Thursday, August 19, 2010

OPINION: Crazed Enviros Looking to Lock You Out of Your Forest

The Pencil Warrior
By Dave Wheelock

I’m probably not going to create any new conservationists with this column. My observations suggest that most people open to logic already realize the importance of maintaining a diverse range of healthy ecosystems.
For many of these readers, the call for public comment on a proposed new travel management plan that can begin to reverse damages done by motorized travel on limited parcels of Forest Service lands will be enough to spur them to exercise their principles. But for the inevitable few who never seem to get a “round tuit,” a small helping of outrage may get their motors running, so to speak.
We in the so-called environmental community (I sit on the board of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance) have a bad habit of pulling our punches. We educate, we alert, we “outreach,” and we plead - for citizen action on a multitude of issues, and for donations. We extol the virtues of conservation and decry the multiplying threats to nature. But too often we fail to specify who is doing the threatening, other than in ways that give the impression we face inevitable processes.
A 2007 story on off-highway vehicles (OHVs, also called All Terrain Vehicles, or ATVs) in the Sierra Club’s official magazine explains the escalating negative impacts of OHV use as “the confluence of population growth, advanced technology, and consumer affluence. While backpacking numbers are going down, the refinement of off-road engineering has yielded a wide array of vehicles at a multitude of price points, making off-roading, for many, the default way to interact with nature.”
The article makes no mention of aggressive industry marketing or its connection to our waddling new culture of exertion avoidance; not a word about manufacturers’ lobbyists in Congress, right-wing think tanks espousing the sanctity of “individual rights,” or the financial support of motorized user clubs by vehicle makers and dealers.
According to the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance, “Motorized recreation on the public lands of New Mexico is under attack right now and all around you. Aligned under the guise of ‘environmentalism’, selfish elitists have determined that you have no right to recreate in your chosen way and are determined to LOCK YOU OUT (sic) from enjoying your motorcycle, ATV, snowmobile, or 4WD on public land.”
Elsewhere the NMOHVA website purports to stand for “responsible OHV recreation through education, safety training” and “land conservation.” But the “lockout” alarm suspiciously echoes that used by right wing echo chambers like the American Enterprise and Cato Institutes to condition citizens to view the formation of public policy narrowly in terms of their own rights rather than a process to find the necessary balance between citizen rights on one hand and the responsibilities required to maintain natural integrity on the other. In this time-tested strategy of the right virtually every instance of government regulation is framed as an unconstitutional “taking” of “individual rights.” Further, the demonization of “selfish elitists” betrays an ideology that intentionally misrepresents the motives of those concerned with conservation and seeks to devalue empirical knowledge itself.
The NMOHVA website contains a list of “business supporters,” including Kawasaki Motors Corporation and State Farm Insurance that reveals the commercial aspect of its interests. All the more reason, I presume, to strike out at the “selfish elitists” concerned with land preservation.
The NMOHVA and like-minded groups are already gearing up for the latest “LOCKOUT” howl. As part of its responsibilities to sustainably manage public lands under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Cibola National Forest is calling for public comment until August 24 on a Proposed Action for new Roadless Area Travel Management rules for the Magdalena Mountains that lie within its jurisdiction. Developed through a combination of public input and internal Forest Service analysis of nine key issues including the growing impacts of off-highway travel, the Proposed Action calls for closure of some redundant and non-authorized roads.
The recommended closures will reduce damage to sensitive areas while allowing sufficient access for fire suppression, recreation, and other regulated activities dictated by the Forest Service’s dedication to “multiple use” – including off-highway vehicle use.
Longtime Magdalenas visitor and fellow NMWA board member Dr. Rick Aster says it well in his written comment on the proposed travel guidelines: “The District has done its homework and come up with a financially, logistically, and functionally manageable network of non-redundant core roads that will serve the public and Forest Service, as well as wildlife, very well in the future.”
I hope readers will take this opportunity to help restore and sustain the health of our nearest and dearest mountain range by filing comments on the Plan. An internet search for Cibola National Forest will take you to the proposed Travel Management Plan for the Magdalenas, as well as Plan updates for the Sandia, Mountainair, and Mt. Taylor districts in New Mexico. You can also contact Magdalena team leader Cliff Nicoll for information at (505) 346-3833.

Dave Wheelock, a member of the Oneida Nation, is a collegiate sports administrator and coach. His opinions are not necessarily those of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance or the Mountain Mail.

1 comment:

  1. Chris Johnson, Past President, NMOHVAAugust 20, 2010 at 1:37 AM

    NMOHVA got $3000 from Kawasaki to help jumpstart its web page. Not one of our people gets paid. We have no paid staffers. Individuals who own businesses contribute in the name of those businesses. We're a 501(c)(3) so it's deductable, just like a donation to your organization.
    I challenge NM Wilderness Alliance to publish a list of its donors, the amounts given, and the salaries of any paid staff.