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Environment: A Line In The Sand

Eddy Hall Feeds Squirrels In St James Park
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Today’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle featured a front-page article by Staff Writer Carly Flandro on the topic of watershed and logging roads. Without going into the gory details of the never-ending battle between environmentalists and whatever group wants to, in their eyes, encroach on public land. The question I keep asking myself is how much is too much? How far is too far? There is nothing wrong with segmenting sections of land to be preserved for future generations. But what are the guidelines? 10%, 50%, more?

New York City

I feel sure that once upon a time, the entire area that is now New York City looked like Central Park. Central Park is a huge expanse of leafy trees, songbirds, and lots of furry little creatures running freely across the pristinely, groomed landscape just waiting to be enjoyed by tourists and natives alike.

Then the evil developers showed up with their shovels, bulldozers, brick and mortar laying waste to the land. All that destruction just to line the pockets of greedy corporate profiteers. Looking at Central Park from above there is no question that you are looking at some very expensive undeveloped real estate. Every New York developer would love to get his or her hands on a small piece of that prime property.

Central Park is 1.32 square miles within the 164 square miles of New York City. Granted there are many other parks in New York City, 1,700 to be exact. Four of those parks are larger than Central Park. The biggest, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx is three times bigger than Central Park. If you take the four parks bigger than Central Park and the next four smaller parks, they would only cover 17 square miles or a little over 10% of New York City. So let’s be generous and say 15% of New York City is Park Land.

United States Public Lands

A very sizable amount of land west of the Mississippi is owned by — you guessed it, you and I, U.S. Taxpayers. I wonder how New York City residents would feel if over half their city was restricted parkland and they were crammed into even tighter spaces than they are now? I guess there is no way to tell. I can certainly understand preserving and even protecting 10 to 15% of available land for future generations to enjoy but over 50%? That seems a little excessive, not to mention economic anemia for the states where that protected land resides. Utah, at one time, was going to try to condemn federal land by eminent domain to increase their property tax base.

I know land development is a bad word. Where will the Spotted Owl and the Snail Darter go? Well, we do seem to be getting along without the Passenger Pigeon and the DoDo Bird. Not sure how many visitors Central Park would get if dinosaurs were still running around.

Some Final Words

The world is a big place, the world is an awesome place, but the world is not a fair place. No one is protecting the zebra from the lions. The world is designed to reward adaptability. Since day one it has always been survival of the fittest. Law of the jungle will always prevail in the end.

No one can argue that some places in our country should be protected but I believe a case can be made that environmental protections can co-exist with fair use of the land for the economic good. Can’t we all just get along without the judges and the lawyers? Maybe those zebras just need better representation.

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