September 2016

Riding roughshod over nature

By Galen Larson

We have many folks here that want the Forest Service to allow them and their ilk the right to drive their four-wheel gas-guzzlers anywhere there is the faintest route through the brush. If it’s a trail from the past, then it should be a road for them. Never mind that these machines cause erosion, make a lot of noise, and produce carbon dioxide that adds to global warming – oops, there is no global warming, I would know that if I listened to them instead of the scientists who actually conduct research.

The first time I came to Cortez was in 1973 on an elk-hunting trip. We stayed at Stoner Lodge and hunted on Stoner Mesa. The road at that time stopped at the cattle guard. Then it was hike and walk, in a very lovely, primitive area. We scored an elk and deer, and enjoyed a blizzard. I had a lovely experience – found a small trail downward into Stoner Canyon. It was a great hike through wonderful scenery. It took all day to traverse the canyon to finally exit. Sure, I stumbled over downed timber and through scratchy brush. Isn’t that what adventure is all about?

Now, I drive up to Stoner Mesa and find not the peace and natural conditions of the past but roads everywhere and the noise of the cheese-and-Big- Mac cult riding in pickups and four-wheelers. In general these drivers aren’t us old geezers that are much touted as the excuse for needing more roads. These road hogs proclaim, “The old duffers should be able to get back into the beautiful, undisturbed areas they saw when they were young and fit!” Well, why not leave that discovery to our next generations so they can see these sights as we saw them – not littered by empty beer cans, fast-food wrappers, shotgun casings and more? How is it these riders of the now-trashed purple sage cannot carry out their duffle empty when it seems so easy to carry it in, full?

As I travel around the United States of America, stopping to enjoy our national parks, I see the same destruction brought by those that claim to want to enjoy them. I find to my horror that we have made them into theme parks with the Golden Arches instead of natural arches. Here, where there is plenty of motorized access, not much of nature is left. A mob of human beasts trying to get a picture of the scenery through the haze of the gas-guzzlers.

And if a stupid person sees a bear or bison and gets chased and mauled by either, the response is, “Get out your guns, we’ll show them, the inhabitants of this forest!” We don’t grab our rifles and chase down a driver who runs into or over a pedestrian on the street because he is looking down at his cell phone. But let it be a bear or lion we lose a scrimmage with, and saviors rush out and shoot indiscriminately till they kill enough of the animals to think they finally got the one that tried to defend its privacy and territory. Oh, if I remember history, didn’t we do that to the supposed savages as we drove them from their homes? It all depends on who has the might to prove who is right. We humans are not all that humane when we invade others’ abode.

We are an animal like no other; we respect no one – and definitely not the source of our livelihood. We overpopulate like locusts but fail to remove or destroy our garbage. Even the dung beetle knows better than that. We devise methods of destruction that outshine anything nature can do. We are smarter than our maker, aren’t we? I don’t think so.

We so-called civilized beasts are more savage than any wild animal. They may tear and scatter their prey about, but they are not equipped with means to kill many at one time. And they don’t destroy the air, water and soil for the accumulation of mammon.

In that trek on top of Stoner and down the canyon, I saw many animals. Blew on my elk call and watched a young one, curious about the sound, approach me and be prodded back to the herd by his elders. As I sat under a rock eating my sandwich, I never once thought of shooting the big bull boss. Nor did I think, My gosh, why not a road back into here? It would have ruined the serenity of the place.

But with these road-builders’ mentality, every location must one day be festooned with trash – the flags of progress, I call it. Anyone for a Bud?

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.