Monday, October 6, 2008

Forest Protection Area designation to prohibit over-use of specific areas in the White Mountain National Forest, September 2008

The Forest Protection Area designated by this sign has replaced the Restricted Use Area (RUA) that was used in the 1970s. For the most part regulating the WMNF in 2008 is challenging but not as challenging, say, as regulating Yosemite National Park. And the discussion about the necessity of regulating the forest brings up the concept of the "The Commons", or more to the point, the "Tragedy of The Commons" as iterated by Garret Hardin back in 1968. I like to think of the White Mountains as The Commons. It is public land, afterall. It exists under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture which regulates all the national forest and that adheres to the catchy phrase: "Multiple Use" as its managment credo. One of the major threats to the WMNF, and the force behind the necessity of regulating the forest, is "over use" by anyone, any faction of users, and one has to say, looking at the huge numbers of people who come into the WMNF yearly, it IS well regulated and it is largely a healthy forest, a healthy ecosystem. A case in point: I was back bushwhacking in the Pemmigewasett Wilderness last Saturday, Columbus Day Weekend which is, weather permitting, one of the busiest days in the mountains if the foliage is peak (which it was), and as I was coming out late in the afternoon, just a few feet from the sign in this photograph, there was actually a moment of real gridlock at the junction of the Ethan Pond, Twin Way and Zealand trails. There were a 12-15 hikers bottled up but really only for a moment. A few minutes later and the spot was deserted. And more to the point, not a mile away and a few minutes earlier, I had come face to face with a large, mature, female, moose, a gorgeous critter if there ever was one, and not less than six feet away from me. That's a gift outright, an ephermeral moment, a chance encounter, a reminder of the beauty that's there surrounding us all. (And a bit of the wildness.)

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