April 2015

Me the People

By Dexter Gill

The television ad comes on, “Come and enjoy YOUR National Forest”! Hey, let’s do it, after all it is mine, the government said so! Truth and reality check, it is not your forest! How can 320 million people all own the same piece of land? The so-called “public lands” actually are lands of the State of Colorado, which have been and are currently being controlled by the federal government. The concept of “We the People” owning the forest is merely a political deception!

It seems that here in Colorado, as in most of the West, there are few things that stir the emotions as much as a person’s “perceived right” to access and enjoy his and her public lands in the manner they each want. Along with that perception, they seem to think the federal government is to provide for them their right to the Pursuit of Happiness. For most of us, to go up into the mountains and see the beauty of God’s creation, hear the wind in trees and the birds singing is a time of happiness. But is it the state, county, or federal government’s responsibility to ensure that opportunity is provided for you and me?

Too often it is said, “I moved here for the open space and quiet beauty, I don’t want my view spoiled with a new barn, or an oil & gas well being allowed to ruin my view and investment.” That is the beginning of the changing of a community of WE the People that work, raise families, worship and recreate together, into just an amalgam of ME the People. I want things to be like I want them!

The Forest Service and BLM, operating under federal rules and regulations drafted by singleinterest activist groups, divide the local populations into numerous ME the Peoples. Most do not realize that they have been duped and are being used by the activists to ultimately remove all the individual- use interests from the “public” lands for the re-wilding of America.

A good example of this is the Travel Management Plans being forced upon all the western national forests. The forests hold public meetings asking, “What do YOU want in the forest plan”? Interestingly, it is the constitutional and legal authority and responsibility of the County Commissions to answer that question, not the 1 percent of special interests in the general public.

As might be guessed, the answers are: Listen to ME, I want the forest to always look pristine; listen to ME, I want to hike on nice trails in quiet; listen to ME, I want more biking trails without motorized equipment ruining my experience; listen to ME, I want to drive the old roads for hunting and enjoyment; listen to ME, I don’t want to hear chain saws cutting those poor trees; listen to ME, I don’t want cows in the forest and trails, oh yuck, don’t step in that; Listen to ME, I want more water for river floating and maybe save some something; Listen to ME, and ME, and the beat goes on. All that really matters is Ol’ number one getting what he wants!

We do not hear, “Listen to ME, the FOREST, I’m dying from ignorance, misplaced and false love, lack of care, nurturing and use!” Little do the people realize that the so-called public lands and resources, the roads, trails, ponds, reservoirs, historic sites they like to use and visit would not even be there, had it not been for WE the People emulating nature by doing jobs of logging, mining and ranching operations over the past 140 years. Those people working, managing and using the resources built this county and the economy that has enabled us today to be able to recreate and enjoy the lands and resources that were formed as a result. For each ME to get what they want, another ME has to give up theirs! The idea that they are “saving” the forests for the future is a fallacy they have been duped into believing by the pseudo environmental activists. Are WE the People willing to share access and uses and encourage managers to improve the health of the forests to provide for increased jobs, economy, water, agriculture, wildlife, fishing and recreation?

The “public” lands have systematically been removing valid access and use for WE the People. Did you know that 72 percent of the San Juan Forest is no longer accessible except by horse or on foot and there is no management to protect and improve the watershed or wildlife habitat and recreation? On the remaining 28 percent, motorized access and recreation on old existing roads is being reduced by 90 percent.

Did you know that over 5,000 acres of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, promoted as a hiking/exploring area, has restricted even hikers by forcing them to stay on designated trails? Hunting is still permitted, but the hunter must stay on the designated trails. Wonder how they have trained the deer and mountain lions to do this?

On the public lands, WE the people have been reduced to just one ME the people.

How can good management and use for all be reinstated? The stewardship of the lands and resources of the state rests with each county using the County Land Use Plans, as they are the ones charged with the health, safety and welfare of the county and its people.

Dexter Gill is a retired forest manager, having worked for private industry, three Western state forestry agencies, and the Navajo Nation forestry department. He writes from Lewis, Colo.