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Let's Talk About Balancing Conservation and Recreation


    Earlier this month I told you about the American Recreation Coalition's plans to mount a last-ditch effort to tweak the Park Service's Management Policies to make them, shall we say, more recreational. Of course, never mind the fact that the national parks already offer plenty of recreation in forms that a strong majority of folks prefer.
    Well, the onslaught continues, this time in the form of mumbo-jumbo from Americans for Responsible Recreational Access. These guys are whining that in their current form the Management Policies stand to "exclude ... millions of Americans who wish to pursue recreational activities in the national parks."
    "Rather than welcoming outdoor enthusiasts and striking the proper balance of conservation and recreation, the proposed policies have the potential of shutting out many Americans from the parks they love," said ARRA Executive Director Larry E. Smith.

    This is just the latest shelling in a campaign orchestrated by the folks at ARC.
    Doubt me?
    Check out this group's web site and see who they are: The American Council of Snowmobile Associations, the American Horse Council, the American Motorcycle Association, the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, the American Watercraft Association and on and on. Many are ARC members.
    While these folks jumped on the Bush administration's "Cooperative Conservation" mantra a year ago, a better slogan would be "Cooperative Exploitation."
    I bet these folks believe smoke-free restaurants and hotel rooms infringe on their rights. Don't they know how to have fun without an engine between their thighs?
    There is nothing in the proposed Management Policies that would preclude anyone from enjoying a national park visit.  Why do groups such as these insist that they should have unfettered access to every square inch of public lands? Shouldn't we preserve any natural landscapes, unsullied by gasoline, oil, fumes and noise, for future generations?
    You want to talk about responsible recreational access, Mr. Smith? How about some firm controls when it comes to ORV, ATV and snowmobile use in national forests or on Bureau of Land Management lands? How about protecting some of our lakes and seashores from the oil and gas dumped by two-stroke personal watercraft?
    I've said it before and I'll repeat it again: There are more than 450 million acres of public lands overseen by the Forest Service and BLM, and most of that is open to multiple use. There is just about 84 million acres of national park acreage, and some of that already is open to gas-oriented recreation. We don't need to open it all.
    You want to strike a "proper balance of conservation and recreation," Mr. Smith? Then look at the statistics and suggest which national forest and BLM lands should be closed to motorized recreation in the name of balance.

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