Totally Free (Holly River) - West Virginia / by sam taylor

Totally Free (Holly River) - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

In the last stretch of months I've had some thoughts relative to the tensions between locals and outsiders, about the different priorities the states and federal government relative to public lands, and expressing concerns about the health and viability of our public lands generally.  Today, I'm turning toward the outdoor industry more generally.

Did you know that hunting and fishing pays for about 60% percent of funding for state wildlife agencies?  (NPR)  That has been a model that has worked for decades, but is now starting to fall apart, as fewer people hunt and fish.  What has taken the place of folks hunting and fishing are activities like camping, hiking, and, yes, photography. 

The catch is that those activities (camping, hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, etc) don't contribute directly in any way to funding public lands maintenance or management.  Matter of fact, the Outdoor Industry Association is proudly against any tax or fee on outdoor products that would go to public lands maintenance or upkeep - they have a whole page dedicated to this position. 

I have a hard time understanding this position, when they have a business built on resources owned by the public, and many of these businesses publicly take a loud stand in advocating for public lands (looking at you, Patagonia).  So, what are these folks that are enjoying the outdoors, but not hunting or fishing, doing to support public lands?  Are they putting their money where their mouth is?  It seems like the answer is "no" in many cases.  I've railed on other visitors and businesses that come to West Virginia and don't really contribute to the local economies, while simultaneously excluding or avoiding the locals, and the outdoor rec folks don't get a pass on this.  

In the end, extraction and exploitation aren't the exclusive hallmark of energy and timber companies.  Trucking in people from outside, adding wear and trash to these places, and then not spending money here isn't much better than an outside energy company doing the same.  We had a lot of outrage about timbering the state parks or drilling the national forest here over the past few years - but I didn't see big checks from any of these outdoor and gear and recreation companies to offset those foregone revenues, and I didn't see any investment from those recreational companies into the state. 

Maybe that's something for the state to think about, a 0.1% excise tax on all outdoor gear sold in the state, to support public lands and wildlife conservation.  I wonder if they would sound like the extractive industries when we talk about severance taxes. 

Today's image from Holly River State Park, arrived at on a good road, walked to on a nice boardwalk, and totally free...

Totally Free (Holly River) - West Virginia