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Ventura County Perpective

Environmental Groups Destroy Recreational Use of Public Lands

November 05, 2000|RICHARD SCHAEFER | Richard Schaefer lives in Santa Paula

A day seldom goes by when I don't read of another loss of access and use of our "public lands." It's nearly always the result of a lawsuit by one of the many "eco-elite" or "environmental socialist" groups.

These groups are determined to close down any group or activity that does not conform to their "environmentally correct" agenda.

Most recently, the area closed down to off-road use was 48,000 acres of Southern California desert. Off-road vehicles were banned in order to protect the milk-vetch plant. The closure was the result of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. This organization is responsible for litigating to close many areas of "public" lands for one environmentally sensitive reason or another.

Now most people will say, "Oh, those four-wheelers are a destructive lot and shouldn't be allowed to tear across 'our desert.' " Personally, I don't use an off-road vehicle. And I've met some off-roaders who are indeed irresponsible, and I've met others who spend the weekends picking up the trash of those who rode horses or hiked into the back country. I guess off-roaders come in all types, just like the rest of us.

Now I used to take my two little boys fishing in Sespe Creek, in the mountains above Ojai. Well, the Center for Biological Diversity litigated on behalf of the arroyo toad, and closed the campgrounds and access road along Sespe. I can no longer take my children fishing where I grew up fishing and hiking. I guess my children and I were a threat to these toads.

Environmental groups are destroying the access and recreational use of our public lands by an organized assault against all groups that don't conform to their environmentally correct, eco-sensitive agenda. It's the death of a thousand cuts, each slash destroying the rights of a particular group or restricting access to a certain area.

This ongoing war of attrition has spread across our nation, leaving in its wake a plague of locked gates, fences, closed campgrounds, and roads and signs that read "Keep Out," "No Fishing," "No Hunting," "No Off-Road Vehicles," "No Snowmobiles," and on and on.

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The entire nation is infected with the disease of environmental socialism. It's disenfranchising; ranchers, farmers, loggers, hunters, fishermen, RVers, equestrian groups, off-roaders, snowmobilers, prospectors, fly-fishermen, home builders, boaters, scuba divers, surfers, target shooters, recreational property owners and more.

Then there's the biggest group that's being forced from public lands. It's the old, the very young, the infirm, the handicapped and the out of condition among us. The public lands shouldn't become the domain of only the young and healthy who are able to hike with backpacks many miles.

The wild areas shouldn't be the focus of lip service by the wealthy members of the "eco-elite" who jet off to the "eco-tourism" resorts around the world while the rest of us crowd into the few remaining campgrounds.

It is supposed to be everyone's outdoors. Yes, even the unattractive, unfit, politically incorrect, aged, infirm, handicapped and families with small children.

I hope Americans wake up before they find themselves fenced not just from their land, but from their freedom and heritage as well.

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