I Hate Land Closures, But...
A buddy sent me an article he saw in a 4x4 club newsletter. "Ted," he said, "this guy sounds like you, only even angrier. What a jerk, don't you think?" That grabbed my attention. Angrier than me? Not possible. And who's a jerk?
Anyway, the story was written by a man who lives near Surprise Canyon. That's an area west of Death Valley that was popular with hard-core off-roaders until it was closed to motorized traffic a year or so ago. It was designated an "Area of Critical Environmental Concern," in BLM-speak. Sierra Club eco-nuts can still hike in to enjoy all the scrub brush and lizards they want, but we can't wheel there.
Now, I hate land closures. It never seems fair that one side of the argument can lobby local government (or the feds, for that matter) and get their way when all we want to do is enjoy the surroundings from the seats of our trucks. If we stick to the trails, pack out our trash, and keep things pretty much as we found them, why shouldn't we get to enjoy land like the tree huggers do?
Well, Mr. Robert Novak has an answer to that. He lives near Surprise Canyon, has for over 25 years, and he has some pretty strong feelings about what goes on there. Here's part of his article:
"What's been said about the Jeep groups [using Surprise Canyon] has been put very mildly. ORVers used to winch their trucks up the waterfalls. They turned over and spilled gas and oil in the water that people have to drink. The water tasted like burnt rubber. They cut trees, lots of trees. I have seen these Jeepers urinate in the stream. I've found body waste in the stream at the bottom of the narrows. I have gathered up a full five-gallon bucket of body waste and toilet paper.
"I've had lots of people visit Surprise Canyon, people from other places, other countries, and see these 4WD motor clubs going up there. Can't believe what they're seeing. I heard a lot of people say, 'They're not people, look at them, they are pigs. Why does the government allow that? What's wrong with them?' All I can say is I've tried to make sense out of insanity for 25 years. I have no answer.
"It's a double-edged sword. To the so-called Sierra Club, the God Squad, everything is an endangered species. Stolen millions of acres of public lands, changed our American laws to suit themselves. Against mining or any kind of free enterprise. They want America all turned into a wilderness area. They have their God Squads with tickets, fining anyone stepping foot on their wilderness.
"Then there's people like me in the middle, trying to live a quiet, peaceful life getting shot at from both sides. The Sierra Club fights the Jeepers, the Jeepers hate the Sierra Club, and they're both against me and I have no respect for either side."
Now I don't know about you, but that made me damn angry. Not at Novak. He's just a desert rat who's plenty fed up at the outside world. But he has a point. And I'm angry at the very notion that some poor soul has to dig crap out of his drinking water because of the stupidity of some four-wheelers. Stupidity that gives us all a bad name. Is it any wonder that it's so easy for the God Squad to close land to us? I'm damn mad that we've earned that kind of reputation-a reputation that won't go away because some of us are too dumb, or selfish, or both, to see how what we do affects others.
Think about this the next time you use a stream as your toilet. Or when you're too hung over to pick up trash at your camp. Or if any of what Mr. Novak talked about sounds familiar. If you're not respecting the land, if you're being that careless, you're the reason we have less land to enjoy every year. And you're a jerk.