Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Job Killers Loose in our National Parks

Our jobs are under attack.

Rural mountain communities are once again in the cross-hairs of liberal politicians and regulators. Having already devastated California’s mining and timber industries with laws and regulations limiting access to public lands, environmental radicals have moved full speed into a new round of limitations that impact recreational use of our National Parks. They want to eliminate the backcountry horsemen, the only means left by which the vast majority of Americans, including those with disabilities, are able to gain access to the American wilderness.

Backcountry horsemen are part of the American story and have, since the settling of the West, been responsible for packing people and supplies into some of the most remote places. They are environmentalists, not in the modern sense, but in the true sense. These hardworking entrepreneurs understand that public access and conservation belong together and are sharply contrasted with the vast majority of urban activists who fund and support the modern environmental movement.  Unlike the urban zealots, backcountry horsemen actually understand the wilderness and are personally invested in its survival.

Despite these facts, well-funded radicals are working to put backcountry horsemen out of business. They filed and won a lawsuit which alleged that operating permits for these businesses required compliance with environmental laws related to wilderness areas. The activists and court would have us believe that horses and pack mules are a threat to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, despite their longstanding presence in the area and despite a specific Congressional directive to the contrary (see here).

Ironically, the Obama Administration is pushing backcountry horsemen out of business at the same time it is urging Americans to “get outdoors.” The White House initiative is based on President Obama’s belief that government investments in outdoor activities are good for the economy.

The White House could demonstrate an interest in protecting these “outdoor” jobs with a simple act – one that it has so far refused to entertain. The Administration simply needs to ask the court for a one year extension of existing permits. A one year extension would allow adequate time for the permitting process to be updated in order to reflect new wilderness requirements and it may spare the small but time honored industry from the chopping block.