March 2011

Leave something for the future

By Galen Larson

I’m 81 years old and have walked and ridden horseback many a mile in our national forests.

I have walked Stoner Canyon from the top to the highway several times. I have traversed the Glade and enjoyed several strolls in the Boggy Draw area.

I’ve gotten several elk, been within 60 feet of a bear, fed a little squirrel from my hand, taken a snooze on an elevated flat rock only to awaken and find deer tracks where they came to investigate me.

I have hiked and ridden horseback up the Rainbow Trail north of Pagosa and brought 14 pack animals down that same trail at night in a blinding snowstorm and never lost an animal. I’ll admit I didn’t know where I was but the horses knew. Try that with a pickup or four-wheeler. Now, at my age, I am unable to repeat many of those feats. But I still enjoy a good walk, not as fast as I used to, but I get a greater enjoyment pausing to smell the roses, as they say.

Before I wrote this article I was going through some of the pictures my late wife and I had taken on some of our sojourns in our national forests. I see none of those scenic places that would have been enhanced by four-wheelers or pickup ruts.

There are places in this United States I haven’t seen and now will not because I am no longer physically able to get to them. But I don’t care to see them destroyed for my benefit so others can’t experience the same enjoyment I did in my youth. To selfishly demand the right to destroy nature’s beauty speaks of criminality. As I told a fellow the other day who accused me of being an environmentalist and a tree-hugger, “Yep – me and God.”

There is a group in Montezuma County that is feeling its oats, raising heck with the Forest Service for wanting to close off a few old roads that were never much used anyway. I saw a photo in the paper of a little boy holding a sign saying he wants to hunt where his grandpa hunted. Why not be honest and tell him if we allow all these roads we don’t need and let the four-wheelers run willy-nilly through the national (everybody’s) forest, there won’t be any animals to hunt?

It never ceases to amaze me that many of those who ride their four-wheelers and pickups are able to carry in six-packs of beer and pop, yet cannot carry them out when empty.

We need to be more concerned with what we leave our heirs than our own self-serving selves. With that said, let’s leave these beautiful places to our young to see as we saw them, with fewer roads, less garbage and less noise. We owe them that much.

Once a pristine area is destroyed it will never be the same. When my wife and I purchased our place, there was a road in the bottom of the canyon. We closed it off and never used it, but 35 years have passed and nature has not erased all the damage.

Let’s face it: This is not about roads, hunting or access. It’s about government and regulations. These guys don’t like the government and believe we’d somehow be better off without rules and regulations. But when we had no rules about grazing or motorized travel on our public lands, horrible damage was done.

As I said, I am 81 and there are places I’ve been that I can’t get to any more. I am happy to say that I still have my memories of being there and of having done no damage, so that my grandchildren can see it as I saw it.

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. Not a bad motto. If we really want to be good stewards let’s leave something for others to enjoy.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.