ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

This Land Was My Land by Timothy Egan NYTimes June 23, 2007

Updated on June 24, 2007
Guest Columnist

This Land Was My Land

By TIMOTHY EGAN Published: June 23, 2007

MOUNT HOOD, Ore.

Most Americans don't own a summer home on Cape Cod, or a McMansion in the Rockies, but they have this birthright: an area more than four times the size of France. If you're a citizen, you own it - about 565 million acres.

The deed on a big part of this public land inheritance dates to a pair of Republican class warriors from a hundred years ago: President Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the Forest Service.

Both were rich. Both were well-educated. Both were headstrong and quirky. Pinchot slept on a wooden pillow and had his valet wake him with ice water to the face. Teddy and G.P., as they were known, sometimes wrestled with each other, or swam naked in the Potomac.

In establishing the people's estate, they fought Gilded Age titans - railroads, timber barons, mine owners - and their enablers in the Senate. And make no mistake: these acts may have been cast as the founding deeds of the environmental movement, but they were as much about class as conservation.

Pinchot had studied forestry in France, where a peasant couldn't make a campfire without being subject to penalties. In England, he had seen how the lords of privilege had their way over the outdoors. In the United States, he and T.R. envisioned the ultimate expression of Progressive-era values: a place where a tired factory hand could be renewed - lord for a day.

"In the national forests, big money was not king," wrote Pinchot. The Forest Service was beloved, he said, because "it stood up for the honest small man and fought the predatory big man as no government bureau had done before."

A century later, I drove through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on my way to climb Mount Hood, and found the place in tatters. Roads are closed, or in disrepair. Trails are washed out. The campgrounds, those that are open, are frayed and unkempt. It looks like the forestry equivalent of a neighborhood crack house.

In the Pinchot woods, you see the George W. Bush public lands legacy. If you want to drill, or cut trees, or open a gas line - the place is yours. Most everything else has been trashed or left to bleed to death.

Remember the scene from "It's a Wonderful Life," when Jimmy Stewart's character sees what would happen to Bedford Falls if the richest man in town took over? All those honky-tonks, strip joints and tenement dwellings in Pottersville?

If Roosevelt roamed the West today, he'd find some of the same thing in the land he entrusted to future presidents. The national wildlife system, started by T.R., has been emasculated. President Bush has systematically pared the budget to the point where, this year, more than 200 refuges could be without any staff at all.

The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees some of the finest open range, desert canyons and high-alpine valleys in the world, was told early on in the Bush years to make drilling for oil and gas their top priority. A demoralized staff has followed through, but many describe their jobs the way a cowboy talks about having to shoot his horse.

In Colorado, the bureau just gave the green light to industrial development on the aspen-forested high mountain paradise called the Roan Plateau. In typical fashion, the administration made a charade of listening to the public about what to do with the land. More than 75,000 people wrote them - 98 percent opposed to drilling.

For most of the Bush years, the Interior Department was nominally run by a Stepford secretary, Gale Norton, while industry insiders like J. Steven Griles - the former coal lobbyist who pled guilty this year to obstruction of justice - ran the department.

Same in the Forest Service, where an ex-timber industry insider, Mark Rey, guides administration policy.

They don't take care of these lands because they see them as one thing: a cash-out. Thus, in Bush's budget proposal this year, he guts the Forest Service budget yet again, while floating the idea of selling thousands of acres to the highest bidder. The administration says it wants more money for national parks. But the parks are $10 billion behind on needed repairs; the proposal is a pittance.

Roosevelt had his place on Oyster Bay. Pinchot had a family estate in Pennsylvania. Bush has the ranch in Crawford. Only one of them has never been able to see beyond the front porch.

Timothy Egan, a former Seattle correspondent for The Times and the author of "The Worst Hard Time," is a guest columnist.

More Articles in Opinion »

Gifford Pinchot

Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir

George Bush Short

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I haven't noticed that. Thanks for your comment.

    • McKBrew profile image

      McKBrew 

      8 years ago from Washington State

      Sadly I see that most of the damage in the Forests is caused by the user. People who don't clean up after themselves, violate rules, etc...

      I was at Gifford Pinchot last year and really didn't see much of what you describe there. I actually consider the Olympic National Forest to be in worse condition.

      Keep in mind that the current administration, while not pushing mining, oil, etc... also have an agenda to limit access to the forests and keep us out.

    • barranca profile image

      barranca 

      11 years ago

      love the photo contrasts. What hasn't this President screwed up, gutted, destroyed or perverted?

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)