Vail Daily letter: ‘For the greater good’
Vail, CO Colorado
It was apparent from the meeting in the Eagle County building on Oct. 28 that there are strong feelings regarding the Hidden Gems proposal, as expressed by individuals and organized groups.
It is interesting to note that some of our most loved areas of wildness in the United States came to their comprehensively managed and protective status only after passionate for and against arguments. This surprisingly includes giving the Grand Canyon national park status – where some argued that the public would miss out by not allowing nature to be “enhanced” through floodlighting the rock and river by night. The move to protect nature’s work, in many cases, was only accomplished through intestinal fortitude by extraordinary individuals in our history.
As to Hidden Gems, there are certain statements of principle that could be useful as “tie-breakers” for the various decision-makers along the way to federal protection under the Wilderness Act.
First, “get the big picture”: There is an mindset difference between Mother Nature and us humans. Mother Nature operates in millenniums, centuries and only occasionally in decades.
We operate in terms of decades (with less frequency these days), years, weeks and, with increasing frequency, days, to satisfy our sometimes instant gratification desires. I have been guilty of this when I was living in the East, coming to Colorado on vacation. When hiking in the backcountry, I expanded the trail by walking around pools of water on the trail, rather than walking through water on the trail. In short, my perspective was that of an “infinite West”- not to worry about my little transgression. Today, we realize all those little transgressions add up to shortchanging our future generations, but we are still human and prone to our strong, diverse desires. Hence, some sort of balance is required, so Mother Nature can have a seat at the negotiation table.
Second, “devil is in the details”: I now think we are beyond the point of one-liners in terms of for and against slogans. I think we are better than that. As an example, at the recent gathering, I got the most valuable perspectives of the evening as to why certain folks are against portions of Hidden Gems by listening to conversations out in the hallways. It is now time for small groups of folks to be brought together in a room with a moderator to clearly identify issues for hikers, skiers, mountain bikers, ATV/snowmobile riders, hunters, fishing people, outfitters, sheep herders, retail/repair shops and anybody I left out. I think Eagle County should organize these moderated meetings, coupled with their current plea for people to send in input about specific areas in the proposal. There is a large gap between – and plenty of room for compromise – between the 400,000-acre proposal and the safe, “in-the-bag” 83,000-acre proposal floating around.
Finally, “for the greater good”: This was the watch word of Teddy Roosevelt during the time he was the champion of setting aside land for future generations. The motto did not always lead to a slam dunk that the then-“environmentalists” would get everything they wanted. Change was in the air and decisions would consider more comprehensive evaluations in the future. So, let’s use the greater good motto as a starting point for thoughtful consideration.