Freedom and Tolerance

Does a motorcycle rider have more rights than an ice climber?  Does a skier have more rights than someone on snowshoes?  Does a horseback rider have more rights than a snowmobiler?  The next time you discuss the difference between riding an ATV and cross country skiing remember this, the freedom that we experience today is based upon one thing, tolerance.

Freedom is not something that plops into your lap like a warm puppy dog.  Freedom is hard work, and tolerance needs to be practiced every day to gain the benefits from the freedom we have in this country.

Should we shut down the local ski areas so that pocket gophers can climb easily through the snow and get eaten by an owl?   Get rid of cross county ski trails because of snow compaction?  Should we make rock climbing a felony?  Should we get rid of all historical use in a Wilderness Study Area?  Should we all live in one building that will have the least amount of environmental impact and sit around eating granola and singing Kumbaya?  Well hell, of course not.

The most recognizable quality of a Wilderness Area is non-motorized use.  When you close existing motorized use areas, that is exactly what you are doing, closing down the most recognized quality of a Wilderness Area. 

Congress designates Wilderness Areas. The USFS has found a way around that by creating areas of defacto wilderness.  Areas designated as non-motorized.

Every time a human goes into the backcountry or Wilderness Area, impact happens.  Horses crossing streams, backpackers cutting switchbacks, dogs chasing wildlife, weeds being brought in by seemingly everything.  Motorized use is being singled out as the culprit for all of these types of impact.

I’ve been hiking and riding horses in the GNF for thirty years.┬á Encounters I’ve had with other humans in the backcountry have always been pleasant.┬á I don’t ride dirt bikes or four wheelers, but I also don’t judge another person for his right to be there.┬á If I don’t want to run into them, I know where to go.

Federal Judge Molloy out of Missoula has made a ruling on Wilderness Study Areas, that there can be no loss of motorized access or use enjoyed in those areas in 1977, since that was also part of the areas’ character.┬á Congress required that the USFS ensure continuing opportunities for enjoyment of the study areas by use of motorized vehicles.

For those who say we need to protect our “last best place” I say this.┬á The grizzly and bald eagle are in the process of being delisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.┬á Whether or not you believe it, that is progress, we are taking responsibility for future generations.┬á Ungulate populations are high and air and water quality have never been better.┬á┬á

We have not found one incident encounter where OHV motorized use was responsible for a grizzly being euthanized or relocated.  All encounters were non-motorized.  

The latest and best science is being provided by John Squires from the USFS Rocky Mountain Station.  He has discovered that there is no risk to the lynx by the compacted snow theory and that snowmobiles have not affected populations in his study area. 

The compacted snow theory assumes that cougars and wolves could follow the trails into lynx habitat and affect not only the lynx, but also its main source of food, the snowshoe hare.  You might as well build a bridge 15 miles into the ocean and tell the cougar to go fishing.  He would not be able to survive off the trail.  The science is assuming that the lynx even exists in the GNF.

Wolverines are not found on the USFWS list. The categories are this, candidate, proposed, threatened and endangered.  The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks allocates twelve wolverine a season to be trapped in the state.  Draw your own conclusion.

TOLERANCE.┬á Seek out and learn the trails that will offer you the type of experience you desire. Smile the next time you run across someone in the backcountry that is experiencing their own type of joy, even if you don’t agree with it.┬á Stop and have a conversation, who knows, maybe you will find something in common.┬á┬á┬á

As for intolerant people, these are the same people who got a note put on their grade school report card saying that they have difficulty playing and working with others and felt that they wanted the whole playground to themselves.  Most of us learned our lesson and it is a shame some individuals manifested this philosophy into adulthood.

Brad Grein
CO-Executive Director, Citizens For Balanced Use