Little Did I Know!
I've always been under the impression our Forest Lands were the property of the people. Granted, it seemed like a 'few' loud voices often over-rode the majority who had less powerful friends, but I operated under the impression that, in general, these wild, wide-open spaces were the property of the people for the pleasure of the people. WRONG!
If you, too, are suffering under this illusion, read on. I believe this post, although not what I'd intended to 'celebrate' this week, will open your eyes. I also hope it makes you mad. Because, unless we, as the American people, stand together against this kind of thing, we will forfeit yet another freedom and reliquished yet another precious 'right'.
Yesterday I received word the USFS has decided Elk Lake will soon become a no-wake lake. Let me rephrase that - one man with some power within the local USFS has decided that Elk Lake will soon become a no-wake lake. Now, I don't have a problem with making Elk Lake a no-wake lake - at least in theory. I love the quiet. I know many who come to enjoy the fishing - or canoeing - or kayaking. However, I also know there are folks out there who enjoy water sports on the few hot days of summer we get in our high mountain valley.
However, the heart of the issue, for me, is access. It is similar to the wolf issue. I don't believe one has to be a wolf-hater or a wolf-lover. I don't think a person who can see both sides of an issue is therefore, by definition, 'a fence-sitter'.
On the contrary. I believe this world is made up of a lot of people. I believe we are surrounded by many complex issues. I believe the people who think, read, and study enable themselves to make difference for this very reason - they are more aware of both sides of an issue.
Thus, although I prefer a canoe to a speed boat, a kayak to a jet ski, or a quiet stroll along a lake's shore to chasing a boat around that same lake with a board strapped to my foot, I don't for a moment think my feelings represent those of every living, breathing US citizen to whom Elk Lake belongs. In addition, I am also well aware this beautiful lake has a way of setting its own cycles.
Unlike Hidden Lake which is pretty consistent throught the season, the fishing at Elk Lake is best in the early summer and from late summer to ice-up. A brief, month-long warm spell (usually mid-July to mid-August) the lake is suitable for water sports. As a result, the lake has controlled its usage well.
Now, however, one man who works for (and obviously has some power in) the US Forest Service, has decided he knows best. In fact, he not only knows best, he has the power to make his opinion not only heard but felt. He has decided Elk Lake should be a no-wake lake - regardless (or in spite of) what others may think.
Don't get me wrong. He doesn't need to know what you think. He doesn't care what I think. That isn't part of the equation - nor is it required to be. And, that, my friend, is what is so terribly WRONG with this whole scenario.
Let me explain. There have been no studies (no, not one) which suggest wake-creating motorized craft on Elk Lake has caused harm to (or could potentially harm) the fish or the wildlife. There have been no reports of increased erosion. There have been no complaints or reports of conflict. Did you get that? No complaints! No studies! No NOTHING!
And yet one man can shut down an entire lake on a whim. On a presupposition. Because it suits his desires or ideas or purposes. That, my friend, is what a dictator does. That is what a king can do. That is NOT what a single man working as a employee for the people of the United States should be able to do. After all, doesn't that land belong to us? Shouldn't we (regardless of who the 'we' are) have the final say? Last time I checked we still lived in a democracy - regardless of how flawed it may be.
That is a MAJOR flaw in our system. No one person, no matter how noble or right they believe their motives to be, should have the power to make a decision which completely changes the use of our public lands without even asking our concent, without having a valid reason, without providing proof this is in the best interest of the land and its owners (the American people).
And, lest you believe your consent (or lack of) really makes a difference, think again! This same man told a few select people (which he chose to come to his 'meeting' on this subject) that our comments only matter if we point out something 'they' (the all-wise? controllers of our public lands) think is valid. Think about that a moment. How many times have you changed your mind because someone for whom you have no regard presented you with a new thought or idea which, although you had no value for the presentor, carried weight over your own opinions? Please! Give us a break! In other words, it doesn't matter what we say or think - this man has the power to do what he wants, regardless of what we may want.
So, next time you want to go out and enjoy your public lands, whether your interests turn to motorized or quiet recreation, be sure to drop a note to your local forest service ranger and thank him for letting you trespass on the 'king's forest' (oh, I meant your public lands). In the mean time, get involved. Don't sit on your laurels while those with too much power take away your rights and freedoms!
We live in a wonderful country. However, we are leaving to each successive generation a little less. Less freedom. Less rights. Less options. Why? Because we let 'them' take it away from 'us'.
Don't endure the system - change it!
Lady of the Lake
P.S. Since putting this blog together (my blogs are always posted a week earlier on our website), I have learned Mr. Forest Service isn't quite as all-powerful as he would have us assume. In fact, he cannot push through his agenda without a comment period. And, in reality, he won't make the final decision. So, for all you Elk Lake lovers - or for those of you who still believe our public lands belong to all of us, please send a letter to the Beaverhead Deerlodge Forest Service, Madison Ranger District, 5 Forest Service Road, Ennis, MT 59729 and let them know you still believe in multiple use! (Thanks!)