It's time to pay in proportion to our impacts

  I’m following the debate about bicycles vs. horsepackers vs. hikers with the same bemusement that I do the debate of wilderness vs. protected vs. multiple use.

The real essence of the debate is that some fat guy in a quad runner with a case of Bud Lite, a carton of Marlboros, and an AR15 is paying exactly the same to run roughshod over the land as I am to run over it ... uh ... soft-shod with my ultralight backpacking gear. The obvious solution is to make users pay in proportion to their impact.

The BLM and Forest Service already have a model in place: The AUM, or Animal Unit Month. That’s the forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, or one horse, or five sheep or goats, for one month. We could open all public lands to recreationists, and fund programs for them, too, if we use fees based on Land Use Unit Days.

A foot traveler for a day would be one LUUD, provided he isn’t bolting a climb. Add an animal, skis, or a bike for another five LUUDs. Five hundred LUUDS seems fair for the guy on the quad. Motor homes would be assessed 100 LUUDs per foot, helicopters should be about 25,000, and a tank battalion on maneuvers or a timber sale would add up to at least a few million LUUDs.

The LUUD rate could float by both condition and location. A premium area like Yosemite would be rated at $5 per LUUD, while the country around Denio Junction, Nev., would be worth about 15 cents. Profits would be cycled back into the program, buying land to create wildlife corridors between federal lands and acquiring water rights to ensure some streams actually have water in them. To be fair, we could buy an abandoned strip mine or two for the motorheads. Maybe pick up a retired Air Force base for the RV crowd to park on for cheap, since they seem to favor pavement.

We could also keep a few areas as true wilderness, limiting access to people who are buck-naked, or with at most a loincloth, digging stick, gourd canteen and flint blade. For such undomesticated recreation, there would be no charge to get in. These users would probably get along pretty well, too, because when you shuck your stuff, a lot of attitude goes with it.

Bryan Burke
Eloy, Arizona
High Country News Classifieds
  • MONTANA DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    YOUR POSITION WITH TNC The Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure significant...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS COORDINATOR
    Development & Operations Coordinator Terms: 1.0 FTE (full-time), Salary DOE ($45,000 - $55,000) Benefits: Paid Time Off (12-24 days/year depending on tenure), Paid Holidays (10/year),...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...