From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 11 - 11/9/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

The Cost of Camouflage

by Russell Nelson

To paraphrase Dolly Parton- it's surprising how much it costs to look this cheap. Took a drive with my son up to Daniel from Big Piney via the Middle to North Piney Creek, South Cottonwood to Ryegrass route. We took a rifle in case something happened out, saying "Take me to your freezer". Nothing did; we successfully evaded them again, but I was amazed at the orangemen- there was a virtual urban assault taking place out there in the middle of the week. After driving through two or three subdivisions I started looking at license plates just to see where in Heaven's name all this teeming humanity was coming from. Overwhelmingly County 4, with limited representation from the rest of the state (corroborating actual hard data collected and published in this paper some weeks ago). There were a few folks from out of state, even one guy from Arkansas that about ran me off the road, guns bristling off the ATV in the back of his truck. I wanted to tell him if he was in such a hurry there was a lot better road about 20 miles to the east. Speaking of ATV's I got to looking at some of the equipment lining the road out there, and got one of those revelations deadlines inspire. These people aren't hunting elk because they can't afford beef. There is a lot of money out there camouflaged in mud and Sweetwater Orange. Local businesses must love it.

I had suspected this might be true on grocery trips to Faler's during the course of the hunting season. Bearded, camouflaged guys ninja down the isles, shopping for elastic orange suspenders and coffee. Furtively glancing about, they whip out the cell phone in the frozen section and contact the mother ship. Nice boots, too. My 20 year old Sorels were on about their 6th set of liners and 4th tube of Shoe Goo. It was time, and I was still cringing from paying over a hundred bucks for a new pair when I looked through a Cabela's catalog and went into real sticker shock. There's some amazing- and pretty spendy- stuff in there: Camouflage bedding- I guess that way they can't see you when you're dreaming about sneaking up on them. Camouflage living room furniture- (Bark a loungers)- with matching drapes and valences in your choice of wetland or deciduous hardwood prints. Wow.

But I'm not convinced that the ultimate cost for all this fun falls on these latter day nimrods (Nimrod was Noah's great grandson, and yes, he was a hunter- see Genesis 10:8-10) keeping Cabela's and Polaris in business. Riding around in the Dell Creek drainages up by Bondurant last weekend with my brother-in-law I got a firsthand look at just how much damage these scrap iron panic buggys can inflict. What was a cow trail last year is four lanes of knee deep ruts now- I guess if the ruts get too deep you just move over and cut a new set. Riding through the campsites up on the bench we saw poles nailed to live trees, beer cans and candy wrappers blowing in the breeze, and piles with toilet paper behind every bush in a 50 yard radius. Evidently someone doesn't know how to dig a cat hole or a regular latrine. We both came back with saddlebags full of beer cans and candy wrappers but I draw the line at toilet paper.

Ecologically the paper will be gone next year. Given any kind of spring runoff though, the ruts ought to double in size. What's the cost of a new erosional basin? Further, now that a precedent is established, I'm guessing that next year it'll push a little further into what is illustrated now on the map as 'roadless'. The long-term cost is that our kids start to think this is a wilderness experience. The Pinedale ranger station is the official steward of these resources. I wonder if our rangers have trolled through there lately doing any stewarding.

I am not (and wouldn't be) calling for the abolition of recreational vehicle use on our Forest lands. ATV's are a lot of fun. Nor am I suggesting that because we live here the forest is any more ours than anyone else's. I am, however, calling for some responsibility on the part of the people with the handlebars and steering wheels clutched in their sandwich clamps. Maybe some guidelines regarding appropriate conditions for this kind of mechanized warfare are necessary, but I tend to favor less legislative involvement in my life as a general rule, and advocate more individual responsibility. I do know it's pretty insulting to see the forest treated like that; and that, in brilliant orange, comes through as the real cost of the camouflage.

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