'You can't sell a sunset'

  • Scott Silver

    photo courtesy Wild Wilderness
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Scott Silver is the founder of Wild Wilderness, an anti-fee organization based in Bend,Ore.:

"The Forest Service is looking at industrial strength recreation as their new business and us as their customers. More and more, the Forest Service is putting itself in between (the public) and nature. All the pull-outs have been McDonalds-ized - with all the kiosks and signs, it's like the golden arches.

"You can't sell a sunset, but if you put an interpretive sign in front of a tree, you've suddenly created a product, and you can include the vista in that. Interpretation is such an important part of the new recreation agenda. It's basically leveraging; it's putting the smallest investment in possible, and then using it to sell the entire product.

"I think the land managers see no other option. Everyone from the General Accounting Office to the environmental community has just hammered on the Forest Service for its financial incompetence. They see their budgets being cut, and they don't see that there's anything else to do other than adopt this new entrepreneurial spirit. The attitude is if we're not going to log it, mine it or graze it, there must be other ways we can get money out of it.

"What worries me about turning the Forest Service into a bunch of entrepreneurs is that it prejudices the decision of the local forest manager. Our public lands don't have to be run as self-supporting. As a society, we can make the decision to fund these agencies."

Copyright © 2000 HCN and Hal Clifford