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Why Do We Participate?

"Okay, so why play the game?" We've been asked that questions numerous times of late. The Wasatch-Cache National Forest Plan takes the forest nowhere, in spite of promises to become ecologically-based. The forest plan recommendations severely fragment roadless areas, few whole roadless areas are protected, most of them are open to snowmobiling and almost half the roadless acreage is proposed for some kind of development. Wilderness recommendations are pitifully small and places like the Lakes Wilderness recommendation are entirely open to snowmobiles, cutting the heart out of the intent and meaning of wilderness recommendations.

The forest plan blinked not an eyelash at the important issues of ending non-native fish stocking in wilderness, wilderness management, and non-native wildlife transplants. Roadless area timber harvesting is proposed for the eastern end of the Uintas in some of the most ecologically sensitive and diverse lower elevation lodgepole pine forests. We met every request and test from the Forest to provide measured and genuine data, provide specific data, offer realistic boundaries, but were met with a resounding, 'sorry, because their numbers are increasing, snowmobilers count more than the rest of you.'
It took nearly a decade of pushing, begging and prodding the Forest to finalize the North Slope Travel Plan only to ignore its own data. It took nearly as long to get the Forest to move on the West Fork Blacks Fork grazing recommendations- still no EIS is on the horizon- and still we've been told and promised grazing will continue on and on… But when it comes to a timber sale, the forest flew into action like we've rarely seen. The East Fork fire burned last year and a timber sale, proposed for the area within a year, is now rapidly moving through the analytical process!

And this is only a start. The new-old Forest Service along with the Bush administration are doing everything possible to turn the agency back by proposing regulations to curtail administrative appeals, gut forest planning regulations by not requiring species viability reviews, eliminating challenges of plans, making preparation of environmental impact statements discretionary, speed up logging by hiding behind the ecologically illiterate fear of fires, and blaming conservationists for forest gridlock, when the data shows plainly that isn't accurate, and on and on!

Of course, all of this generates just the wrong response among conservationists (you think "progressives" would learn from history…) with the proverbial finger pointing at one another: Not radical enough, too radical, not visionary enough, too dreamlike, relying too much on Congress, ignoring politics…The truth is all are of deep and profound importance and should be embraced. Practice the tolerance for
diversity that we preach.

But it is too soon to walk away. Change simply doesn't accommodate our mathematical desire to predict outcomes. This high-speed computerized linear world we live in today is playing deep and scary tricks on us, making us believe the real world is in that screen we spend too much time watching- not the tube of old, but the computer tube of late! There are more reasons than this stupid attack on the environment to be pessimistic, but change-history, if you will-is formed by spurts, swells and surges, by disappointment and courage, by dark and lightness and the music of bearing witness and most of all by passion and voice. Unlike an axiom of Newton's laws of motion-to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction-progressive, visionary activism has no such law. It is not always timely and to get in the bad habit of thinking it should be is a technique to justify disappointment. If you care about wildness, you just have to keep caring-maybe in bursts, but you have to care for wild land, wild critters and the drama of wild life because you feel it, not simply out of a
debate over policy.

This act of caring about wildness as a part of our existence stretches the soul as far and wide as it can be extended. That itself is an indication of change and just how far we've come and how much we have to celebrate!

Dick Carter


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