A win-lose situation
While attending last week’s Crystal River Caucus meeting, discussing the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign, I kept referring to a book I am reading, “Voices of the American West,” by Corrine Platt and Meredith Ogilby.
In “Voices,” the authors profile a variety of prominent Western figures; some call themselves conservationists, some environmentalists, some teachers, some natives, some politicians, some ranchers, some hunters, some historians. All of them committed to leave this place a little better than they found it, or at least stop the irresponsible behaviors that have caused harm to our lands.
Wallace Stegner’s quote, “We need a society to match the scenery,” came to mind. The crowd at the Redstone Church had only one member who spoke of the power of experiencing the Wilderness and hope that we can maintain that for future generations. The majority felt the use of motorized vehicles (not campers, not hunters, not horses) in these pristine areas was a right that we should all be entitled to. One member said “even if it’s just 100 feet to turn my truck around.”
I sat speechless, almost breathless to hear such talk. The crowd (many who normally do not attend these caucus meetings) voted down the Wilderness proposal 23-22. Being a Colorado native does not give me any more or less of a right to protect or destroy this environment, but it does give me the memory of clean air, clean water and quiet places, all of which I find harder and harder to find in my relatively short time here.
As Charles Wilkinson, professor of law at the University of Colorado, says: “The trails are more crowded; all our favorite places are more crowded. We are tearing up the ground more. We are squeezing the westernness out of our way of life.” Those opposed to the Hidden Gems proposal won the vote last week in Redstone, but they really lost.
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Oral family history provides context that textbooks lack. Tying personal experience to collective events renders them relevant. Most of us have family oral history going back only a few generations, but that spans more history than you might think.