comes the intravenous sedative Pentothal. In the case of backcountry access your drug is the warm, fuzzy and often misinterpreted concept of “biodiversity,” which can define anything from a zoo to a game preserve — and does not include humans. The next step of lethal injection is a huge hit of curare derivative to lock up your lungs. In the same way, our voices are locked by the poison of political correctness. Mention that humans have rights on the land, and you’re labeled a “right-wing wacko” or a “wise-use” advocate. The last step of lethal injection execution is a squirt of potassium that burns through your veins like the fires of hell, then sends your heart into an excruciating cramp — only you can’t scream because you are strapped down and paralyzed.

When your soul calls you to the backcountry, but the sign at the trailhead says “no humans allowed” and crushes your heart, will you try to scream? Sorry, it’s too late: you’ve been immobilized, sedated, suffocated and killed by the outdoor version of lethal injection.

The Forest Service says they’ll make incremental changes to the Proposed Management Plan, based on public written input. It’s then likely the Plan will be appealed by divided recreation groups with no consensus, and consequently little effect. Furthermore, while in various newspaper writings the environmental groups appear to support the Plan, it’s likely they’ll appeal it as well (or use it as a philosophical launching pad for more extreme restrictions such as the Roadless Initiative). The nightmare is that we recreationists are now working from zero. We’re reduced to actually justifying our right to recreate, no matter what form our use takes.

Chances are, any National Forest near you is in, or close to beginning a plan revision — with the needle of lethal injection aimed at the heart of your backcountry sport.

What to do? First, look at recreation as a whole, and join a group that promotes responsible multi-use of public land. You might actually shake hands with another type of user, but you’ll be surprised how much you have in common. Avoid clubs or political groups that bicker with other user groups. Be wary of groups that call attention to user “conflicts” to further their agendas of use restrictions. People can get along, and emphasizing their differences is nothing less than exploitation. Most of all be willing to share. Backcountry skiers should stop feeling superior because they use blood sugar instead of gasoline. Snowmobilers should drive with courtesy and use their wallets to vote for quieter machines. Mountain bikers should work with hikers and equestrians. Sure, we can divide the pie once in a while. Any multi-use group worth it’s tires or boot rubber–or steel edges–should be comfortable with occasional use restrictions (helicopter skiing comes to mind, and a quantity of legal wilderness and game preserves is desirable). But the underlying philosophy of most land management should value human recreation in the equation. In most cases, we should only restrict recreation when it causes massive, irreversible damage — not a bit of trail erosion, a tent visible by a lake, or even one group being seen by another.

After you’ve hashed out your differences and figured a few solutions that include humanity (the latter is easy; former somewhat harder), mail opinion letters to your local Forest Service office and your government representatives. Remember that just because a Forest Plan looks good for your own form of recreation doesn’t make it a good plan. If the underlying philosophy does not support recreation in a broad sense, you’ll eventually feel the prick of the needle. Work hard, compromise, and be open minded about all forms of recreation. Otherwise it won’t be pretty — lethal injection never is.


Short author bio for reprints: Louis Dawson is a 49 year old “total outdoorsman” living in Carbondale Colorado. He hikes, climbs, hunts, skis, jeeps, snowmobiles, fishes, and bicycles in the White River National Forest, and he wants his son to grow up with the same opportunities. Dawson specializes in writing about ski mountaineering, and is well known as the first man to ski down all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks. He is the author of Dawson’s Guides to Colorado’s Fourteeners, several other books, and numerous magazine articles. Visit Lou at his website, //www.wildsnow.com.

Description, White River National Forest: The White River is one of our nation’s largest and oldest national forests. Established in 1891 as the White River Plateau Timber Reserve, the Forest later incorporated several other reserves to reach its current 2,270,000 acres. The Forest is located in north-central Colorado, west of the Continental Divide. The Divide marks most of the Forest’s eastern boundary, which is about 60 miles from Denver. Ready access to the forest by residents of Denver and other Front Range communities is provided by Interstate Highway 70, which enters the Forest from the east at the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel.

