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|(The Disneyfication of Nature . . . p3)|
Wait a minute! Lets think that last bit through. What common interests are being dreamt up between the Disney corporation and federal agencies charged with the management of our public lands? Taking them in reverse order: Consumer products? (Forest franchise stores marketing Disney toys? Dont think so.) Film entertainment? (Theres a limit to how many movies Disney can shoot in pristine public lands locations.) That leaves theme parks and resorts. Yes, Disney could certainly go to town with that one!
We know a little about the first stage of Disneys hidden plans for the commercialization of our public lands for their profit. Here are two examples:
These examples are only the tip of the Disney iceberg. A common thread in Disneys other planned commercial ventures on Americas public lands will be the replacement of real wilderness with an idealized, safe and ersatz wilderness, a prepackaged corporate image erected at the edge of a wild place.
But ersatz wilderness isnt the real thing. Can you imagine Disneys response to a proposal by wildlife agencies to reintroduce wolves or grizzlies anywhere near one of their wilderness resorts?
Disney has no place in Americas great outdoors!
Federal agency studies (at least what gets to print) only describe Fee Demo in rosy terms, though admitting the need to tweak the rules here and there. For example, encourage regional fees to eliminate the checkerboard of different fees that rightly bothers the customer (thats the new Forest Service term for us, the American public, the owners and users of our National Forests).
Resentment toward Fee Demo has gotten many Western Forest users stirred up to the point of becoming first-time activists, generating protest mail to Congress requesting an end to Fee Demo and the restoration of the tax dollar funding for recreation which has been slashed in recent years. Having to drive around to locate the vendor of a Forest Service pass takes the spontaneity out of a drive up to the mountains to watch the sunset or to play in the snow. Whats more, its infuriating to find our government putting a price tag on access to wild Nature.
Mouse Becomes a Predator
Notice again how we have now become customers using a product when we visit a Forest!
The major problem with this close-knit association between big business and public lands agencies is that there is currently no representation for low-impact public lands users. There is no voice for those of us who oppose the expansion of commercial opportunities on our public lands.
This intransigent unwillingness to take into account the interests of the Forest visiting majority may prove the undoing of Fee Demo. Low impact Forest visitorsthose represented by the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Audubon Society, hunters, fishermen, backpackers, mountain bikers and otherswere never invited to the secret discussions which spawned Fee Demo. Most of them plainly dont wish for Americas public lands to become Disneyfied. And theyre making their views known to their Congresspeople. To date, at least six Congressional Representatives from Southern California have spoken out against Fee Demo. For conservatives, the new tax represented by Forest fees is anathema. For liberals, its clear that public funding must be restored to stem the ongoing commercialization of our public lands. The risk for Disney is that their carefully-laid plans will unravelor worse, backfireleaving a nasty, permanent stain on Disneys squeaky clean image.
The time is now ripe to act to preserve our public lands from corporate predators. At stake is fully one third of the continental United Statespublic lands that will all require fees if the Recreation Fee Demo Programwhich has never been debated by Congressis made permanent next summer. What a disastrous start to the millennium that would be!
Born and raised in the UK, Alasdair Coyne is an organic gardener by profession, living in Ojai, California. He was a co-founder of Keep Sespe Wild Committee, an organization dedicated to the watershed of Sespe Creek in Los Padres National Forest and now active also in opposing Forest fees.