To satisfy a wicked fishing jones, I found myself paying to fish a privately owned spring creek on a weekday at the end of a crappy February. I might have been soured by the intermittent freezing rain or still harboring resentment from the distasteful experience of trying to find true "public" salmonid fishing in the UK, but either way I was pretty cold and getting crabby. I spent quite a bit of time sliding around in the deep mud with my felt-soled boots as more unwelcome precipitation continued to drown the prospects of getting to ride my mountain bike anytime soon. I sat (sank) streamside, tied on a new fly, and kicked around a decidedly jaded idea of mine that frequently rears its head when I'm in a foul mood...
One of the first synonyms of the word "mining" is the word "excavation". "Excavation" is any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in an earth surface formed by earth removal. So, as trailbuilders, it seems that GORCsters do quite a bit of "mining" when given the opportunity, right? Those opportunities have created some sweet riding and earned GORC accolades with land managers and land users. Stick with me now, I'm fin'na drop some convoluted logic...
Even with a good reputation, access is the ubiquitous issue for our particular user group. So, let's play some dirty pool and steal a trick from the playbook of the mining industry. Let's just grab some land and do some "mining" of our own. I'm not sure what kind of liquid cash our treasurer has kicking around in the GORC coffers, but utilizing the 1872 General Mining Law (still in place) it seems that we can stake a claim to federal lands at, get this, $2.50 an acre. According to the USDA FS rules, "non-competitive" sales can be made to governmental agencies and non-profit groups (that's us, right?). Apparently, the number of claims we can hold is unlimited and the duration of the claim is indefinite. Hmmm... the MTNF alone is 1.5 million acres, I'm sure we could find something we like for a couple hundred bucks.
Okay, here's the curmudgeonly part that you've been anticipating... not that we'd ever consider doing this, but, following the mining industry's track record, not only can we purchase our federal land at 1872 prices, but we can apparently completely freaking trash it, then declare bankruptcy, and leave it for our fellow taxpayers to clean up... then, we can just start a new club and do the same thing again someplace else.
Obviously, I'm sure there's some prohibition buried in some legalese out there to prevent people who might be good stewards of the land from selfishly snatching up public lands and responsibly providing recreational opportunities for the public (on their own land) ... but no such prohibition exists for some jerkweed mining corporation to come in and screw everything up, take their money and run, and leave the mess for us.
It seems that access and usage of public land are only a "privilege" for some of us, and a "right" for those whose intention is exploitation.
I wonder if REI will let me redeem my dividend check for some acreage?