*Use levels for “primitive” and “pristine” land classifications are defined by a standard in the Plan D documents called “PAOT” or People-At-One-Time. This standard varies somewhat according to the amount of timber cover. As I was not able to obtain a complete set of paper/ink Plan documents (no thanks to the USFS, who I asked…), I’ve had to study the web based PDF documents, which are tough to use for research because they are HUGE and take ridiculous time to download via modem. As far as I can tell, the PAOT issue, regarding “primitive” and “pristine” use levels, is covered in the Land Management Plan on pp 2-25 and 2-29, and in the actual Plan D on page 1-6. If you care to download the huge PDF files, do a search for the term “PAOT” and perhaps you can find the relevant information. These PAOT levels are a good example of an arbitrary standard based on partisan biology, junk-science, politics, and ethereal “solitude” standards promoted by radical environmentalists. In my view, most trails can carry many more people than these planned PAOT levels — without significant problems. Of course I’m not a conservation biologist — just a guy who’s been watching trails and animals for 30+ years…decent qualifications in my view — and I’m not being paid by anyone to do my observations.

Regarding plowed winter roads: Many in the anti-motor lobby are well aware and quick to point out that the occasional snowmobiler rides on legal wilderness land. This is no secret. Every spring, when we ski in the highcountry near Independence Pass (Hwy 82), we enter valleys in the Hunter-Fryingpan wilderness where we see snowmobile tracks. Frankly, I’m not highly concerned about this (though I’d like it to stop), as I’m certain most of these riders are unclear about the Wilderness boundary, and the places they ride are usually quite close to the highway. But if you dislike snowmobiles, and dislike plowed roads, and your life is ruined if you find out about a snowmobile in legal wilderness, consider this: If the Independence Pass Road was plowed in winter, and muscle powered users were entering legal wilderness from trailheads on this road, snowmobilers would not be riding in that same wilderness. Thus, plowing a road would enhance wilderness values. Sometimes life is messy, and workable solutions are not pretty. Roads are not evil. Roads have a place, and there is more to roads than meets your tires. Plowing just a few more winter roads to a few more trailheads would cause a marked reduction in crowding of existing trailheads, and could actually enhance wilderness values.

Regarding partisan and over-educated wildlife biologists: The bible of the biodiversity movement Saving Nature’s Legacy, by Noss and Cooperrider, covers the education part of this issue on page 331: “…A major problem is that most university training is irrelevant to real-life conservation work…Perhaps most distressing of the educational problems today is the increasing separation of people from exposure to nature…” The authors also rue that much of conservation education is still related to consumption, and that education should be slanted more towards their view of reality (extraction=evil). Truth be told, what we need is education with balance. Biology should include ample time experiencing just how beautiful and complete our ecosystems still are. Also, education should acknowledge that humanity must consume from nature, but we can do so in largely sustainable ways. Both sides of the issue attempt to deploy firepower in the form of biologists who spout the lingua-franca of science and overwhelm us with big words. Rarely have such biologists spent extended time in the areas of question, thus gaining a practical sense of how things work. Even more annoying, speak with radical environmentalists and they’ll lard their speech with numerous conservation biology buzz words. But try to bring up any science of your own, and they’ll question your credentials. Reminds me of religious fanatics…

Those of us who have spent decades in the White River Forest may disagree on some things, but I’ve spoken with fairly radical environmentalists who agree that our forest ecology is overall in decent shape (that’s why we continue to live here), and they take their radical view to prevent future problems. Those with such views use conservation biology for justification, though such science can be highly suspect. No matter how many buzz words get tossed around and what certificates are hanging on an expert’s wall, practical experience is important. It should be made clear who the individuals are that produce the scientific basis for viewpoint, what ideology their science is intended to support, and how much practical experience such “experts” have.

What’s more, many environmental organizations are funding and directing their own studies of such things as how roads influence wildlife. While those same individuals would never believe a possibly biased study done by someone else with vested interest, such as a drug company’s study of their latest wonder compound, they blithely ignore the fact that by operating a scientific study of their own, it has the same flaw. It’s likely such studies are biased, and if not, the possibility of bias flaws the study anyway.

