Over the weekend, I watched the documentary “Jumbo Wild.” It is about the debate as to whether they should build a ski resort in the Jumbo Valley of British Columbia. The film does not actively attempt to vilify anyone but shows you the point of view from the developers and the activists. For the First Nations people, it is about protecting a sacred area while the conservationists feel that these wild places need to be preserved. This got me thinking about our struggles to the South of the border.
Here in the United States, there has been a renewed call to remove large tracts of public lands from under federal management. Some proponents argue that the states are better suited to manage these lands. Many have ulterior motives such as selling off the mining or timber rights to bolster states’ budgets. Others just feel the state is better situated to understand and manage the land around them. Even this concerns me as many public lands cross state borders this puts the federal land managers in a better position to see the big picture with management goals.
As state versus federal control has come up in the public debate I thought I would attempt to make a case for keeping these lands protected. Here are a few points I wanted to make:
- They are public lands, not government owned lands: While some places such as military bases and government facilities are restricted from public access, most public lands are managed to provide equal access. Some people think that means that they can use these lands for their profit, which leads to most arguments over public lands. What public lands really means is that they are managed to provide access to everyone. That’s hunters, fishermen, ranchers, hikers, runners, and mountain bikers alike. While some activities may be restricted in areas, that is typically done to protect a threatened species or ecosystem.
- We should protect wilderness areas: Overdevelopment leads to a decline in biodiversity. Unless you are looking make your grandchildren’s biology class simpler by reducing the animal kingdom to sheep, horses, cows, pigs, dogs, and cats then we need to preserve the areas where wild animals live. Are we not the country where buffalo roam? We almost weren’t after a near extinction in the 1800’s. Do you really want live in a world where your children do not know “Guy on a Buffalo?”
- Apex Predators: Overdevelopment also harms apex predator populations like mountain lions, bears, and wolves. As Douglas Peacock discovered grizzly bears actually migrate. More and more we are learning that large predators need vast areas to move about. Without our apex predators, deer and rabbit populations would explode leading to widespread crop damage. It is important to remember that predators are part of proper management plans.
- It is a Public Health Concern: When Benton MacKay first envisioned the Appalachian Trail he saw it more as an escape from the modern world. He felt that we needed to reconnect with the natural world for our sanity and the more we moved away from it, the less healthy we would become. MacKay was not far off in his ideas as scientists are currently finding. Studies have found that city dwellers have higher rates of mental illnesses, but those rates decrease with access to green areas. Cognitive psychologist David Strayer argues that spending three days out in nature, not only refreshes the brain, but also improves mental performance. Looking at these studies suggests that if we make access to wilderness more difficult then we can expect a public health crisis as more people suffer from anxiety and depression without green spaces.
So here are a few of the reasons I think we should protect our wild areas and possibly work on bringing green spaces back into our cities. What do you think? How often do you get out into a green space? Do you prioritize it? Please leave comments and questions below.
So I did it, I got a new pair of running shoes and they are not Salomons. I got a pair of Altra Lone Peaks. I’ve only gotten one run in them so far so we will see how they do. Time will tell how much I actually enjoy them.