When Jon Christensen writes about the new lord of the West who will replace the old lords of extraction (HCN, 12/23/96), it is clear what the name of this new lord is: Midas! Under the magic touch of the recreation industry, public lands will turn to gold. Nature as ATV commercials, ecosystems as theme parks, landscapes as blurry backdrops for high-speed challenge sports: this - not protection - will be the result of inviting the 800-pound gorilla of the recreation industry into the public-lands arena.
Both Jon Christensen's and Ed Marston's articles gloss over a basic fact. Recreation, at projected levels of use and mechanizations, is not compatible with public-lands protection.
We can squeeze $130.7 billion in recreation revenues from national forests, or we can protect them. We cannot do both. Already the recreation industry is helping fund both a rafting industry which is saturating our rivers and mechanized trail systems which are fragmenting backcountry habitat beyond repair.
Inviting the recreation industry to market the Forest Service "brand" to recreational customers is merely replacing the timber-grazing-mining hegemony with another. Nowhere is anyone speaking for the land itself. Nowhere is anyone talking about non-use, non-management, trail and road downgrades not upgrades - what we used to call wilderness.
Nowhere is anyone "thinking like a mountain," as Aldo Leopold said, seeing ourselves as nature sees us. Under this rubric we would know that increasing our access to nature through recreational expansion decreases the seclusion of wild things. And that increasing our own mobility across the landscape through trail development decreases the mobility of other species.
Now the public lands are mined for gold. But will we be better off when, under the magic touch of the recreation industry, pine needles are turned to gold, birds fly on gilded wings, and streams run with liquid gold? Finally, all of the above is also the other rebuttal to Thomas Power's arguments, which I would add to Ed Marston's article.