It is surprising how much of such “scientific study” work ends up being taken as fact. For example, you’ll hear environmentalists repeat ad nauseam that “roads” are simply horrible things that ruin the ecology, based on “studies.”

First, when radical environmentalists speak about roads and tout their studies, they rarely draw a distinction between a 4-lane highway and a jeep trail, which makes one wonder about such “studies.”

Second, drive up a jeep trail such as Pearl Pass in the White River Forest of Colorado, then hike that same road several times. Then hike the land a few miles from the road. You’ll see many animal tracks on the road. Indeed, any hunter can tell you that mountain jeep trails are used by plenty of game. You’ll also notice that other than the difference in human presence, there is absolutely no difference between the forest 50 feet from the road, and that 2 miles from the road. And in most cases, the forest within feet of the roadside is the same as that 2 miles from the road. Certainly there may be small differences in the amount and type of flora and fauna, and you will see non-native weeds on the edge of the road once in a while (as you will near horse and hike trails) — but to say roads such as jeep trails are somehow destroying the ecology of the forest any more than a horse trail or hiking track is a ridiculous reach that should do nothing but discredit the people who spout such extremist views.

Many laws and policies guide national forest management. Some of the more familiar ones include the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NFMA requires that NFS lands be managed for a variety of uses on a sustained basis to ensure a continued supply of goods and services to the American people. NEPA ensures that environmental information is made available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made, and before actions are taken. The Forest Plan (including a Draft Environmental Impact Statement) is prepared according to NEPA regulations. It displays the alternatives considered for implementing the Forest Plan and the environmental consequences each alternative will have. Least we not forget, the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights must also be considered when it comes to land management.

Biodiversity is an over-used and poorly defined word. As such, defining it as a specific goal should concern us. Indeed, it could be considered a euphemism, and euphemisms are dangerous as they are often used to hide the truth.

Whipping boys. While there may have been a time that radical environmentalists viewed recreation (especially of the human powered variety) as somehow superior to industrial use of the backcountry, they now equate recreation with things like logging with respect to conservation. This is hard to stomach for those of us who grew up in backcountry recreation, and learned our environmental ethic from such activities. Indeed, what I’ve found is that most people would rather go into denial than acknowledge that in the radical environmentalist world-view, a hiker can be, and probably is, as bad as a logger. Rather than my own diatribe, check what they have said:

“…a timber sale might be a one-time entry into an area and then it’s closed off, a trail can get you into an area from one to a thousand times a day…there are not many of these wild, remote, roadless areas left and we need to protect each and every one.” — Bill Martin, Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project, bemoaning his perception that the backcountry is getting too crowded, and comparing the impact of trails with that of logging. He obviously has not hiked out into any of the nearly deserted roadless areas everywhere in Colorado, Montana, Alaska, Idaho, and many other places, or if he has, he’s repeating the lie of crowded wilderness for political gain or so he can do the green whine and dance the Chicken Little boogie. (Aspen Times, July 4, 2000).

“Nowhere on this planet.” — Doug Scott, Communications Director, People for Puget Sound, and former Conservation Director for the Sierra Club, when asked “where should OHV users ride?” (Column by Kimberly Witcher, Blue Ribbon Magazine, July 2000).

“The extraction industries have become old news…our public lands are an accessory to the entertainment industry.” –Allen Best, ( Writers On The Range in Western Slope Sunday, July 9, 2000). Best looks at ski areas and a few other things, and ignores the virtually untouched bulk of our public land. His view of recreation now being the great satan is a terrifying aspect of environmentalism, and one which I think many people are ignoring. Wake up everyone! There is someone out there who thinks your form of recreation is bad and should be limited. That person is the friendly environmentalist who used to protect your Forest from loggers and miners. Now he wants to protect the Forest from YOU.

David Garber, research biologist with the U.S. National Park Service and a green activist, made this charming statement: “Somewhere along the line — at about a million years ago, maybe half that — we [humanity] quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth…. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

In Colorado, while ski resorts such as Vail take land, backcountry skiers are now viewed as a problem for wildlife such as lynx.

