Let1s see local land saving go global | VailDaily.com

Let1s see local land saving go global

Alan Braunholtz

It is interesting to see all the forces swing into action to 3save² a State Land Board parcel from development. Members of diverse political persuasions are maneuvering together to prevent the transfer of this parcel to a developer.

Puzzlingly, a prominent Denver Democrat who campaigns against sprawling development is hindering these attempts. I am feeling the anger of the betrayed. According to the Denver papers his reason is the need to compromise or all the maneuvering will be blocked outright. Compromise becomes the curse of politicians. You have to do it, but compromise too much and your ideals disappear behind the fog of deal making.

We are lucky at the local level to have politicians who know what they stand for. We may not always like their beliefs but we have to respect their principles.

I can1t quite work out why this particular parcel has invoked such protest and protection. Sure it1s a beautiful peace of land and the whole deal seems a little dodgy and a bit of a give away. But we give away huge tracts of our public land to be trashed (euphemism for 3wise use²) for the primary benefit of a few well-connected industries all the time. Perhaps it1s a symbolic gesture to save something from our relentless hunger for more.

If the Lake Creek parcel is spared will it affect me? Practically barely at all. I may never set my eyes on these meadows and aspen groves. Spiritually, I think it1s great. I1ll be happy knowing the land is there, preserved forever and any negative effects on the local economy of not building a few more luxury second homes will be a small price to pay.

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Now that we1ve acted locally, we could start thinking globally. What else is out there worth spending a few pennies to save? How about a polar bear? Whenever I see the cute pictures of mothers and cubs that figure prominently in adverts for newer, warmer fleeces, I marvel at the perfection of the beast. It is truly a wonder of the world, but then almost everything in nature is.

By the way, a fleece will never match a polar bear coat. Their outer hair is hollow and translucent to the wavelengths of sunlight, allowing the rays to pass through and deposit the heat on the darker pigment of the bear1s skin. The longer wavelengths of radiating body heat can1t pass through the hair, so the bear1s coat acts like a greenhouse. Zoos are warmer than the arctic and certain algae thrive in a bear1s pool and some times inside their hair. You can see a green polar bear. But the bears don1t seem to mind, and they1re probably over the monochrome fashion scheme anyway.

I don1t know why, but I1m glad they exist. I1d rather have polar bears in the world than half the junk I see in people1s garages, including my own.

We the people own a lot of the land polar bears live and den on, and we1re about to let our government hand it out to their friends in the oil business. We1re also giving them billions in tax breaks to help with the development costs.

Unless we change our consumption habits, we will get very little for this. No one is really sure how much is there and we1ll still be dependent on imported oil and OPEC1s price controls. Greater efficiency, conservation and alternative energy would give us far more independence, and I can1t see the hurry to drill.

Why not wait till oil is really valuable when we will use it more wisely. Let1s waste the Arabs1 oil and save ours.

The Arctic National Refuge may be the issue most in the public eye, but there is a broad assault on the regulations that protect our environment and public lands. The White House Office of Management and Budget looks to be coordinating this push. The BLM is actively looking to open lands to mining and drilling.

Mining leases on public lands are notorious giveaways. Mining laws are antiquated remnants from the 1800s. Forty percent of the country1s watersheds have been despoiled by mining. In October the Interior Department relaxed its regulations even more. The agency renounced the government1s authority to deny a permit merely because a mine causes “substantial irreparable harm.² Corporate liability for irresponsible mining practices is also limited.

The taxpayer will pick up more of the cleanup costs. In return, we1ll maybe get slightly cheaper goods so we can fill up our garages quicker and have a toxic back yard.

All this has been snuck through in the Sept. 11 aftermath. Lobbyists shamelessly attached 3national security² to everything. The steel industry, travel agents, insurance companies, road sign manufacturers, as well as the big boys of energy, have all been dipping into the grab bag in the name of patriotism. Sacrifice never entered their heads.

Sadly, I think we overlooked a small opportunity to reduce the waste in our lifestyle. We could have become a little thrifty and careful with our time, priorities and resources. But we are back to consuming all we can, in the name of patriotism.

No one even pretends this is sustainable. While we spoil ourselves, our children and grandchildren will be left to salvage what they can from the toppling world we leave them. We are knocking bricks out of the environmental foundation that supports us every day. Any system where 60 percent of the world has nothing and 10 has everything everything is not stable. The law of entropy forbids it.

Alan Braunholtz, ski instructor and raft guide, writes a weekly column for the Daily.

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