In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service into existence. The bill mandated that the agency were "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
A few years later state level equivalents of the Park Service began to crop up, alongside national and state level Bureaus of Land Management and other similar entities.
I enjoy the great outdoors in just about every way. I’m also what most would call “young” and if it weren't for these conservation efforts, it’s unlikely I’d be able to do any of those things.
There would be no fish I love to catch in the rivers or animals I love to hunt in the woods. They’d have been harvested to extinction well before I was even a thought. Conservation is absolutely critical to the preservation of these wild places.
The foresight of our previous leaders made it possible for the subsequent generations to enjoy these beautiful places.
Conservation, but at What Cost?
I’m a huge proponent of conservation for the purposes originally detailed in the bills passed all those years ago. Unfortunately, as is the case with so many things that begin with noble intent, corruption has been allowed to creep in like a dark stormcloud.
The confiscation of lands under the guise of preservation has been, in some cases, perverted and used for the benefit of the few instead of the public.
It seems like every year more roads are closed, more trails are taken back by the forest, and the prices for using this land increase. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across gated roads when riding near some of my favorite camping spots and trails. These closures are often justified by a lack of budget.
I understand that conservation efforts cost money—a lot of money—but the 2019 federal budget for the National Park Service alone was in excess of four billion tax dollars.
So, let me get this straight—we pay for it whether we use it or not and pay for it again when we do (when it’s not gated, that is)?
A Case in Point
Obtaining land under the guise of conservation and using closures as a way to increase budgets is one thing. However, claiming eminent domain to take land and subsequently selling it off to private developers is absolutely criminal.