Living in the shadow of the Rockies, I have come to realize how much I need mountains.
I did not know this was the case until I moved here. People talk of discovering mountains, and I used to think that was an odd turn of phrase. It’s not like no one knew a mountain existed. Then I understood that it was a personal thing. Before I spent time looking at them to see what the weather would bring, or to try to foretell how the next season would unfold, I did not know how important they were.
Likewise, I never paid much attention to the Antiquities Act until I lived in the west. The concept of things that needed saving didn’t occur to me in the south. Probably because it all pretty much looked the same. The only national park I had ever seen was the Smokey Mountains. And frankly, there was little wild about it. It was heavily developed, very civilized, and the key activity was driving somewhere and just looking at the rolling peaks. But even then, I could see that protecting it from further encroach was a good idea.
Teddy Roosevelt had it right. There are so many parts of the west that need to be conserved and saved from destruction. It sounded a little far-fetched when I heard it, but yes, mountains can be destroyed. One of the most disturbing things I have ever seen was the open-pit mine in Victor Colorado. An entire mountain has been exploded, crushed, sifted. There’s now a pit as deep as the mountain used to be tall there. I never thought it was something that could be done. The alternative, saving a mountain by just leaving it alone, appealed to me more.
Since Teddy Roosevelt, every President could set aside places, that they could be saved and enjoyed. They still create jobs, just different jobs. Ones that are tasked with enjoying, protecting, and studying beauty rather than destroying it. It’s another perplexing thing that this practice has been under attack for decades and still is.
You can’t put a mountain back. The huge open pit and piles of waste are not ever going to go away. Once this destruction is done, there is no going back. Politics boggle my mind, sometimes. They seem so detached from reality.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” wrote Muir over a century ago. It’s true. It still puzzles me that so many would stand in the way of keeping what is left of our collective soul, and the best part of our humanity.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. – John Muir