There is a constant drumming and rumbling in my ears as I careen through the congested cityscape. Its pulsing is like a rabid disco party gone haywire into the early morning hours. The city reverberates through my body, it causes stress, anger, panic. I flee into the mountains. They are my refuge of calm. We all seem to be fleeing into the mountains. As we do the cumulative disco beat is snaking its way up the trails. We cut through the landscape with knobby circular saws disguised as tires of mountain bikes. We pick at the earth with the dull shovel blades of hiking boots and trail runners. We slice over burrows with giant knife edges of skis eblazoned with art depicting the animals who we are displacing.
The mountains, the wild spaces, can offer up silence, peace, tranquility. But these days you have to run pretty far into the woods to get that. The amount of people fleeing the metropolis of Denver, seeking silence in the front range mountains is awe inspiring for sheer volume. It is also alarming and concerning, and it must be managed.
We go into the mountains hoping to silence our busy minds. However, it seems that most don’t ever silence their busy mouths. The lack of awareness to place as people careen up and down the trails is disturbing. Without quieting down they will never see their impact. To get close to the animals, to see your impact, you have to shut up. When you finally spot the elk, watch them stand up from a midday slumber or stop grazing and pick up their head to gaze in your direction, you will start to see the impact. When that elk stands up they have increased their caloric burn rate by 25%. Had you been to the only person to encounter that elk it may have had little impact, but when the entire disco party rambles through the woods daily and at nightly, you begin to kill the elk.
The energy that stresses us is making its way to the elk. They are not reproducing and if they do their offspring are not surviving the winter, in fact, the elk are dying, due to the disco party in the woods. You are killing the elk. Every person who steps onto the trail is consuming the wild spaces. The idea of a non-consumptive user is dead. It is a fallacy. If you enter wild spaces you consume them, literally. While elk is the easy example, as my home heard has suffered a 50% loss in the past ten years, there are many more examples.
We have reached a tipping point. No longer does it matter how you self-identify when you step into the wild places. It doesn’t matter what color your clothing is, what apparatus you are riding or sliding on, or what you are seeking. You have an impact and that impact must be managed and that management must be paid for. If you step into the wild spaces, you are going to have to open up your wallet wider than before.
I understand there are many opinions, critisisms and explanations, of how we got to this point and I applaud those who have faught to get us here. Now instead of arguing and discussing every detail that looks backwards, let’s look forward. Let's take an inclusive approach and establish unlikley allies. Lets regognize we all want to be advocates of public land. Having clean air, clean water, wild places, spaces and animals is a crucial factor for all of us Humans. No matter where you live, how often you enter a wild space, or see a wild animal. There is intrinsic value in all of it and if that’s not enough then you get the added benefit of breathing cleaning air and drinking clean water. So, let’s put on our thinking caps and create a model for financing the protection of our home, earth, that is equally paid for by every user.