This weekend, our family took a drive to the high country of Albany County to enjoy some fishing in the Pole Mountain area of the Medicine Bow National Forest. We were in search of some beaver ponds for Wyokiddo to fish, an afternoon away from the house, some elbow room and fresh air.
As Outdoor Guy called his old boss and colleague to get some directions to potential fishing spots, Wyokiddo and I packed a picnic lunch. Ninety minutes later, we were three thousand feet higher in elevation and equally as high in spirits. It felt good to catch a brook trout, smell the pines and see some aspens. Between the three of us, we caught five little brook trout and lost almost as many bobbers. We even saw an amorous bull moose moving across the country, grunting his way to a possible romantic encounter.
As I slogged my way through the marshy bottoms of the ponds and streams, I was reminded how lucky I am to still have these opportunities to enjoy public land. Pole Mountain encompasses about 55,000 acres just West of Cheyenne. Prior to 1959, the War Department administered the area as a military training ground. Now, it is managed by the U.S. Forest Service for public recreation and livestock grazing. Folks can hike, fish, hunt, bike, climb, ride, camp and ski in the area, most of which is free of charge. It is a place where families like mine can enjoy life beyond the concrete.
Wyoming is blessed with an abundance of public lands. Nearly 48.2% of our state, in fact, is public land. This includes national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, wilderness and lands held by the Bureau of Land Management. These areas are some of the few true wild places left where the everyday citizen, any citizen, can recreate. They are places where any kid can fish, any woman can hunt, any man can camp (provided they have the right permits of course).
These places are a gift, really, because there aren’t a lot of these kinds of places left. I used to take for granted that these places would always be there, for my grandchildren or great grandchildren. But a recent movement across the Rocky Mountain West to demand the federal government turn control and ownership of all federal lands over to the states make me wonder if there will even be national forests for us to roam in the next decade.
To put is simply, I am against this idea. Vehemently against this idea. I could list the many reasons I don’t support this effort, but I’d rather encourage you to read this piece written by a very wise friend and former colleague, Chris Madson. He says it better than I ever could.
If you hunt, fish, camp, hike, climb, bike, ride or otherwise recreate on federally owned public lands, I urge you to get informed on this issue. Learn what is at stake and think about if you really trust your state officials to keep these lands public. Or do you believe, like I do, that these lands will be sold, piece by piece, as cronyism and declining budgets demand, until there is nothing left?
I’ll leave you with some of Madson’s words on the matter, words that could have poured from my own soul, if in considerably less eloquent terms.
“More than government or business, more than constitutions or flags, the land held in common for us all is what keeps real freedom alive in the West. The nation’s forests and ranges are the foundation of a way of life. Without them, this part of the world would be like any other, a landscape whose only purpose is profit, subject to the will of a tiny minority, closed to the rest of us. I can’t even imagine it. I don’t want to try.”
I can’t imagine a Wyoming without a Pole Mountain and beaver ponds where my husband, daughter and I can dunk a worm and see a moose. I don’t even want to try.