No announcement yet.

Good or bad?

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Good or bad?
    "A culture is no better than its woods." W.H. Auden

  • #2
    Somewhere in between. It's complicated.

    I can emphasize with the frustration that many feel regarding government oversight and regulation. Even as someone who is generally in favor of such regulations, I find that there are some real head scratchers out there- policies and regulations that I read and can't help but think to myself "this would only sound like a good idea to someone with an environmental policy degree who got an office job straight out of college and never had any field experience to gain insight regarding how the world actually works." I don't disagree with the idea that the amount of burdensome regulations that currently are in place is, to some extent, problematic. There absolutely is room for improvement.

    However, I worry that this is the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction. "[E]limination of 7,500 regulations limiting access," as the article states, is troubling. Is anyone actually reviewing these regulations? Putting any thought whatsoever into what consequences that simply wiping the slate clean may incur? Evaluating said areas to determine just how resistant/resilient the resources are in the race of increased use?

    I agree 100% that we absolutely need more and better access to public lands and their resources- especially for those who are less mobile and can't get to remote and inaccessible areas. However, the argument in favor of increased access in some areas is very much not the same thing as an argument in favor of increased access in all areas (a logical fallacy frequently touted by the pro-access movement). There is value to keeping some areas "hands off." Remoteness and wildness have not only intrinsic values unto their own right (the idea that wild areas and ecosystems are deserving of the same rights as a person), they have values to society as well: Providing historical context (what it was like to try to subsist as an early human without much in the way of society and technology), providing challenging opportunities for recreation that force us as visitors to grow and gain experience, providing opportunities for mental health that simply aren't possible without solitude, fostering local tourism economies, providing intact and continuous ecosystems covering a large area that as a buffer against invasive species and ecosystem collapse, and so on.

    That last one- having places of contiguous ecosystems covering a large area as a buffer against ecosystem collapse- is huge. Over the past 2+ years I've done natural resource management work across a good chunk of the US: NY, IL, PA, MD, and FL so far. It's not an exaggeration to say that in many areas of the US, our native ecosystems are teetering on the edge of complete collapse (if not already in the process of collapsing). There's so many places in this country where it's hard (if not impossible) to find any evidence of a healthy ecosystem- and it's not just pollution, but invasive species that contribute a lot towards this ongoing collapse. Entire hillsides where the native trees are literally chocking to death because of rampant bittersweet, thousands of acres of abandoned farmland that aren't reverting to forest because honeysuckle, multi-flora rose, and Autumn olive are taking over, development up the wazoo of McMansions and big box stores that heavily fragment the little that is left. Outside of large public parks and forests, there are very few places left in this country where you can find large, contiguous blocks of healthy and intact native ecosystems. And absolutely, 100%, there is a very strong inverse correlation between the road density in an area, and how healthy the local native ecosystem is. In other words, fewer roads (or no roads) correlates to a much healthier native ecosystem.

    I also find it troubling how dismissive many in the pro-access community are towards the idea of managing public lands with any sort of carrying capacity in mind. Yes, it's true that with infrastructure improvements, the carrying capacity of any area can be increased- but no level of improvements are ever going to push the carrying capacity of any park (especially those towards the "wild" end of the recreation opportunity spectrum) to infinity, much less in popular areas to what ever level of demand for said area may exist. Some sort of limit on use levels is absolutely necessary if protection of the resources that make these areas special is actually a serious goal. We can argue endlessly on what means of limiting use (permits, limited parking spaces, etc.) are most appropriate in specific situations, but I don't see any future for adequate protection of resources in heavily used areas without some reasonable restrictions on use in combination with other methods for minimizing impacts due to said use.

    Furthermore, I am also disappointed by the seemingly increasing number of public land advocacy groups that don't have any apparent aspect of stewardship incorporated into their core mission in the least. And this goes for groups on all ends of the spectrum- whether they're lobbying in favor of increased access or more Wilderness or whatever, it's great that they can stack public comment meetings with tons of representatives, yet they seemingly can't facilitate even a single trash clean up day or day of volunteer trail work in a calendar year? To be blunt- when it comes to public lands, regardless of whatever core principles an organization may advocate, advocacy without stewardship is (to some extent) entitlement. And it's not just advocacy groups, either- but any group that promotes use of public lands and the resources thereon. I feel that the 46ers and ADK both put forth a really solid model of not just promoting use of the Adirondacks in general and the High Peaks specifically, but facilitating stewardship of the resources within the High Peaks through volunteerism- a model that no other organization promoting any sort of hiking challenge in the Adirondacks seems to have followed.

