Sunday, October 30, 2011
Controlling Nature Legislatively
Controlling Nature Legislatively
The Grand Canyon
Agency and Creator conflicts
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
The last time I was at the Grand Canyon, a great snow storm was in progress. We had ridden the train up from Williams in a blizzard.
We had gathered in Williams to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my parents. It would be one of the last times the family would all be together. It was a memorable few days. For a moment in time, the entire world was shut out and just friendly surroundings prevailed.
The Canyon was very much a part of the mood. For hours we sat in the lounge at the Inn and looked out into the snow storm. Hidden out there in a sea of white was the canyon itself . . . the Grand Canyon.
Hoping for a glimpse of its magnificence wasn’t going to happen that day, but that was okay. We knew it was there, and the immensity of it, hidden in the snow storm, magnified the calm of the gathering. For a few hours, time was not an issue. Peace prevailed.
What was it like for those Spaniards who first trotted to the edge of the canyon and pulled up in amazement? For the most part there isn’t any warning. The south rim is flat and any approach is without any forewarning. All of a sudden it is just there, and the world falls away to incomprehensible depths.
Second and third takes don’t shake the amazement away. In fact, the opposite is true. Closer scrutiny results in greater awe with waves of near panic and fascination. “Are you kidding me?” must be repeated in every known language with that first glimpse. “Carramba!”
If a visit happens to coincide with a thunder storm or a sunset or a sunrise, the canyon takes on various characters. Brooding, foreboding, but always overpowering and immense is the dominating mood. Few can make a case for “friendly” or “restful” against such a backdrop. It is too immense and it is just too uncharacteristic of anything ever witnessed to be at peace with its presence. It is . . . the Grand Canyon.
Enter the feds and defenders
Can we imagine any discussion with a representative of the Park Service, the EPA, the NRCS, the USFWS, the Forest Service, the Wilderness Society, the ACLU, the local 901 Chapter of the dog catchers, and the Old Broads for Wilderness when God called for a summit on his idea of creating the Grand Canyon? When the sheet was pulled off the model of the grand scheme what would the comments have been? One can only imagine. Only Halliburton, Brown and Root, and the DOD reps would be laughing and offering high fives and belly bumps!
When the gasping was finally over and the smelling salts administered, the stammering would have commenced. Every major environmental law in the land was under assault. All forms of progressive righteousness were being breached!
It would have been then the various Secretaries would have experienced full graying of their heads. Several would have experienced tooth loss and certainly there would have been a heart attack or two.
“We must consider the fate of our children,” would have been the clarion call from the Big Green. “We must preserve the sanctity of these lands!”
No doubt God would have smiled and quietly observed the proceedings. At some point, he would have nodded to the moderator and silently asked for him to take control and continue with the discussion of what was going to happen.
The plan was going to take place and construction was already in progress. The greens would have gasped and in unison demanded equal time for debate. The Brown and Root representative would now have his hat cocked back on his head and staring at his calculator with incredulity.
No, this was going to be a very long project and many things would change over the course of the work. No, there was no defined plan and the progress of the construction would start and stop.
“This simply cannot take place without an EIS,” the USFWS rep would scream.
“EIS, my foot, this is a grand scale NEPA debacle!” the EPA front man would tweet.
“Is there any chance we could test a device or two?” the DOD official would whisper to anyone who would listen.
The moderator would go on to remind those gathered that this was but one of many projects that had been in place for more time than those gathered could even imagine. The plan has many facets and when one was concluded another would be started.
By that time, the Old Broads for Wilderness rep would be smiling slyly at the moderator. She would raise her brow, tip her head, and in her best sultry voice of her youth would ask, “Does this mean things are going to get a whole lot wilder . . . huh, I mean we’ll have more wilderness?”
God would have shaken his head, smiled, and leaned over and whispered in the moderator’s ear. He must be going. He had more important things to do. “Please be patient and proceed.”
The debate would have gone on as long as the moderator had enough patience. The plan was going to take place, and, for that matter, others as well.
The Elitism of Conservation
Sixty five years from now, every important conservationist of this era will be silent. Few will have created works worthy of honor. If any man thinks he has the capacity or the capability of altering the course of natural processes, he thinks too highly of himself.
If the Wilderness Society or the Federal governments had been granted the authority to set the course of the erosion process that created the Grand Canyon, they would have denied it. The arts clearances, the silt loading, the separations of the species, the clean water controls, the displacement of native Americans, the fairness of consultant appointments, and the concern that Halliburton would get too much of the profits would have brought the whole process to a standstill. It would have bogged down in red tape.
On top of that, two senators from states other than Arizona would have introduced legislation disallowing the whole process to proceed. Even the United Nations would have adopted a resolution to cease and desist. They would have threatened to bring in peace keeping troops to insure preservation of the earth where the big canyon was going to ravage the landscape.
In the attempt not to cry
How dare our government declare the status of our natural world must remain at equilibrium as it exists today! The elitism and condescension of such a stance defies logic and sensibility. It must be recognized for what it is. It is the age old attempt for foolish men and women to elevate their importance above the commons. It is an attempt to garner power and security in a temporal, selfish existence.
There are consequences in such actions, however, and with those actions are responsibilities. The very action of those piling on restrictions and conditions in land management will result in natural force adjustments. The consequences of those adjustments may well fly into the face of the perceived benefit. It might not prove to be the safeguard that was envisioned. In fact, it could well have the opposite affect. A glaring example is the health of the western forests and the escalating budgets of fire prevention, suppression and legal entanglement.
Back to the absence of man
Sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, an objective observer must smile thinking about the current intent of the Park Service to insure a pure wilderness experience. If these people are truly thinking they are protecting the canyon itself, perhaps they must attend counseling. For example, efforts to exclude mining near the canyon and even limit the good folks who want to trot down the trail to the bottom because of the man induced degradation it may cause, with trail . . . erosion . . . Oh, my.
If we cannot agree that the canyon is the continuing result of endless and ongoing cataclysmic and unimaginable destructive forces, we need to give it back to the state of Arizona and let them make it a better place to visit!
No, nature needs to take its course. Man needs to be linked to his actions directly, economically, and with risk of failure . . . and, I, for one, would love to see what other great natural wonders might arise in say . . . a half billion years.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher form southern New Mexico. “The view of environmental idealism is a phenomenon that educated societies suffer. We can seek to adjust it or we can let nature take its course. Either way, it will be adjusted. Those consequences are far more important to our society than the pitiful endeavors to save these lands for our children.”