May 03, 2011

The same is true on the national stage, where the National Park Service is also one of our better run federal offices. Washington buzzes with all sorts of “€œgreen”€ schemes these days but tends to neglect concrete environmental issues. One of these is the Grand Canyon. Back in 1923, a USGS team found a number of possible sites for dams in the Grand and Glen Canyons. This was the beginning of a major era of dam construction in the United States, when many in government saw electrification as a panacea for social ills whose benefits outweighed any other considerations. (Remember the TVA?) The spots the USGS found within the parks were off-limits, but they constructed Hoover Dam in the 30s and Glen Canyon Dam in the 50s and 60s outside their boundaries. The latter is above the park and so has had an enormous”€”and apparently destructive”€”effect upon it.

Although the Sierra Club and other environmentalists (who had successfully torpedoed two other such projects) had taken a firm stand against Glen Canyon, it was built over their objections. But controversy continues, with such opponents as the redoubtable Katie Lee claiming that Glen Canyon is being damaged and the Colorado River will never be able to produce sufficient power to justify damming it.

Whether or not Glen Canyon‘s opponents are correct, wouldn”€™t it be a better use of public funds to identify concrete environmental threats about which we can actually do something? All across the country, public lands are threatened with all sorts of dangers, whether from pot farms, indiscriminate development, or simply politicians looting budgets to make up for shortfalls in other poorly run bureaucratic branches. Yet our leaders, for all their green protestations, rarely seem willing or able to act on what is in front of them. A secondary question might be why the various park services tend to be better run than the rest of the governmental octopus.

My hypothesis is that our leaders tend no longer to hunt. But though I have not hunted since my far-off youth, there is something about the chase that keeps one anchored in reality. One of our greatest conservation-minded presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, was also one of our greatest huntsmen. We owe the survival of such rare creatures as the European bison, Père David’s Deer, and the Asiatic lion to royal hunters”€™ preservation of such tracts as Bialowieza, the Milu Yuan, and the Gir Forest.

Prominent anti-hunting rulers were people such as Blair and Hitler. One worries for France’s future, given that Sarkozy has been forced to give up the chasse presidentielle! At least the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were able to enjoy the sport with Prince Charles once upon a time.

Alas, with fewer Americans and other Westerners hunting, fishing, riding, canoeing, or doing anything else in the outdoors, we are ever more contented with rulers who govern out of the script for a green-tinted Bambi cartoon.



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