It's your land, and mine, and our neighbor's. But, within months, we could all be restricted from its beckoning call. The U.S. Forest Service machine is ratcheting limitations into citizen's free movement within our National Forests; our beloved Rim Country and White Mountains.
Also targeted are camping sites and cross country travel through all of America's 177 national forests and grasslands. The proposed restrictions, labeled Travel Management Rule (TMR) are just one portion of a national master plan.
We most likely can't stop this runaway train, but we should try.
Note: You have until midnight, December 13 to respond or you're disqualified from the public discussion process, including any future court actions.
Use this Web site to learn more and to register your comments: www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf/projects/travel-management.shtml. Pay attention to Alternative B, said to be the USFS' favorite. If you need help, contact the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest office in Springerville, 928.333.4301.
Those fighting the TMR say more than two-thirds of America's back country roads are registered for closure. My family has specific interests in the Apache-Sitgreaves. My forefathers and mothers homesteaded and tamed its rugged spots in divine places.
We, who know, consider those wilds hallowed. Only a demented few seek to harm the land and its creatures. Nature lovers support forest managers in seeking workable solutions, but are alarmed by excessive restrictions.
Here's my solution: Education, not locks and gates or measuring tapes; no laws so insane they count inches on how far sightseers or hunters can drive vehicles off road. Education. "Smoky the Bear" proves it works.
Go there. Stop the madness of radical controls. We have enough wilderness areas. They will remain untouched. The rest should be enjoyed by everyone.
Businesses will feel the squeeze of the closures, first. Who can forget, several decades back when our forests were closed to logging? Rural economies buckled. And now, this.
ASU research shows back country driving, alone, provides Arizona $4 billion annually and more than a billion in household income with 37,000 jobs.
Arizona Fish and Game reports that fishing and hunting is a "powerful part of Arizona's economic fabric," offering thousands of jobs, millions in tax revenues and billions in retail sales.
Those who have studied the alternatives, detailing the extreme restrictions against camping and cross country travel, predict the "biggest court fights" will focus there. Guaranteed to be on the front row is one local opposition group, dismissed as "radical" by TMR supporters. Check out its website: www.cmlua.com. Scroll down under "research" and read the account by Bobby Unser and others.
Another site to study: www.sharetrails.org/about/.
Whether you like them or not, the Tea Parties have proven what citizen voices can do. It'll take that level of intervention to reclaim our forests.
Again, the answer to forest management is found in education. The answer is keeping the best part of America accessible for our grandchildren.
Turley-Hansen is a resident of Alpine; her grandparents pioneered the White Mountains and Rim Country. She is an Arizona syndicated columnist and former veteran Phoenix television anchor; firstname.lastname@example.org.