    Anyways, back to the topic at hand: I can totally understand why this is being done, and don't disagree with the core desire among user groups for more/better access, as well as for at least simplification of onerous regulations that limit said access. But I do worry that it's being done without careful thought or consideration for whatever the long-term impacts of the increased access may be. And I worry especially that some of the increased access may be facilitated through the opening of new roads into what would otherwise remain road-less areas- and that is especially concerning to me from a resource protection stand point.


    • #3
      TLDR (except for glancing into a few paragraphs). But in general, I agree with DS's careful analysis.

      But...I think simpler thinking is in order. Preservation and Recreational Use are not really as compatible as people would like to think. We see this in the Adirondacks every day. The state is trying to promote the Adirondacks as a tourist attraction, but also trying to manage it as a "wilderness" where almost no one ever goes. And plainly, this is not working. In fact, most of what the state is doing is a complete failure. Even state employees like Rangers are taking the risk to say that now; it's that obvious.

      So, how to develop a policy? My thought has long been that we should pattern on the federal model. The National Parks are focused on preservation; the National Forests are focused on recreation and use. So I think the current changes make sense. There should be areas designated "true wilderness - no one goes there" and there should be areas managed for use.

      In the past, I have (only half jokingly) suggested that the Boreas Ponds tract should be a 'true wilderness." This was in response to all the hypocritical green shirts screaming for a "wilderness, but I can still pursue MY chosen game." I still believe there is a place for true wilderness in the Adirondacks. There are large areas with very little use that could be closed altogether to human traffic. In return, recognize the areas that get lots of human traffic, and MANAGE those areas to support that, instead of the pathetic, conflicted, politically driven mismanagement that we see today.


      • #4
        DS, I read your whole answer and thought it an excellent analysis.
        "A culture is no better than its woods." W.H. Auden


        • #5
          "However, I worry that this is the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction. "[E]limination of 7,500 regulations limiting access," as the article states, is troubling. Is anyone actually reviewing these regulations? Putting any thought whatsoever into what consequences that simply wiping the slate clean may incur? Evaluating said areas to determine just how resistant/resilient the resources are in the race of increased use?"

          A couple of friends comments:

          " How the hell can there be 7500?

          This is gonna get interesting. People/groups are gonna take sides om this one. I think the underlying purpose is mining, etc. "


          "It's disturbing that 7500 plus regulations were there to eliminate. This is a major reason government is a problem. Laws piled on top of rules until everyone is a criminal, and nobody really knows all the rules until somebody hires a team of lawyers to carve out a loophole. "

          also read:

          I don't Trump when it comes to the environment:

          Hunters and anglers love him because he’s trying to give them more access to lands their tax dollars paid for. At the same time, hunters and anglers hate him because they fear he’ll open up those same public lands to mining, timbering and grazing.

          Zinke’s order drew praise from the NRA, the National Wildlife Federation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

          While those groups were praising Zinke, others were blasting him.

          Why? Because he has recommended that the boundaries be shrunk on four national monuments created by presidents Clinton and Obama — the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, the 1.4 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, the 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, and the 135,000-acre Cascade-Siskyou National Monument in Oregon and California.

          Those recommendations, as well as proposed changes to several other monuments, have drawn the ire of Trout Unlimited, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the National Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity, among others.

          Those groups primarily support outdoor recreation unrelated to hunting and fishing, but Zinke’s national-monument recommendations are being fought by more than a few hunters and anglers I know and respect.
          "A culture is no better than its woods." W.H. Auden


          • #6
            While I agree that the idea of their being 7,500 different regulations sounds on the surface to be inherently problematic, I would have to imagine that this is a misleading statistic to some extent. Given the source of the statistic and their intent (deregulation), I wouldn't be surprised if it was even intentionally misleading.

            Most of us who post regularly on these boards do the majority of our recreating on NYSDEC lands- where we are used to a single set of regulations that apply to all DEC lands (with a few exceptions such as the High Peaks). Federal land management agencies work a little bit differently- agencies like the USFS, the NPS, the USFWS, etc., do have a standardized set of regulations that apply to all lands under the jurisdiction of each agency, but these are purposefully pretty limited in their scope. Rather, most federal land management agencies use a different mechanism called an "order" to achieve regulatory objectives. I.e., if a road is to be closed to public motor vehicle access, there won't be a regulation listing it specifically- but there is a general regulation that permits the chief land manager for that unit to issue an order naming the specific road to be closed.