Or check out what Virginia Department of Forestry person Jeffrey Marion wrote : “One important implication of the curvilinear use/impact relationship is that nearly all use must be eliminated to achieve significant reductions in most forms of recreational impact.” (defunct link removed 2015)

“Now that the timber industry is practically dead on the national forests, many environmentalists are demonizing ‘industrial recreation’ on public lands,” says Randal O’Toole, director of the Thoreau Institute in Oregon and an iconoclastic environmentalist who has long criticized the U.S. Forest Service. “Basically the attitude is that no one should be allowed on public lands unless they can get there under their own power.” (From an interesting column by Virginia Postrel in Forbes Magazine, November 1998..)

And last but not least, check out the words of the man himself, John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club: “Man is always and everywhere a blight on the landscape.” Believe me, Muir wasn’t just talking about motorized recreation… Get that? Read it again. This man is a god to environmentalists — now you know where they’re coming from. If man is a blight, is lethal injection any problem?

*For an interesting take on the Fee Demo program, see Wildwilderness.org.

The number of backpackers has declined about 12 percent from 1987 to 2001, according to SGMA International. (We used to have a link to their study, but it broke.) In my experience this trend has been happening for at least two decades, after the sharp spike in popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The reasons for the decline are many. The fact is, when an enviro fanatic whines about the crowded wilderness, or the need for more wilderness so that backpackers have more room, their whine flies in the face of the facts. I see this trend continuing. Our population is aging rapidly, and all increase of our population is coming from cultures that don’t include backpacking in their recreation value systems. Thus, don’t worry about the wild being crowded with backpackers other than in areas that already receive concentrated use.

Letters Received regarding “Lethal Injection” article covering backcountry land use issues.

I’ve gotten more positive mail about this article than I have negative. But the hate mail bears scrutiny. What’s interesting is that I’ve taken a moderate view; I stated we need to share the land, and use it while preserving it. Even so, it appears people think I’m some sort of extremist, while the idea of blocking access to our public land is somehow moderate, right, moral, and good. That sort of twisted thinking is exactly what I rail against in the article published above.

The following letter is illustrative. This guy thinks I’m some sort of wacko. Unlike the true wackos did in Vail, I’m not burning down buildings; I’m a recreation advocate; I love humanity — with all its nobility and all its foibles. Let’s not forget that it is the radical environmentalists who espouse a philosophy that obviates human rights, denigrates humanity, and says the world would be a better place if we were all gone. Such views deserve strong criticism and scrutiny. For better or worse, that’s what I try to do in my environmental writing. (The following have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)

Here is an example — it came to Couloir Magazine with the profanity intact:

January 12, 2000
Enclosed is my just received issue of Couloir. I don’t want it. I’m not the “Couloir-type.” You see, I’m a tree-huggin, granola-eating, Wilderness-loving, liberal-environmentalist! I love big, protected roadless-areas. I’m sure you can send this magazine to one of your true target-market customers: ORV users, snowmobilers, ranchers, loggers, miners, Republican politicians, “wise-users,” or any other ultra-conservative, right-wing extremist, mo–f—ing as—le! Speaking of ultra-conservative, right-wing extremist, mo–f—ing as—les – maybe Lou Dawson would like another copy!
Happy Trails,
Dave S. — Pine, Colorado

This person is seeing what I’m seeing…

Dear Lou,

I read your article “Lethal Injection”. I discovered the Federal plan to exclude humans from the wilderness in early 1993 when our local wilderness area, Alpine Lakes, was scheduled for draconian limits on HIKING. Quotas would eliminate up to 90% of weekend hiking in popular areas, and be enforced by law enforcement officers. 3/4 of “slots” would be reserved in Feb.; commercial outfitters’ clients and horses would be first subtracted from the quotas. 80% of public comments opposed the plan.

Previously I was a Sierra Club member, contributed to WWF, NRDC, Nature Conservancy and other such groups. Then I became extremely angry. I put flyers on every car at every trailhead in the ALW on Labor Day weekend 1993, wrote editorials for the Mazama Climbing Club in Portland, and joined the Seattle Mountaineers. I wrote letters to the editor, attended dozens of public input meetings, even went to Washington DC to meet with all 11 of Washington state’s congressional delegation or their staffs, and Senators from Oregon and Idaho.

