The geography of nope

Posted: Oct 2, 2012

Written by

TIMOTHY EGAN, NY Times

This ticket to roam free in the American backyard is no constitutional guarantee. The great, unfenced public domain, much of it forested or hidebound in sage and mesquite, is the envy of the rest of the world only because a few visionary souls bucked the powers of their day.

But now the powers of this day are trying to tear away at that inheritance. The election could determine whether big sections of our shared setting continue to be held by the general public. A radical plan to overhaul a century of sensible balance has been embraced by the Republican presidential ticket.

Handing over millions of acres of public land has long been a dream borne on the vapors of single-malt Scotch sipped inside trophy homes in the 1 percent ZIP codes of the West. Usually, the idea vanishes with the vapors. Not this year.

First, a little background. We play on this turf — national parks, national forests and the 252 million acres of the Bureau of Land Management. We use much of it as a source for oil and natural gas. We look to it for clues about the continent’s first inhabitants: native sites, holding shards of cultures that predate Charlemagne’s time. Or we just let it be.

Finding the right balance is the trick.

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