Check Dams in the Emigrant

The Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted last Tuesday to pass a resolution in support of maintaining check dams in the Emigrant Wilderness by 3/1 (with 1 abstaining in favor of writing a letter to Congress to urge enforcement of an earlier-reached compromise).

I voted to support the resolution. Why? Because my job was to simply vote for or against. I had to rely on research and personal convictions. Negotiating an agreement we all could live with wasn’t an option. That’s a pity.

Wilderness Watch has some strong and valid points. The group values the Emigrant. Likewise, the USFS. Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn and his staff were thorough and statesmanlike in evaluating and making a decision to maintain some of the check dams while allowing others to decay over time. Advocates for maintaining the check dams have strong and valid points and also value the Emigrant.

I also value it. I have spent many happy hours there, camping by lakes created by check dams. I value their historical significance and honor the hard-working men and women who created them. I’d like to see at least some of them maintained. So that’s how I voted.

I prefer to sit down with stakeholders and facilitate consensus vs. validate the position of 1 side or another. Taking common interest as a starting point, we might have agreed to something everyone could live with.

A compromise crafted earlier between parties was ultimately rejected by Wilderness Watch and others who apparently felt there was too much to lose on the table. That’s the problem with compromises – people come away thinking about all they gave up.

So who is right? Everyone to an extent. But the bottom line is that because we’re past the stage where an agreement can be reached, we’re stuck in a hardball situation that has to play out. It will eventually culminate in a win by whatever side fields the biggest brother to beat the other side into submission. And that’s a pity too.

Competing interests around the state and nation are coming up with win/win solutions to seemingly intractable disputes. Why not here? Let’s acknowledge common interests, break the dysfunctional cycle of disagreement and litigation over important environmental issues, and develop new dispute resolution habits that are healthy. I know it can be done.

Are you up for that or would you rather continue a tit for tat, adversarial process where somebody is going to lose and usually big?

If you’d like to try it, where should we start?

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I like going places: out West, west of the West, and all the way around the back of the globe to the East. I like to go by train, plane, automobile, horseback. Whatever. And I like writing about what I see, feel, hear, smell, and touch all along the way and once I get there.

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