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In Business For The Wilderness

Entry 2:  July 27, 2010

In the 1980's I took a trip to the Rogue River to get acquainted with Oregon after moving here in 1981.  I took some day hikes, and did some fishing and car camping.  One afternoon I gave myself a nasty cut on the thumb while fishing.  I bandaged it up, but was concerned if I needed medical attention.  At the campground I met a wonderful couple; the husband was retired from the Forest Service and the wife was a nurse.  She looked at the cut and said it would be OK.  Later that evening we had a conversation that to this day shapes my life.  

The talk turned to protecting the outdoors and the retired ranger told me, "In my history with the Forest Service I've seen that corporations view the wilderness as a resource to be exploited for profit.  They realize that there is a cost to secure that profit, so they set aside significant money to aid them in getting the access they need.  It's simply a business expense to them.

"The problem with environmentalists is that they don't see the value in preservation.  They expect the land and the recreational services such as trails and campgrounds to be provided for free.  When you see as I have the amount of money being spent by corporate interests to develop wild places for profit, the environmentalists don't have a chance unless they change their thinking to realize that this is really a game of competing dollars, with the winner spending the most money to influence government.  

"Every time you hike a trail, visit a campground, or drive to a scenic vista, you need to calculate the value of that trip and give that money to an organization you trust that will protect what you enjoyed."

Oregon's Mt. Hood and the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River, McNeil Point Trail
Oregon's Mt. Hood and the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River, McNeil Point Trail.  How much is this view worth to you?  

As soon as I returned from the trip, I joined the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy.  Since that time, I've donated a lot of money to various organizations.  Some have done well with it, others not so well.  I plan to make some major changes in my giving soon and I'll write about that.  I will say for now that The Nature Conservancy is still doing great work and deserves your support.  

In the 20-plus years since that memorable evening, I've been drawn back to the notion that the lack of attention to preserving the natural world comes down to the simple fact that people who enjoy Nature don't put their money or time where it can make a difference.  Every night, thousands of hikers post photographs online in web forums hoping to get a "frequent poster" star rating.  If they took that time and wrote letters to elected officials instead, something truly worthwhile might result.  

We all need to be "In Business For The Wilderness."  Big Oil, Big Energy, Big Mining, and Big Housing all know the value of developing wild lands to their future profits.  The conservation community needs to understand the value those lands have to their own future and the planet's well being, and start paying that value to influence those in power who make the decisions.  


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