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Expressing views by viewing expressively

Tom Boyd

If only political views could be as clear and beautiful as the views atop Colorado’s fourteeners.In reality, they cannot.On Aug. 24, supporters of Colorado’s Democratic Senatorial candidate, Tom Strickland, climbed all 54 of Colorado’s fourteeners (peaks over 14,000 feet). Climbing is, generally speaking, an apolitical pursuit. Yet politics are broad and pervasive, and government policy is ever-shaping the who what where when why and how of mountain climbing and mountain living.And the message coming from the 54 rooftops of Colorado was this: if conservation is your No. 1 issue, Strickland is the clear choice over incumbent Sen. Wayne Allard.Strickland isn’t perfect. His record as a lobbyist, lawyer and U.S. Attorney for Colorado is bound to irk everybody in one way or another. But as an outdoor sportsman and a man who has climbed a dozen of Colorado’s fourteeners, Strickland thought the fourteeners event would showcase his love of Colorado’s natural beauty.”We wanted to do something participatory for people who were supportive of what we are doing,” he said after a fundraiser in the Vail Valley. “We also wanted to symbolically convey the love we feel for this beautiful place and bring attention to the importance of preserving it.”National news pundits have earmarked the Strickland-Allard race as one of the most highly contested in the nation, bound to swing the balance to the left or to the right in the Senate. And, despite the generally queasy feeling I get from hanging around politicians, I find this year’s Senate race to be very compelling.Also, as a reporter who lives and breathes in the world of outdoor recreation, I can say this: whether you choose Allard or Strickland, November’s election will be crucial to the continuation of the lifestyles we love to lead here in the mountains.The race is all the more important because the land-management decisions our representatives make become permanent.Why?American politics, like Poe’s pendulum, swing back and forth, left to right, cutting through the thick complications of law and society. On any given issue, we may swing to the left for a while, then back to the right.For most political issues, what has been done can be undone: if we swing too far to the left, we can always swing back to the right.Not for nature.And not for the outdoor world.Climbing, riding, biking, swimming, caving, and paddling (in short, all the things I write about in these pages) will be strongly affected by the upcoming vote. We usually head outdoors to relax, de-stress, and get away from the mess of the cluttered human world. But next time you’re out there, think about it a little bit. Investigate. Read the signs at the trailhead. Figure out your priorities, peruse the paper and make a decision. Buzz-kill that it may be, it’s important for all of us to think about politics for a few minutes during our next outdoor excursion.Then get back to having fun.Tom Boyd is a lifelong Vail local and a freelance writer for The Vail Trail and the Rocky Mountain News, among other publications. He is available for comment at (970) 390-1585 or hotfootboyd@hotmail.com.


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