By Benjamin Almy
Alone atop a mountain or leaning into the current of a stream, immersed in the beauty and connected to the energy of our environment, I find my glaring insignificance calming. While the conveniences of contemporary life certainly allow for expediency, they cannot replicate the invigorating and profound effect of exposure to nature’s power and grandeur.
We are blessed in this country with endless opportunities to access incredible protected landscapes. This is not a mutual experience throughout the world. We are fortunate to have had past leaders who recognized this prodigious resource and acted to protect it, preserve it, and keep it accessible to the public. It was active advocacy for recognition and classification of public lands that imparted to us the right to use and enjoy these designated pristine environments. Provided to us as birthright, it’s a pretty sweet deal.
I’ve spent countless days enjoying our public lands with skis, a bike, or a fishing rod, and I cherish those experiences. In fact, my favorite memories are dominated by days spent reveling in these protected parcels of our nation. This is a resource that is integral in my life and has provided endless fascination and entertainment. The innate value of our public lands provides an intangible asset which, while unquantifiable, is fundamental in our cultural character. Because it is difficult to valuate a healthy watershed or an ecosystem where flora and fauna thrive, the benefit of its protection is often hidden from those without access or exposure. However, as a regular beneficiary of these lands, I firmly believe these resources are critical to our national character.
The vast variety of uses public lands accommodate furnish a foundational aspect for a diverse and significant portion of our population. For me, it’s often a personal replenishing escape and an opportunity to pursue recreational passions. But, as avowed by Guthrie, my recreational use of our public lands is no more and no less important than the raft guide bumping boats, the cattle rancher grazing his livelihood, or the energy developer seeking to utilize potential resources. These lands are for all Americans, and they must be managed and protected to continue to accommodate all their shareholders.
As life advances, my time to enjoy our public lands has decreased, but my appreciation for them only deepens. Though it is difficult to adequately articulate the value which exists in these protected lands, those of us who are fortunate enough to have felt a line tighten on a blue ribbon stream or to have laced a bottomless backcountry turn, know that, as a society, we would be remised to squander the opportunity to provide those experiences for future generations. These lands must continue to be protected and effectively managed.