Vin Suprynowicz

The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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Alongside the Pinnacle Lake Trail in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest, east of Everett, Washington, the bodies of hikers Mary Cooper, 56, and Susanna Stodden, 27, were found by a hiker on July 11.

The Seattle mother and daughter had each been shot in the head.

There are no arrests and -- so far as Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart is saying -- no suspects, to date.

Hikers in the area told reporter Jackson Holtz of the Everett Herald this fall that they’ve now changed their way they do things. A spokesman for one hiking group told him they now hike in two defined groups -- one fast, one slow -- and carry two-way radios.

“Don’t be paranoid and stay at home,” U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Adrienne Hall told Holtz she’s been advising hikers. “On the other hand you need to be aware of your surroundings and pick up on your other senses.”

Being alert on the trail is important, echoes Seth Levy, a western spokesman for the Maryland-based National Hiking Society. “It’s extremely important to remember that safety concerns, when you head out on the trail, are environmental first, and secondarily concerned with violent crime,” Levy told the Herald. “When planning for an excursion, your first concern should be that you have adequate equipment, planning and training.”

Aha. Finally we seemed to be getting somewhere. I visited the National Hiking Society’s Web site and pulled up their list of “adequate equipment” hikers should carry into the wilds. Whistle. Flashlight. Pocket knife. A “trowel to dig your latrine.” But what do you suppose was missing?

Were the murdered mother and daughter armed, I asked Jackson Holtz of the Herald, last week.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” he said, apparently somewhat shocked. “They weren’t the kind of people who would carry guns.”

What kind of people are those, I wonder -- the kind who prefer not to be murdered without putting up a fight?

I asked Allen Gibbs, public information officer for the rangers in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest, if the women had been armed. He wasn’t sure, referring most of my questions to the county sheriff’s office, where Deputy Rich Niebusch failed to return several calls.

Has the Forest Service advised hikers to start carrying arms, I asked.

“No, we would never do that. It’s not our place to do that,” Mr. Gibbs of the Forest Service replied.

“Well, would it have been illegal for the women to carry handguns there for self-defense?”

Oh no, Mr. Gibbs replied. “The area is open. Hikers are free to carry firearms so long as they’re in compliance with Washington state laws.”

Though many states make law-abiding adults (unlike the women’s assailant or assailants, I’ll bet) jump through cumbersome victim-disarmament hoops to carry weapons concealed, most western states still “allow” open carry on the hip, particularly in the woods. (Check local laws before traveling. Be aware of the consequences if you disobey them. They’re unlikely to be as bad as those suffered by Mary Cooper and Susanna Stodden. Best of all, travel only where your rights are respected, and say that’s what you’re doing, loudly.)

Some may argue that a gun on your hip won’t save you against a determined assailant. I say it gives you a fighting chance, and vastly improves the odds that any would-be assailant will pass you by, in the first place.

According to the November/December issue of Washington Trails magazine, there are currently only five armed law enforcement rangers working the entire Mount Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest -- a patch of public land larger than the state of Delaware. Is this number adequate to protect public safety? Forest Supervisor Rob Iwamoto told the magazine “No.”

The magazine asked Jordan Fisher Smith, a former ranger and author who is well-versed in crime pressures on National Forests, whether the current system of law enforcement on National Forest lands works. He replied: “The Forest Service’s law enforcement approach has not worked, in my estimation.”

The answer is not to beef up ranger staffing till they stand around like ushers in a concert hall. Never going to happen, anyway. The answer -- particularly for women -- is to learn how to safely carry an equalizer. I’d put it third after boots and drinking water if I were compiling Mr. Levy’s list.

But don’t buy a firearm so heavy you’ll leave it home -- it won’t do you much good there. In bear or cougar country, I opt for a four-inch .44 special. I’ve never heard of a murdered hiker who was carrying one. Have you?


Just when you thought the environmental movement couldn’t get any wackier ...

On Dec. 4, Brazilian journalist Samuel Sales Saraiva proposed that the United Nations declare any action that harms one of the world’s “forest reserves or hydrographic basins” a “crime against humanity.”

In a document presented to newly elected U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Saraiva, who has lived in the United States for 15 years and works in the Washington D.C. area (Yes, I’m shocked, too), says that “To preserve the earth’s health is more important than interfering in tribal or religious conflicts that are solved in the long term.”

After all, “No passenger in a ship’s cabin has the right to turn on a fire just for being there. The cabin is part of the ship and its destruction affects all and puts them under risk.”

I think we may have lost a little something in the translation from the Portuguese, there. But let’s not quibble. We get it. The U.N. can’t figure out how to stop systematic gang rape and murder in places like Darfur. When a zillion Arabs declare their goal is to eradicate every Jew in the tiny nation of Israel and proceed to prove they mean it by blowing up women and children in pizza parlors the U.N. condemns ... Israel, for taking measured steps to defend itself. But instead of trying to straighten out stuff like that, what the U.N. now needs to busy itself doing is arresting the corporate officers of Weyerhaeuser for cutting down their own trees.

Wouldn’t that take some kind of army?

Ah, Sr. Saraiva has gotten here ahead of us.

In his “document,” Sr. Saraiva proposes the creation of an “army” to “supervise every country’s behavior with regards to their work in order to preserve the forest reserves. This army could be created by representatives from NGOs, professionals who work in the academic sector and government agencies.”

An army of professors! Brilliant! But what to call it? Is “The Shining Path” still taken?

Senor Saraiva was driven to take this dramatic step by “the short life term that the Earth has left and the bad quality environment that we are leaving to coming generations,” he explains.

Actually, the environment in developed areas like Europe and especially North America is enormously cleaner now than it was 50 years ago -- there’s scarcely a river left in the United States that’s no longer unsafe for swimming and fishing. What’s more, most of those improvements were underway BEFORE the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and her little sister agencies in the 50 states.

The fact that pollution is still a problem in the Third World tends to indicate that the best route to environmental salvation may well be the economic prosperity (and thus increased resources) generated by political and economic freedom.

So why is it all these heavy-handed schemes target the nations that have already done the most to clean up, while ignoring the worst current polluters -- Communist and other dictatorial Third World hellholes?

For the same reason I suspect Sr. Saraiva would look for his lost car keys under the streetlight. Such poisonous doctrines get a polite hearing here in the First World. Anywhere else, some naif seriously proposing that a nation’s economy be crippled by such nonsense would simply be shot.

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