“One does not sell the land people walk on.”
(Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875)
Pulling back the curtain, one finds that the movement to transfer federal lands to state ownership is being funded and driven by conservative business groups that want that land to be turned over to corporate interests to be exploited for profit, even if doing so destroys the environment. . . . It’s “political sleight-of-hand.” First, get the lands out of federal hands into state hands. Then, wait for the inevitable state budget crisis. Then, buy the resource-rich land, turning it from a beautiful, publicly accessible slice of nature into a resource extraction site.
First, a confession: I am an Environmentalist. With a capital ‘E’.
It’s no secret that from the viewpoint of today’s American Oligarchic monsters, Public Lands — National Parks, Forests, Monuments, Wildlife Preserves and Refuges, Wilderness and Primitive areas, BLM lands — are each and all considered useless for any purpose except privatization and subsequent commercial development, or logging, mining, oil/gas drilling, etc., so as to extract whichever “wealth” is implicit, and convert it to cash, to money. to private wealth. The forces behind this despicable movement range from political (mostly Republican) tools, to corporate oligarchs, to even the fools who think of themselves as parcel to a “militia” movement of some sort. The concept is, by any reasonable definition, both stupid and intolerable, but nevertheless the fact still stands: the rape of Public Lands is a big part of the corporate (and Republican) agenda.
The trammeling of wild and undisturbed land is not a new concept, of course. Here in North America, it’s been going on each and every day since the white man first set foot on the continent. Dig it, log it, drill it, kill it, pave it, — the current goal of fools everywhere represents a completely unsustainable future for not only the country, but the world as well. I’ve been watching the passion for Public Land destruction grow for many years; I’ve seen the result, heard the racket, smelled it, even watched it burn. Makes one wonder just what it is about money and power that causes so many people to be so willing to sacrifice the entire of the planet simply to satisfy their urge for MORE.
Anyway, around a decade ago and after having spent, over the preceding years, somewhere close to a thousand days and nights on deserts, in forests, on mountains, in meadows, always as far from “civilization” as the situation would allow, I came to be a partner of each and all who advocate absolute environmental protection, an advocate of preserving each and every square inch of Public Land everywhere (as well as adding to Public Land acreage if and whenever the opportunity presents itself). Nothing’s changed; that attitude remains constant.
Below are some excerpts from an essay on the matter that I wrote more than a decade ago, along with a handful of Colorado Public Land scenic photos taken beginning in 2008.
“Footprints” is a personal statement of concern – greatly simplified – about all of that which is being done to this tiny planet by her major and dominant species, Homo sapiens sapiens, aka the human race. There are times when, to those of us who dwell in what seems to be the tiniest of tiny minorities, outrage over what has become common practice, and worse, common thought and opinion, overwhelms. Recognition of powerlessness is never an easy task and acceptance of that reality is even more difficult, but there are moments when it does, indeed, overtake. At that point, little is left to do other than to attempt a thoughtful explanation of ‘why the outrage,’ and then to intermingle outrage with recollections which have the potential to stem, at least for the moment, that which is perhaps best described as a severe case of indigestion in one’s soul.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet summed up reality when he said: There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your Philosophy. Problem is, no one takes the time to notice anymore, not in what has become a horribly anthropocentric world where the rush to find yet one more way to consume something, anything, invariably overcomes the search for those tiny nuances which make life not only interesting but also, in large degree, worthwhile.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote,
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time
In Longfellow’s context, the phrase Footprints on the sands of time does not, of course, refer to actual boot imprints or to any other sort of human-caused physical scarring of the natural landscape; rather it refers to the beneficent contributions of a select few: from art, music, and philosophy to intellectual examinations of esoteric concepts such as Truth, Beauty, and Love, and to the intermingling and practical applications thereof – collectively, precepts of recognition and understanding which can and do apply to other than the narrow road of human existence itself. There are, indeed, numerous examples of both great men and great women who’ve lived lives of contribution and not of simple consumptive excess; their numbers, however, have been unfortunately minuscule compared with what are, in effect, their functional opposites.
“Take only pictures, leave only footprints” is the well-spoken and well-intended motto which sensitive visitors to wild lands take to heart and practice. Such attitude is, however and unfortunately, a distinctly minority view as is clearly evidenced in these days of rampant resource development. From oil and natural gas exploration/development in virtually any location, no matter how remote, that offers even the most meager possibility of discovery, to logging, to mining, to the ubiquitous practice of cattle grazing on public lands, and to urban development as well, men seldom take only pictures or leave only fleeting footprints. Even a fair and enduring segment of outdoor (so-called) recreationists – especially those who recreate on motorized off-road vehicles such as dirt bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles and the like – leave far more than footprints in their wake including racket, fumes, and a scarred and trammeled landscape, the sum of which scarcely falls into the “only footprints” category.
