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June 1999

Land Use

Land Use and The Vicious Green Circle
by Del Albright, Moderator, Land Use Network

I’ve written and spoke about it before: the vicious green circle. Is it real? You betcha! Can you see it? 10-4 on that. Can you experience it? Yep, again. What it is and why should you care one way or the other? Well, from what folks in the know are telling me the time has never been better to understand the "circle" and BREAK it!

Like any vicious circle (similar to arguing with your vehicle) it’s never ending and yet keeps coming around to its beginning. The last time I argued with my old CJ-7 about whom was boss, we spent hours of me being frustrated and getting no where. I think the CJ won.

Unless circles are broken, they continue to wind their way through themselves until returning to the beginning and starting over again. Now I know that’s heavy. But think about it. Most debates can end up that way – especially those over philosophy, religion or politics. I can also relate this idea to some of the meetings we have with bureaucrats. Seems like we always end up back at the beginning or no where. There are times when we can certainly chase the same rabbits all day.

So how does this apply to the vicious green circle? Simple. The basic goal of most protectionist (radical) preservationists groups (sometimes called GAGS for Green Advocacy Groups) is to have more Wilderness and less human impact on resources. That’s what it boils down to.

To do that they have banded together (no matter what their particular interest), and developed a series of strategies to eventually accomplish their primary goal of excluding people from public lands. Just to list a few, those strategies include things like:

  • The invention/promotion of Wilderness Study Areas (that are treated like Wilderness and usually end up in Wilderness designation).
  • New terms for bureaucrats to use to restrict public land use, such as Near Natural Area, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Semi-primitive areas, etc.
  • Lobbied (paid) for legislation for things like clean air and clean water (that mostly restrict people from making a living and reduce human impact on resources).
  • Formulated and implemented The Wildlands Project (400 more Wilderness areas proposed in California alone).
  • Support such activities, as Planned Parenthood (again, to reduce the impact of humans, one way is to reduce the number of humans).
  • Get huge grant moneys from radical green supporters, many of who already have their "place" in the Wildlands (such as Robert Redford and other actors).
  • Join forces with a multitude of other green organizations to spread out their battle lines much like an Army does in a war. Many of these groups have Boards of Directors and other leaders who are members of multiple groups (the same names show up over and over).
  • Push for (lobby, endorse congressional candidates that support) "environmental issues."
  • Spend fortunes in advertising, especially if it depicts motorized recreationists in a bad light yet portrays the sanctity of Wilderness, solitude and exclusion.
  • Aggressively seek ways to appeal to the voting public (mostly in big cities) where money flows a little easier and lack of a complete understanding of the rural areas exists.
  • In some cases, either condone or encourage eco-terrorism as long as it helps attain the goal of "protecting" the environment.
  • USFS Interim Road Rule (decommissioning and closure of roads)
  • Sierra Nevada Framework (umbrella plan lumping 10 CA Forests together to exclude most all-human activities).

The list goes on and I’m sure you could add to it. But if we were talking face to face, I could show you how these strategies form a circle; with the beginning and end being Wilderness. You see, once a piece of ground is Wilderness, there are no more mountain bikes, OSV or OHV’s, no more buildings or homes or roads, no more anything except walking. Even equestrians are being removed from many areas.

Now have you heard of buffer strips? That’s a nickname for the area surrounding a Wilderness where the solitude seekers do not want to see/smell or hear human impacts. That means they don’t want polluted air (smog) drifting up from the city into their viewshed (how many miles can you see from the top of one of the Sierra Nevada mountaintops?). Further, they certainly don’t want to have to drink polluted water up there in the high country, so cattle are out of the question. Without high country grazing leases, most cattle growers go out of business.

To help accomplish the buffer ecosystem clarity, and also to their credit, to clean up a few industries that needed some prodding, we have the Clean Air and Water Acts. Unfortunately, as per the "circle," the interpretation and extrapolation of this idea has gone to extremes. Radical protectionists use these concepts to run industries out of business, shut down snowmobiling, advocate the elimination of aftermarket modifications to four wheel drives, etc.

One of the things we can do to counteract this circle is to be involved in government. However, some folks believe that even the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was a green effort with an underlying strategy to make the bureaucracy too cumbersome for most of us so that only paid staff green groups would really affect the outcome of the public input process. And I personally have had some political officials tell me that sometimes the public input process is a waiting game. In other words, wait for the opposition to wear out and quit showing up to meetings. Then do what you want.

Our solution to breaking the vicious green circle is two fold: 1) be involved in the management of your public lands at whatever level you can (and yes, this means joining and supporting organized recreation groups/clubs); and 2) be informed and inform others. Find out for yourself what is the truth and what you believe. Let your elected officials know your opinion (and demands). Never lose sight of the fact that public lands are YOURS.