How do government workers stand it? All the democracy, I mean. All the dealing with people on whose behalf they are planning the roads or designing the curriculum…or, in this case, protecting the land.
The cover shot of this blog is part of the San Juan National Monument–which happens to be practically in my backyard. So I spend a lot of time out there–enough to feel a strong degree of ownership. “Yeah, yeah, public land…but they don’t know it and love it like I do.”
Which is why it’s so hard, every year as Memorial Day approaches, watching the hordes of visitors begin to tromp my beloved paths. Or, often as not, tromp OFF them, into the meadows and over the fragile lichens, despite the signs asking them oh-so-politely not to…
despite the not-subtle blockages of routes…
and, oh yeah, this brand-new sign with the trails perfectly marked and the endangered wildflowers listed (the ones you’re tromping on now, you!!! Get back on the trail! (Easy, girl.)
How do they DO it, those Bureau of Land Management folks who, charged with protecting this fragile landscape, hosted public meeting after public meeting with every possible stakeholder, striking the perfect compromise between use and misuse, the perfect language for every sign–including when NOT to place a sign at all? And then to see how many people deliberately breeze past your handiwork because they NEED to go climb that rock?
I know, believe me. I’ve scoffed my share of laws–dog off leash for years (though I always leashed up if I saw another person), lichens crushed, flowers picked because I wanted to. But that was BEFORE someone asked me (politely) not to, and took the time to explain why.
Do we need to ask more politely? Explain more thoroughly? Or just resign ourselves to the fact that a certain percentage of people will always do exactly what they want no matter that–or even because–someone’s asking them not to?
I’m really bad at resignation. Guess there’s a reason I don’t work for the Bureau of Land Management. I have too much personal, private passion wrapped up in these lands…which aren’t private in the least.
Which is good. I happen to have neighbors who are equal parts wealthy, environmentally concerned, and generous. I walk and run on their paths as much as on the National Monument; they are contiguous, the same stunning stretch of coastline. And grateful as I am for their permission to drink in the private beauty, it feels weird to me that it IS private. That so few people have access…to wander off its trails, tromp its delicate meadows and lichens and…
Oh dear. Here we go again. Guess I’ll just wrap it up this way: I love our democracy. I love the idea of public lands. And I appreciate the hell out of the folks who have to deal with the public ON the land, because…they sure are better at it than I am.