For most of us fortunate enough to live in God’s backyard it has always been a simple matter to grab our kit and a gun and wander into the wilderness, sans worries and free of town-related responsibilities.
Plus, it was free, other than the cost of petrol to get where we wanted to start and discounting medical costs from encountering infected ticks, ticked-off grizzlies, avalanches, hungry mountain lions, bad water, mad momma moose, rattlesnakes, microbursts and other wilderness hazards one may encounter, including getting injured or lost.
Now, according to a recent article in the Billings Gazette, Tim Young, executive director of the nonprofit titled Wyoming Pathways, wants us to pony up for the privilege of taking even a brief hike in the backcountry. That’s right, Mr. Tim Young wants us, the public and the owners of all this fabulous real estate, to pay for the privilege of simply taking a hike in our own woods.
Of course, if there’s money to be had, count on the state getting involved as per Dave Glenn, deputy administrator of the Outdoor Recreation Office and Division of State Parks, Historic sites and Trails. I guess they don’t have enough money in their budget to mismanage and want the tax-paying, commercial-infrastructure-supporting public, to pony up more bucks so they can “improve” things to the way they would like to have them.
Whatever happened to enjoying the primitive? I’ve got two bum legs now and can only handle about 1-2 miles at a time on my feet these days and I’ll pay the price for enjoying the stroll in pain and soreness for several days after. Even so, until I’m confined to a wheelchair, I’ll be stitched if I want to wander around on pavement while pretending to be in the natural world.
Or to have a picnic table sitting in a cleared and maintained area for my convenience instead of using a handy log, stump or large rock for a table. Sometimes simply squatting in front of a small fire, cooking critter on a stick and drinking boiled coffee from a billy can afford one a satisfaction not available in our otherwise stainless steel world.
The well paid minions of Big Brother, comfortable in their air-conditioned offices, reclining in over-stuffed office chairs while sucking on a morning latte, haven’t got a clue about how some rural Americans enjoy their national forests. Apparently we don’t matter enough to cause concern.
The paved walkways, fireplaces and outhouses are nice for the big-city nature lovers I guess, but only because most big-city folks, like their appointed overlords, don’t have a clue either. Apparently they also don’t have enough of a sense of responsibility, or even the knowledge of how to properly take care of their recreational needs or natural functions in the woods.
Yeah I know, they saw it on the internet, but their ability to retain knowledge is limited to on-site visual stimulus, via an app on their smart phones. Or maybe this money grubbing scheme proposed by Young is a case of superior attitudes among the overlords who want to exercise their power over true wilderness wanderers who they resent for their freedom? Or is it just another scheme designed to ultimately rake in more bucks?
Glenn and Young are beating the drum for more user fees from those of us who actually prefer the unpaved version of paradise, not the commercial sell. Go ahead and charge the tourists for their picnic table and outhouse-equipped camping spot and leave the rest of us alone. Traditionally primitive is about all we have left in terms of recreation and it costs the Forest Service nothing.
One of the arguments Young and Glenn use for invoking a system of paid access permits for the general public to is help pay for trail maintenance. Aside from the fact most of us backwoods types don’t use their trails, I have a problem with this explanation since much trail work in the national forest is done by volunteers like the Shoshone Backcountry Horsemen and which, in case Glenn and Young have forgotten, costs big brother nothing. Even discounting this flagrant fabrication, the money for trail clearing crews would be available if not for institutionally ingrained waste.
One extreme example of the waste of money by the Forest Service that springs to mind occurred several years ago when the service rebuilt an older log mansion in the wilderness area in the mountains west of Meeteetse, on what was originally named Whorehouse Creek, to the tune of several million dollars. The biggest sticking point here is only Forest Service or political high rollers are allowed to use it although our tax dollars paid for the restoration.
Think about it. Is that fair? Couldn’t those millions have been better spent? Maybe even for trail maintenance? And that example is only one of dozens where the taxpayers have been flim-flammed and fleeced by the bureaucrats. And still they want more.
Make no mistake, Glenn and Young and others of that ilk want you to pay for the very thing your taxes or the revenue from commercial use permits should be paying for. It’s all about the money folks. The more they get, the more they improve things and the more they improve things for the spoiled and the unaware, the more money they get. For those of us who live here and enjoy solitude, primitive and natural, those big bucks and greedy bureaucrats are sounding the death knell to an American way of life and our traditional freedom of access to our national forests.
Oh, and just one more thought. If passed, how are they going to monitor-enforce it? Any guess on how much additional revenue will be needed to equip and pay government enforcers to prowl the woods looking for violators?