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Climbers are a sign of bigger problems

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Examining the attitudes, rhetoric and actions of the new generation of rock climbers is illustrative of an ethic that places personal “freedom” above conservation (HCN, 7/7/03: Invasion of the rock jocks).

Repeatedly, The Access Fund has, as the executive director proudly proclaims, “played hardball with land managers,” by associating with the very worst stewards of the environment, and darlings of the (off-road vehicle access group) BlueRibbon Coalition and the mining, timber and grazing industries — people like ex-Washington Sen. Slade Gorton and Idaho Sen. Larry Craig.

Other climbers have associated with the ultra-right-wing Mountain States Legal Foundation, asserting, at the very height of arrogance, their “constitutional” right to climb on sacred Native American lands. Does the National Rifle Association’s mantra, “When they pry it from my cold dead fingers” come to mind?

There is a developing ethos in this country that, if left unchecked, will consume every last bit of our environment for personal pleasure. It’s not about climbers; it’s about what we want to leave as our legacy: Should every crag be climbed, much less bolted? Is that why it’s there? Should every game trail be open to mountain biking or ORVs, because it’s a beautiful place to ride? Are the “rights” of the snow machine industry really worth having Yellowstone Park Rangers wearing respirators in the winter because the smog is so lethal?

If we keep “playing hardball” with land managers, there is going to be damn little wild or untrammeled land left for our grandchildren. Now, that’s a legacy of which The Access Fund, The BlueRibbon Coalition, the National Off Road Bicycle Association (NORBA), etc. can be proud.

Steve Wolper
Ketchum, Idaho
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