You are here: home   Issues   Accidental Wilderness   It's cultural, not rational
Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Letters

It's cultural, not rational

Document Actions
Letter - From the May 24, 2010 issue by Tom Ribe

It's hard to see rural opposition to public-land protection as anything more than a front on the great American culture war (HCN, 4/26/10). To hear, again, the opposition of San Juan County, Utah, commissioners to new national monuments or to wilderness designations confounds economic rationality.

National parks and monuments are big drivers of economic activity in rural areas. The National Park Service brand draws people from all over the world, and visitation means jobs and taxes paid. In northern New Mexico, a current effort to have the National Park Service assume management of the privately managed Valles Caldera National Preserve has been strongly endorsed by a local county council and chamber of commerce because a new Park Service unit will mean visitors and sales taxes.

In contrast, the 19th century public-land uses like cattle grazing translate into trivial economic activity, require federal subsidies to happen at all, and are destructive to natural resources in a way that repels visitors. Off-road vehicles are anathema to conservation values, and their users pay no fees and offer little for local business. Thus it seems San Juan County Commission's fear of new parks, wilderness and monuments may be more a fear of the "elites" who enjoy and promote such landscapes rather than a sense of what is really good for their local economy.

Tom Ribe
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Email Newsletter

The West in your Inbox

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Follow our RSS feeds!
  1. The death of backpacking? | Younger people don’t seem interested in this out...
  2. Why I am a Tea Party member |
  3. The privatization of public campground management | All the info you need to decide whether you love o...
  4. Efficiency lessons from Germany |
  5. The Latest: Interior commits to restoring bison on select lands | The “odd ungulate out” gets a tentative win.
  1. The death of backpacking? | Younger people don’t seem interested in this out...
  2. A graceful gazelle becomes a pest | Inrroducing an African gazelle called the oryx for...
  3. What's killing the Yukon's salmon? | An ecological mystery in Alaska has scientists and...
  4. Plains sense | Ten years after Frank and Deborah Popper first pro...
  5. North Dakota wrestles with radioactive oilfield waste | Regulators look at raising the limit for radiation...
HCN Classifieds
Subscriber Alert
More from Culture & Communities
Our reliance on drones to patrol the borders
An artist’s road to redemption Review of 'The Painter' by Peter Heller.
The virtues of old-school car camping Backwoods adventure isn't the only way to develop an affinity for the outdoors.
All Culture & Communities
© 2014 High Country News, all rights reserved. | privacy policy | terms of use | powered by Plone