Tuesday, April 29, 2014

AHA Conference Review: Saturday January 4, 2014, 11:30-1:30 pt 2

Now for the rest of the panel, with gratitude to Jonathan Anzalone for organizing our panel and guiding it through the approval process.

In "In Search of a Skier's Paradise: New York State and the Development of Skiing in the Adirondack Park, 1932-67" Jonathan cataloged the misadventures of state sponsored recreation. In this case, New York sought to promote skiing, which gained in some popularity after the 1932 Winter Olympics were held at Lake Placid, NY with a state owned and operated resort. At the same time, the state sought to goose the economy of the Adirondack region, which enjoyed a unique status as a state park. Very poor execution undermined these lofty ideals. After a decade of hard work, in which supporters obtained a successful state referendum to revise the state constitution to allow the construction of a resort on protected land. It was only after the state constructed a highway to the resort, built the resort, and promoted it throughout the region, that it was revealed that they had put all their hopes in the wrong place. It was a disaster. The mountain was too steep for inexperienced skiers to safely manage. It was also too dry and windy, which resulted in a dangerous, ice-covered course. In the early 1960s the slope was among the first to utilize artificial snow blowers. The community experienced no economic benefits, and the experience left such a bitter taste in the minds of voters that a referendum to create another state operated sky resort failed in 1961. The site is currently a weather station.

In "Disneylands with Trout: Environmental Change and Conflict on Tailwater Fisheries" Jen Corrinne Brown described how the promotion of recreation led to environmental consequences for a range of native fish species. As dams stopped the flow of a river, they created a still area referred to as tailwater. Adaptable and valued trout thrived in this new environment with its warmer water. States sought to promote recreational fishing by stocking these areas with trout. This is where the Disney Land reference comes in. Abundant trout created a cheap thrill of easily getting some keepers. Jen argued that this created an artificial experience of nature somewhat akin to Disney Land. The cost for this policy was paid for by the local species that thrived in the cooler water of the freely flowing rivers and streams. Deemed "trash fish" and poorly valued by anglers, no effort was made to protect or propagate the native species. A more subtle ecological impact effected other parts of the ecosystem as well. Alterations in flow and fish species led to changes in plant and insect life. There was a human cost to increasing numbers of fishermen. In the case of the Bighorn River in Montana, the Crow Indians lost control of the river through their reservation as well as their ability to regulate the anglers on their reservation.  Once again, Native Americans were screwed.

In "Run the Caldera: The Contested Politics of Wilderness Recreation in Northern New Mexico" Sarah Stanford-McIntyre chronicled the conflict over the first land trust established by the United States government. Created in 2000, the Caldera trust piloted a unique government-private cooperative effort at environmental protection. This approached, however, was plagued with problems. In its effort to become economically sustainable by 2015, the trust raised fees; marketed several recreational activities, including a marathon, van tours; hunting, and fishing; and maintained a working ranch. Leaving the land in a wild, untrammeled state or allowing free or unrestricted hiking did not fit into the plan to create a sustainable trust. The situation was ripe for a political contest between the conservative, profit-minded trust and its more liberal ecologically-minded critics. As the trust struggled to make money with increasing fees and more activities to attract paying customers, the conflict escalated.  At this point the trust will not hit its 2015 target. On the other hand, efforts to turn the land over to the Forest Service for management have also made no progress. Thus, the conflict over the use of the land has resulted in paralysis.

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