Let me make something clear: I do not like backcountry mountain biking, white-tablecloth-and-fine-wine river adventures or any of the rest of New West’s industrial recreationism. But Jim Stiles’ idea that New West recreationism is just as destructive as Old West extractionism is just plain hogwash (HCN, 5/29/06:Clinging hopelessly to the past).
Industrial logging and ranching have degraded millions of acres of land across the West. Mining’s legacy, while more localized, often poisons land and water for hundreds — sometimes thousands — of years. In comparison, if the Slickrock Bike Trail were closed tomorrow, it would be as hard to find a trace of it in a decade or two as it is to find evidence of Ed Abbey’s trailer today. And to put it crudely, a few thousand whitewater recreation days per year puts a lot less shit into the rivers of the Klamath National Forest than over 2 million days of bovine grazing in the forest. Nostalgia is definitely a Western predilection. We should not, however, allow our nostalgia to cloud our view of realities past or present.