Check your privilege!

Huffington Post reporter Kate Sheppard, reported, “U.S. Olympians Make Their Case for Preserving Public Lands” in an article published on August 20, 2016. The article goes on to quote a couple Olympic athletes and their views on public lands.

by Monte Wells
by Monte Wells

Pentathlete Marguax Isakesen was quoted, “Growing up next to the Ozark National Forest shaped me as an athlete and pushed me to become an Olympian.”

Tri-athlete Katie Zaferes said, “…I have the opportunity to train in these larger-than-life landscapes that afford me the luxury to run on miles of single track and swim in pristine bodies of water.”

She went on, “As an athlete and as someone who is lucky enough to spend much of life in public lands, I urge others to add their voice in support of public lands. They create not just Olympians but also communities.”

My reply to Kate Sheppard and the Olympians she quoted is, you need to understand the issues surrounding federal control of public lands before you comment, and “CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE!”

Like I say to all the Outdoor Industry leaders in Utah who are pushing for a federally-controlled national monument so they can create a playground for their rich customers and increase their retail sales, “check your privilege.” The American dream is not achieved by oppressing and destroying others whom you see as having little value from your privileged pedestal.

These Olympians have worked hard to achieve their dreams of athletic excellence and be where they are today. But ironically, they have taken the position that the realization of such dreams can only be achieved by sacrificing the dreams and potential for prosperity of those Americans whose lives and cultures are intimately tied to access to and use of public lands.

They have been misguided by the grand lie perpetrated by the environmentalist movement that national monument designations and federal control of public lands protect natural and cultural treasures. There is nothing further from the truth.

Federal designations, such as National Monument or Natural Conservation Area, add layer upon layer of new regulations, restricting the options of locals who live near the designated areas. Receiving such a designation also draws tourist traffic to those areas like bees to honey. This creates the problems of vandalism, looting, litter, erosion, and environmental destruction that the environmental groups say they are trying to prevent. Restrictive federal designations that ‘set public lands aside’ inevitably lead to more impact on the environment, more crime, and less solitude and tranquility.

National monuments will increase the size of the government work force needed to manage such areas. The bad news is that government jobs are not necessarily local jobs. The good news is that the privileged can sleep soundly, enjoy their careers which are not dependent on access to and use of public lands, and pretend that their ‘advocacy’ has helped to preserve something special.

<> at Los Angeles Press Club on November 19, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Los Angeles Press Club on November 19, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

But the truth is, Olympic athletes, environmentalist actors like Robert Redford, Outdoor Industry leaders, progressives such as Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis, and well-funded out-of-state special interests, have placed their own agendas above the lives of thousands of citizens whose lives and jobs are at stake, so they could have a picturesque place to train in and play in.

In the end, the privileged will have their playground and a training area to enjoy under strict regulations. The Native Americans and the locals who use these areas now will be driven away and their way of life and cultures destroyed. The privileged will have their dreams, even if it means nightmares for the working people who depend upon the public lands they want to ‘preserve.’

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