I am about to embark on another short fishing trip to the backwoods of Wisconsin. During my last jaunt it dawned upon me how nearly every scenic natural area is owned by the government. This is something I knew since I was young, but I never thought about it too much in depth. I was dreaming about someday when I might have enough money to purchase my own little paradise, maybe 10 acres in the country, in the forest, or in the mountains. Like most of you, I like to day-dream big. The best place to purchase would of course be some piece of land with a view or something special about it.
In Wisconsin, there are always plenty of little parcels available but you will never be able to buy the “prime” spots because they are public property, either at the state or national level. Almost every waterfall in Wisconsin is in a state park, state forest, or national forest. I cannot think of one substantial waterfall in WI that is in private hands. No one will ever “own” land around a big waterfall. Almost all of the tallest hills with the widest views are in state parks of forests (Rib Mountain, Timms Hill, St. Peters Dome, etc…) The grander the view, the more likely it is off limits to own. This is even more true on the national stage with the national parks and monuments. Just last week Chimney Rock was named a National Monument. Don’t get me wrong, I would be happy with almost any flat land with productive soil (for a garden), but this is an experiment in day-dreaming.
So I was just wondering, is it good to put all of the most beautiful places under public control? Are we putting too many eggs in one basket? Will common people forever be confined to live in bland neighborhoods in flat land with not much view? Maybe I am over-stating the case, as there are plenty of locations with nice views in the U.S., just not the ones with the MOST grandeur. Maybe it is the best way for an oversized population to enjoy the most beautiful places. This way, people in the city can travel and see nature’s beauty. If most of it was in private hands, not all of it would be accessible. Also, I know a lot of people would not trust natural wonders in private hands, even though direct government action and indirect effects of government policies have transformed, polluted, and destroyed plenty of pristine tracts of land through the years.
Given the size of the population, and the track record of protecting National and State Parks, I think the policy has worked thus far, giving many more people (like me) access to areas they might not otherwise have or would have to maybe pay a bit more to see. I think the real key here is the population. There are too many people and too few grand scenic areas. If there were only 5 people in the country (for an extreme thought experiment), each person would easily have their choice of a little tract of paradise (like Yosemite) and there probably would not be much conflict. What do you think? Does almost every area of natural wonder/scenery have to be publicly owned? Have we protected enough areas?
Have a fine Tuesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on September 25, 2012