Chief Luther Standing Bear of the Teton Sioux once noted that For the Lakota, mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and woods were all finished beauty. Winds, rain, snow, sunshine, day, night, and change of seasons were endlessly fascinating. Birds, insects, and animals filled the world with knowledge that defied the comprehension of man. From that otherwise vivid statement, however, derives the sad reality that in this modern day times have changed, that finished beauty does, indeed, defy the comprehension of man. At least of most men. To grasp that concept, one must first look around. Look at a mountain, or a prairie, a desert, a valley, a canyon, a lake, river, forest which remains undisturbed by man (if you can find one, that is); study a wildflower; watch the antics of a hummingbird; listen to the near noiseless motion of a deer as it meanders gracefully through forest or desert. Then turn around and look at a city, any city. Notice the smoke-filled air, hear the din, see the scars upon the land; see the polluted streams and rivers, the dying forests; call it all “civilization.” Then recall once more Chief Luther Standing Bear who also said, Civilization has been thrust upon me . . . and it has not added one whit to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity. . . .
A hundred years ago, author John C. Van Dyke wrote of what he had come to sense would be man’s eventual imprint on what were, then, still mostly wild lands, lands which he explored and then described in his many writings. Van Dyke succinctly noted that . . .
. . . with the coming of civilization the grasses and the wild flowers perish, the forest falls, and its place is taken by brambles, the mountains are blasted in the search for minerals, the plains are broken by the plow and the soil is gradually washed into the rivers. Last of all, when the forests have gone the rains cease falling, the streams dry up, the ground parches and yields no life, and the artificial desert – the desert made by the tramp of human feet – begins to show itself. Yes; everyone must have cast a backward glance and seen Nature’s beauties beaten to ashes under the successive marches of civilization . . .
The successive marches of civilization: footprints by any other description.
Understand that Van Dyke wrote those words before even the automobile had entered the picture. He wrote of a world in which the major transportational conveyances were horses and/or horse-drawn wagons, plus the Iron Horse and, on the rivers, steamboats and barges. Yet he “saw” and predicted the eventual outcome, and the more wild country that was converted to humanized landscape, the more vividly accurate became Van Dyke’s predictions. One can only wonder what he might think today, if only he could travel once more the mountains and the deserts about which he wrote just one century ago.
Those who still live to recall that which Van Dyke saw a century ago are few-and-far-between these days . . . Why, one is always tempted to ask, do otherwise (seemingly) rational people tolerate urban sprawl and all the problems which it brings into play when there are other far less intrusive options available? In the late nineteenth century, Suqwamish Chief Seattle noted, We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy — and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves, and his children’s birthright is forgotten.
Seattle’s point then, as now, recognizes that so-called ‘civilized’ man’s Footprints on the sands of time have become, in a mere 200 years, far greater than those left by ten thousand years of indigenous cultures which once inhabited the same ground. Today when we speak of footprints – “Footprints” – we must speak not of civilization in the classic sense, but rather of our culture of wanton destruction, a culture whose sole purpose is the pursuit of one more dollar, always and invariably at the planet’s expense, forever parcel to the enduring dream that yet another potential fortune is in the making. Meanwhile, we ignore that which, indeed, makes it possible for us to proceed at all: the life-giving biosphere in which we live – in more “primitive” terms, our Earth Mother.
[. . .]
There are, of course, no ways to reliably guess or even to speculate on that which the Earth Mother might hold as the future for man or for any other of her myriad life forms. Only one thing remains forever certain, and it was perhaps best spoken some three centuries ago by Sir Isaac Newton: (Nature) does nothing in vain, and more is in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of the superfluous.
The pomp of the superfluous defines the vast bulk of what man brings to life’s table, and may in fact quite ably define the intrinsic nature of the species itself. I’ve long found it interesting that if one can find a patch of forest, desert, or prairie, or a lake, river, or stream which has somehow remained untouched by man – untrammeled – then wherever one looks, one sees the vibrancy of life always in perfect balance (and, of course, never a discarded bottle or can, or scrunched cigarette butt). John C. Van Dyke revealed his first impressions of himself alone in the wilderness and away from the world of men when he wrote, At last you are free. You are at home in the infinite, and your possessions, your government, your people dwindle away into needle-points of insignificance. Danger? Sleep on serenely! Danger lies within the pale of civilization, not in the wilderness. One quickly wonders: might not Van Dyke’s needle-points of insignificance be one-in-the-same with Newton’s pomp of the superfluous?
In any case, unanswered questions invariably remain: Why? Why is the human species as it is? Why is it so ill-content to live simply and in balance? Why the presumption of dominance? Why must an abundant life style preclude overflowing landfills loaded with yesterday’s must-haves? And finally, why must the pomp of the superfluous, i.e. those needle-points of insignificance such as mere possessions, governments, and people who see themselves as apart from the natural world define the human race when there is, virtually anywhere and everywhere, the potential for so much more?
