Jackson Hole Pilots convicted of landing in Teton National Park, our sports are under government attack, it's time to fight back.
This morning's Jackson paper has an article about three pilots who were convicted of landing in Teton National Park. Now let's see: A 737 JET can land in the park, but a paraglider can't because of AESTHETIC pollution? Am I just confused, or is this a just a tiny bit hypocritical? I can ride a horse that drops horse pucks every 30 feet and wrecks trails, drive a pollution-spewing monster RV, pave half the valley to park the rig and eat at Bob's park-sanctioned two-acre burger emporium, but I can't land my non-polluting, silent wing? And why isn't our organization lobbying hard to change this? The Access Fund works hard for the rights of climbers, but USHGA doesn't seem to do much to preserve our flying access (other than maintain insurance, which is important). You can even get charged for landing in a wilderness area; I just don't get it.
I see more and more restrictions placed on any non-conforming activity on public lands. No base jumping El Capitan (Frank Gambali was just killed while running away from Rangers after a base jump; he tried to swim the Merced at flood and died. Now isn't that a bit ironic and sad?). You can't kayak the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, fly in Yosemite (except once a month after protracted boot-licking) or climb in large areas of the City of Rocks. I can't help but think that the perfect park visitor from a government viewpoint is one that drives a large RV from Park-service approved burger stop to burger stop, never once getting farther than a 10-second dash from a vending machine.
I'm not sure what to do about all this, the coffee is just raging and I keep thinking of restriction after restriction (ski areas controlling back-country access, etc. etc.). I'm all for protecting the environment, but the activities that I do are among the lowest impact from an ecological perspective, yet they are the most restricted. I don't get it. Some of the restrictions are probably liability-based, but climbers are at least as exposed as pilots to risk yet we/they can climb almost anywhere (City of Rocks is one exception, but at least the Access Fund is fighting that one). I think that we probably need to push our organizations to fight these restrctions instead of just turning belly-up and accepting them. We as pilots and paddlers probably have to start writing more letters and aggressively pushing for change rather than quietly accepting the situation. Perhaps if we were better organized and more vocal than we wouldn't be such easy targets (the horse outfitters are well-organized and connected--hence you can ride a horse through fragile alpine meadows until there's a three-foot deep trench of horse by-product stewing there, so the solution is to move the trail ten feet over). Perhaps there's already a lot of this going on and I'm just barking behind the pack, let me know if that's so. What do you think? If you're a lawyer, want to help? We need to do something here before we're only allowed to drive through parks looking at the mountains and rivers through hermetically sealed windows...