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I'm a member of ATC and I wouldn't want anyone to think that
it's a cold, heartless, uncaring organization - it's not. Nor does
that description fit the USFS or NPS. But they all consist of
people - and people are human - and humans make mistakes.
Sometimes they get strange ideas - or carry good ideas to
extremes - or somehow get convinced that a "bad" idea is really
a good one. Of course, you have to define what a "bad" idea is,
don't you? This all gets into the arena of ethics and negotiations
and human relations. And it's all VERY fuzzy - but not necessarily
warm. I'm somewhat sensitized right now cause we had a 4 hour
discussion of ethics, complete with case studies in class last
night - totally amazing, frustrating - and scary as hell.
If you think about it, the ideal of protecting "viewshed" sounds great.
It's only when you get to the practical application of the ideal
that the effects on people's lives can become obviously negative.
And it's not necessary in most cases. The cases that have gone
bad have been those where either someone (as Frank mentioned
before) is out to make the big bucks or where one side of the
negotiation fails to deal ethically (and it can be either side).
Both have happened at various times. In general, neither the
Government nor the ATC nor the private landowners can claim
to be perfect - they've all made mistakes. And even that's a
generalization that should be taken with a large economy-sized
grain of salt because they've all done a lot more right than wrong.
We just tend to take a lot more notice of those places where things
have gone bad.
The bottom line is that trusting ANY organization to be ethical and just
and environmentally conscious and sensitive to people and their "rights"
on any given issue - is an invitation to abuse. I just listed 4 of a whole
range of possible "values" or "issues" that have to be considered in any
negotiation - and those 4 considerations are rarely compatible. When
you add commercial issues (and profit) and wildlife issues and population
pressure and public safety and national security and the self-interest and
ego of the negotiators and about a thousand other factors and concerns -
it gets real complicated. Negotiation, balancing divergent interests,
keeping everybody happy (or at least not too unhappy) - is HARD. And
mistakes are so EASY to make.
One of the things I've learned is that there are good negotiaions - and
"not-so-good" negotiations. The example I posted earlier was one of
the "not-so-good" negotiations, but please don't generalize what
happened there to paint the ATC and the entire land acquisition process
as being "bad".
I don't happen to personally agree with what's been done in some cases.
I don't agree with the extent to which some people have taken the idea
of a "viewshed". That doesn't mean the entire idea should be totally
scrapped, but I do believe it needs some work in defining exactly what
"viewshed" means - and how it should be applied - and what values
are important. For example, is the good will of the people along the
Trail and in the towns more important than the mindless acquisition
of land without regard to damage to the ATC/hiker/local area
relationship? If not, then I have a personal problem with the process.
And to be honest, I haven't personally done enough in terms of
determining exactly what the policy is - and how it's being
implemented - and what I can do about it. I was going to tell you
that if you don't like what the ATC has done in some cases, then
you should get involved. But I think before I tell YOU that -
I should take my own advice.
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