            Accordingly, I wouldn't be surprised if they were including a bunch of individual orders for specific land units that really essentially say the same thing- i.e., if there were 1,000 individual roads that they were hoping to open, there is a decent chance that they've listied each separate land manager order designating a specific road as "closed" as a separate "regulation." 1,000 lakes with an order limiting motorized boat access could be listed as a separate additional 1,000 "regulations." Note that these specific numbers are complete supposition on my part- but in any case, I feel confident in saying that there is likely a fair amount of overlap in the "7,500 regulations limiting public access" that are mentioned, with regulations/orders for separate locations that essentially say the same thing being counted separately. There's no way it is 7,500 unique regulations that each say something different.

            As to why it is done this way, it makes sense when you're looking at lands across a spatial scale as large as the entire US. How do you write specific regulations that cover the unique demands and considerations of resource protection across such a wide array of ecosystems and even cultural demands that are placed on those ecosystems? It's much easier and more effective to enact general regulations that permit greater leeway for each land unit through the aforementioned orders, even if it does mean that you end up with what is essentially the same legalese repeated ad infinitum across multiple land units.

            Even at the state level, NY State's other public land management agency, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation actually does have a separate section of regulations for each of the Agency's 12 Park Regions that cover the entire state (large PDF link). If you read through the individual sections for each region, it's a lot of the same stuff but tailored to the specific region- what water bodies are open to fishing, what roads have what speed limits, etc. But it does also allow the 8th park region to allow permit-free backpacking- an activity that is regulated by permit on most State Park lands under the jurisdiction of OPRHP. Since this region includes both Harriman State Park as well as a good portion of the Appalachian Trail, it makes sense to have a different regulation in this case.

            And even the DEC has run into some issues with having a single set of camping regulations that applies to all DEC lands across the state. Some years ago, there was a push by DEC's region 7 (Syracuse and the surrounding areas of central NY) to remove the word "roads" from the so-called "150 foot rule." Essentially, Region 7 was hoping to facilitate more/better access to roadside campsites to encourage more use of state forest lands (I think they were targeting hunters especially). A perhaps reasonable goal, as state forest lands in central NY are, for the most part, not really in danger of being overused even if at large roadside camping were permitted. But the obvious ramifications of opening up all roadside areas of state land to at large camping are obvious when you consider heavily used locations in the Adirondacks and Catskills. (Although it's also worth pointing out that Region 7 had another option that they seemingly did not consider- just designate more roadside campsites!)
            Last edited by DSettahr; 06-18-2019, 03:11 PM.


            • #7
              Another example that maybe better (and more succinctly) illustrates my point: Take the DEC's regulations governing the regulation and prohibition of motorized boats on certain bodies of water. There's 74 individual bodies of water listed in those 19 separate regulations as having motor boat use regulated or prohibited. If you were trying to be disingenuous, you could say that the "DEC has 19 regulations that restrict access to public water ways." Depending on what you define as an individual regulation you could certainly argue that this is "technically correct," but any reasonable person would agree that it was misleading upon reading what the regulations actually say.

              (If you wanted to be really disingenuous, you could count each body of water separately and say that there were "74 regulations restricting public access." Unfortunately, I wouldn't put it beyond some to try doing exactly this to prove a misguided point about "government overreach.")


              • #8
                Ok What you state about the 7500 regs. makes sense. Thanks for the explanation. I guess it was planned by the writer to be a red herring to modify our focus on the main issue.

                As to the rest of your dissertation, sounds like you are in agreement with David Quammen. Have you read his " The song of the Dodo"?
                "A culture is no better than its woods." W.H. Auden


                • #9
                  Most of this does not pass the "so what" test.

                  Simplify. Clarify. This does not have to be complicated. Recognize that the competing interests are incompatible, and parse the land use appropriately.

                  None of this is difficult, except for the overriding political interests, which are where all the complication comes from. Complicated and messy rules are created for, and by, the people who want lots of cracks to slip through so they can make money. That's all.


                  • #10
                    As a sportsman I can tell you that access to woods and waters is one of the biggest factors affecting participation nationwide. We don't have that problem in the Adirondacks. Many of us are lucky to be able to hunt and fish practically out our back door.

                    It appears that each state took part, providing input on what could/should be hunted or fished and where. There are specifics for each area within each state under the guidelines of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. So, it makes sense to open such areas up for sporting purposes where deemed feasible, even if some of them are limited and specific.
                    Life's short, hunt hard!