The poet William Wordsworth once wrote, in his poem entitled Written in Early Spring,
I heard a thousand blended notes
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trail’d its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopp’d and play’d,
Their thoughts I cannot measure,
But the least motion which they made
It seem’d a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from Heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
Wordsworth penned those words the better part of a century-and-a-half ago, and yet his finis rings every bit as true today as it did then:
Have I not reason to lament / What man has made of man?
Human leaves a strange legacy. In one sense, he’s no different than the birds, beasts, trees, or flowers: survival and the hope of prosperity forever remain the eternal goals for each and all. Yet only man presumes the inborn right to same, and by extension, the inborn right to trample all else to sevice his own domain.
A few days spent amongst the birds, beasts, trees, and flowers does much to expose the error in that premise, and invariably brings back to mind those Footprints on the sands of time, now forever linked to the lament . . . What man has made of man. We, of this age, could change that. If only we’d care to try.
▼Summer wildflowers, San Isabel National Forest, Colorado▼
▼Wild geese on the wing near the Sierra Mojada, San Isabel N.F., Colorado▼
That was then. THIS is now:
The Quimby family, the makers of Burt’s Bees products, have offered to donate nearly 90,000 acres of pristine woodland area in Maine. Not only that, they have also included a generous donation of $40 million for the upkeep of the land. . . .
Utah Mormon, Rob Bishop is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources and was joined by vicious Maine Governor Paul LePage to reject transfer of the 87,500 acre land gift and obstruct its designation as a national monument. Republicans under Koch supervision insist that all public land be handed over to corporate privatization to be mined, logged or drilled for profits, not for the American people’s benefit. If the Quimby family wants to hand over the land to the Koch brothers to mine, log and drill for oil, Mormon Bishop, LePage, and House Republicans would probably name a post office after them. Instead, Maine Governor LePage lashed out at the gift-giving Quimby family like the ingrate Republican he has proven over and over to be. . . .
Bishop complains that a local Republican, some Maine malcontent, is right that if the land is a designated as national monument, then mining, logging and oil drilling corporations cannot ruin it and environmental laws will protect it from being despoiled and denuded. The land is protected now because it is privately held by the Quimby family non-profit, so there will be no change after the transfer and that is what Republicans cannot comport; they want change that entails corporate control and abolition of environmental protections.
Rep. Bishop’s hatred that the American people enjoy public lands is, or should be, legendary. Bishop is closely aligned with those other Mormons, the Cliven Bundy Republicans, sitting in jail who contend the public by way of the government is forbidden from owning or using public land.
There are no words to amply describe the disgust and loathing I feel toward any and all Bishop and LePage-style IDIOTS who are perfectly willing to leave no stone unturned in their effort to destroy both the concept of public land and all public land itself — via privatization — in their disgusting quest for money, no matter that the consequence is guaranteed to be either an unlivable world or a dead world. Subhuman IDIOTS who have zero concern for the planet’s myriad creatures and plants, who have no concept of Truth, of Beauty, of Love of anything other than themselves and their wallets, are truly the most despicable life forms that evolution has devised to date; they also serve as absolute proof that none of their imagined “gods” exist, unless folks are willing to believe god or gods make a living by creating IDIOTS!
**Fortunately, there are continuing efforts to alter or blockade the course of these IDIOTS. The Wilderness Society, in their own words, protects the places you care about. We are 143 people spread across the US who passionately believe that public lands are the best expression of what it is to be an American. Since 1935, we’ve led the effort to protect 109 million acres of wilderness, garnering more than 700,000 supporters along the way. If you care about Public Lands, follow the link and spend some time exploring the goals of The Wilderness Society’s #OurWild movement; then sign some petitions and help spread the word; help stop the anti-Public Land IDIOCY in its tracks!**
Help Save Places Such as THESE for Posterity!!
▼14,433 Ft. Mt. Elbert, the Highest Summit in the Colorado Rockies, White River N.F.▼
▼The Continental Divide’s Sawatch Range, White River N.F., Colorado▼
It goes without saying that IF Public Lands are privatized, the energy, mining, and logging industries will be among the first to tap their “new” resource. The consequence of such travesty is predictable, even by IDIOTS.
On July 4th, 2016, Jonathan Hoenig at Fox News had this to say:
We need more carbon emissions, Charles, we need more smoke
stacks, we need more burning of fossil fuels and energy because the
more we burn, the better man’s life has become. The more energy
we use, the greater amount of wealth that’s created.
Burning ever more fossil fuels means a better life for all because wealth. It goes without saying that Public Lands are reservoirs of wealth and therefore they should be privatized because that’ll make life better for . . . ?? For IDIOTS!!
“We didn’t inherit this world from our ancestors;
we borrowed it from our children.”