August 18, 2015

You can do better, New York Times

In UT, there is a mountain bike biathlon series!

Some of you may ride bikes (or hike, or run) where people hunt, or shoot recreationally. Or some of you may be target shooters or hunters (I did plenty of target shooting as a kid but no longer own any guns, not even, sadly, for biathlon…)

In any case, there’s some natural friction between the various types of outdoor recreation folks, and the NYT decided to weigh in with a pretty mediocre article.

It’s not mediocre because it points out that lots of rednecks are, well, rednecks. And it’s not mediocre because it talks about the death of Glenn Martin. That’s a legitimate tragedy.

It’s mediocre because it ignores the elephant in the room: population growth in Western states. You can look at the 2010 census for some numbers:
Utah 2000: 2.2 million people
Utah 2010: 2.8 million people (up more than 25%!)
Colorado 2000: 4.3 million
Colorado 2010: 5 million
Arizona 2000: 5.1 million
Arizona 2010: 6.4 million
etc, etc.

Can’t we all just get along?

Match that with increasing interest in outdoor recreation of all types, and what you end up with is more people using the same (or less, thanks to various forms of sprawl/development) amount of land. A place that might have been totally deserted and fine for shooting may now have families camping all around, or a popular trail system, or a few houses sprinkled nearby.

Of course, when usage increases, the most impactful activities are the first to be banned, and for good reason. It wouldn’t be safe to go target shooting in Central Park (or ride your e-bike!) – as the usage of the area increases, some activities won’t be appropriate anymore. With limited enforcement available on BLM and Forest Service lands, I think that what we’ll see are blanket bans on various activities – some moron rednecks will ruin it for the responsible shooters, just like irresponsible mountain bikers ruin things for us nice folks.

The NYT, however, wants to play this as some kind of culture clash. There’s certainly an element of that, but honestly, leaving out the basic numbers about how the land is being used is pretty irresponsible journalism. It’s possible to enjoy and support recreational shooting and also realize that if an area is now super popular and crowded, it’s not appropriate anymore – but it’s hard to realize that’s the real story when the article doesn’t lay it out.

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