Zalaznick: What bears can do for us | VailDaily.com
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Zalaznick: What bears can do for us

Matt Zalaznick
Vail CO, Colorado

What a benefit we humans have been for the backcountry and its bears.

For one thing, we’ve given the forest a purpose ” a real role in human affairs. Sure, the forest is wildlife habitat and provides us with oxygen and all that highfalutin stuff, but, really, what good is untrammeled, scenic wilderness if we, as humans, can’t look at it?

An isolated mountain waterfall is sort of pointless if our dogs can’t trample all the vegetation around it. A beautiful steep slope will just sit there being steep and beautiful if we’re not allowed to gouge channels out of it with our mountain bikes. A pristine lakeshore will go to waste if we don’t pitch our tents all over it.

Plus, who will know we were there if we don’t leave a little litter behind? We need to remind the raccoons and bobcats that what they may think of as “their world” is really just our playground in which we can do what we please.

And those crystal clear streams ” we need the streams so we can feel good about ourselves when we clean them up after we’ve clogged them with all sorts of toxic chemicals and other byproducts of industry.

Really, isn’t a peaceful grove only really peaceful if we build our house in it and experience the peace? Otherwise, it’s just grass, trees, dirt and bugs. It’s the pleasure it brings us that makes it placid.

And a ridge is just a bunch of jagged rocks if we can’t marvel at it from our patio on the opposite ridge.

Questions: If a tree is majestic in the forest but nobody’s around, is it still majestic? Do trickling mountain streams make a soothing sound if we’re not there to hear it?

The wilderness is there for us to get away from it all. Who can blame us if we want to bring “it all” a little bit closer (and closer and closer) to the wilderness.

And if the elk can handle the sight of us ” if they’re too nervous to give birth near our recreation paths ” they should stay out of our way. Find another migration corridor, Bambi.

Because we invented engines and by god we’re going to use them. We also thought of roads and by god we’re going to pave them and use our engines on them. We’ve ruined our highways and city streets with speed limits and other traffic laws, so we need a place ” the forest ” where we can use our roads and engines in the way they were meant to be used.

And the animals, no matter how scared to death they are, will just have to deal.

Speaking of animals ” bears, good grief. What have bears ever done for us human beings?

We’ve gotten them hooked on our plentiful garbage, we’ve made them into lovable cartoon characters and named countless sports teams after them. All we get in return is maybe a thrill when one of the starving animals runs through our backyards or a plucky photographer gets a best-selling postcard shot of a family of frolicking grizzlies.

OK, so they inspired the teddy bear. What have they done for us lately except earn us a lot of cranky lectures about our overflowing garbage cans from the bear-loving Colorado Division of Wildlife?

Those darn bears are just like Democrats. They get all sorts of laws passed regulating our every move.

Now, thanks to bears, our elected leaders feel they have to make rules about where and when we store our garbage. Our police, who are suppose to serve us ” not bears ” are giving us tickets for conveniently rolling our trash cans out to the curb the night before the garbage truck comes.

Thanks a lot, bears. Just because you’re the top of the food chain doesn’t mean you’re not expendable.

We humans have survived plenty of extinctions.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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