Jonathan Wheby: Please don’t sell my public lands
August 17, 2004
I bought a leftover hunting license yesterday for area 15 public lands. The parcel I plan to hunt on is one of those “landlocked” parcels of BLM that has been proposed in the trade for Emerald Mountain. I have friends who own land that borders that parcel and allow me to pass through whenever I wish (under the condition that I stop by and share some friendship). The argument that these “landlocked” parcels aren’t accessible to the general public can be argued, but the people bordering each of these parcels and presumably everybody they are on good terms with have access. This, in most cases, adds up to a substantial amount of people. All of these thousands and thousands of people spread across the Yampa Valley will not, all of a sudden, change their habits of recreation and start driving into downtown Steamboat to enjoy Emerald. I’m not going to start to hunt there, and it would be mayhem if all the hunters in all the valley, who hunt on “landlocked” parcels, began to hunt there. Personally, I enjoy Emerald once in a while and feel it should be preserved, but not at the expense of the thousands of residents of the rest of the vast Yampa Valley.
Furthermore, and more important in my opinion, I think we should protect and preserve our public lands. I think it is a benefit to have parcels of public land spread across the Yampa Valley. The argument that they are landlocked and the general public cannot use them is not such a bad thing. It is obvious that when the general public starts to use an area, nature suffers. Thousands of people may hunt, graze animals, or recreate on these parcels, but the parcels are many, spread out and generally protected. The proposed sell-off means that the parcels no longer will be public, they will be private. When people own land, they tend to develop it or keep it for themselves. The 15,000 plus acres of BLM land that is proposed to be sold will not be public sanctuaries for nature anymore, they will be private playgrounds or cut down, bulldozed, and mansions will be built on them. Poor people can’t buy these parcels because they are expensive. Rich people, the ones who just got all those tax breaks at poor people’s expense, will buy the parcels at the expense of poor people once again. Instead of letting them go to rich people, we should protect them for everybody’s and everything’s benefit. We need to protect nature, and we need to protect it in big chunks and little parcels spread across the land. Our own long-term survival depends on it. If you do not believe this, read David Brower’s “Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers Run.”
These are everybody’s public lands. A few people have decided to sell them. I don’t see how a few people can make the decision to get rid of my public lands. They are mine, they are yours, and they are ours. To say that they have no worth as public lands is wrong. To say the government cannot afford to maintain them is a lie. To say Emerald is more important than the rest of the Yampa Valley is pompous and bold of Steamboat. Selling off a small portion of Emerald will pay for the rest of it, so there is no need to sell off public lands. Something wrong is happening right now, and if we let it continue to happen, we will lose our public lands forever.