You are absolutely right: the Clinton-Gore admin. appointed 32 leaders of radical enviro. groups (including Bruce Babbit) to key positions of power in all the land-control agencies (USFS, BLM, Nat’l Parks, Corps of Engineers, NMFS, FWS, etc.). These people have written many thousand pages of plans and regulations using the same biocentric language, and carefully designed to provide a regulatory basis for progressively eliminating nearly all human activities on federal land.

Are you aware of the “Wildlands Project”? Their stated goal is to set half the land in the 48 states off limits of all human activities, in a series of “ecoregions”. An additional 1/4 of the land will be buffers and corridors connecting these areas, where only limited human activities will be allowed. People will be herded into densely-packed urban areas and confined to public transportation, with limited transportation corridors to link urban areas. The remainder of the land would be allocated to farming and other resource activities, under strict control of federal zoning and use rules.

All the tenants of the Widlands Project are incorporated in the United Nations Biodiversity Treaty, signed by Clinton but NOT ratified by the Senate, not yet. Clinton-Gore, however, have included the language of the biodiversity treaty in all federal land-use plans since 1993, and are using these regs. to enforce the biodiversity treaty and Wildlands Project on all federal land. (If you want more info., get the September 18, 1993 issue of Science News, which is where I first learned of this plan. Also, check the website http://www.wild-earth.org. Dave Foreman, founder of EarthFirst! is a key person pushing this plan. (The Sierra Club has endorsed the Wildlands Project.)

Environmental groups, funded by billions in foundation and government grants, have effectively used the liberal press, biased “science”, their publications and their lie-packed flyers to arouse the public to “save the environment”. We who perceive their true motives are way behind! Also, as you describe, we are divided among ourselves.

Like most hikers, I prefer to avoid motorized activities, but I will defend their right to use public land to my dying breath.

I was glad to see another back-country person realizing the problem. Hope to hear from you.

All the best, J. H., Oregon

This fellow from Montana had an interesting take. Indeed, let’s not forget where our bicycle parts come from:


A long, long time ago I had 3 pair of Karhu XCD 207s, a shovel, a Skadi and made some Stein Comps. But then I ripped the toes out of the Steins and was broke, so I sold the XCDs and the Skadi and busted the shovel in the DOuglas Mountains. By the time I had the money, I no longer had the time to go back. Now it’s looking like I’ll have the time.

Maybe I’ll get me some Scarpas and one of those groovy new Ortovoxes (my hearing stinks, so I would need a needle to dig anyone out). If I can find a gooshy old pair of Austrian slalom skis (no jet stix, thanks) I should be okay. Still, I’m not sure if my knees will take the kind of drop-knee bopping they used to. Two years in an office will do that. Pehaps by the tail end of the season (I’m going home to Big Mountain) I’ll have enough meat built up to go push around some sun cups. I sure hope these first storms aren’t all alone and we get good cohesion.

Anyway, I hope you are right about unity developing. Multiple-use hinges on the willingness of us all to defend one another’s rights and privileges. I’m an extractionist type from an extraction town…whether or not you look at mountains as a meal ticket or a lifestyle amenity, the fact remains that our toys all seem to come from hunks of cellulose or holes in the ground. But you did do a nice job making the points that needed to be made without getting too irate about it. Thanks for that…intelligence always helps.

Dave S., Montana

Here is another “total outdoorsman” taking the broad view in the middle ground:

Dear Mr. Dawson,

I’m a backcountry skier who also enjoys and advocates for off-highway motorcycling (dirt bikes) and mountain bike riding. Your book was our bible on several trips I’ve made to the 10th Mountain Huts. I was pleased to see your Couloir Magazine article on the White River plan that was re-printed in the Blue Ribbon Magazine. You’ve hit it right on the money, in articulating how the anti-human and anti-recreation agenda of the radical environmentalists is being foisted off on all of us recreationists, regardless of where we stand on the silent/motorized sport spectrum.

Sincerely, Don Y, Minnesota


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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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