Down on the Ground with the Working Land

Central Colorado lost a good friend and great heart and mind this winter – attorney Paul Snyder of Westcliffe. Among other things, Paul Snyder was a dedicated advocate for what might be called the “working landscape” in our mountain valleys. The ranchlands that are a “working landscape” because, first, they represent a long-standing foundation for the human economy in these valleys, but second (or maybe this is first), because the ranches “work” ecologically and sustainably, when worked with some degree of care. A landscape both functioning and functional.

This seems worth mentioning this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. I will say upfront that, while I am not an opponent of the Wilderness Act, I have never been able to muster a lot of enthusiasm for it either. I’m a human being, a member of a species generally out of control on the planet, and that is a bad situation that we began tentatively, fumblingly, to try to address on many fronts half a century ago, and one of the first steps was to ban ourselves as anything but visitors in the remaining undeveloped parts of our physical landscapes. To believe that “nature” is better off without us does not reflect the degree of empathy that, it seems to me, must underlie any serious effort to reform ourselves as a natural species.

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