Everybody get together

  Segregating skiers from snowmobilers may not be the most appropriate answer to the increased popularity of the backcountry in winter (HCN, 1/19/04: A moment of truth for user fees). That more and more people are enthusiastically enjoying these wonderful backcountry locations should be celebrated, not feared. Public lands are one of the things in which we all share, and they can bring people together in their shared love, respect and enjoyment of special places.

Restricting and partitioning the public estate should be an option of last resort. Separating different user groups from one another, and setting them up in competition to one another, is unlikely to lessen conflict. And the question of allocating scarce opportunities will rightly raise questions of equal treatment, fairness, equity and need. These will be highly contentious issues, and could see the abdication of management responsibilities into the political arena. Be careful what you wish for!

Bill Borrie
Missoula, Montana