The BWCA, a reminiscence

Here’s the email I’ve been chewing on:

Harry: At least Forum Communications is instilling some common sense to an otherwise ding-dong DNT staff. Nolan not only voted against continuing outboard motor and snowmobile use in my backyard, the BWCA, he vigorously fought against it in 1978. He has voted against the second amendment and gets an “F” from my two unions, the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America. He is not for the little people. I’m not nuts about Mills, but then, why would I vote for someone who doesn’t support our way of life? ***

I got my first taste of politics in Northern Minnesota in the mid to late 70’s when I ran for the legislature against Mike Jaros, my great anti-Red Plan ally of late. As a Republican who visited most of our National Parks as a kid and as a great enthusiast for Teddy Roosevelt who got the parks rolling I was happy with the Wilderness Act that created the BWCA. That doesn’t mean I was not sympathetic to hundreds of residents who got their backyards taken away from them.

Still, in my opinion there are too many people crawling over the planet for its carrying capacity. Lately my brain has been stuck on that old seventies song with the refrain:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

I’ll be getting to that reminiscence soon but first I’d like to give an extreme example of environmental care that tramples on humans. The most recent PBS program I watched about crocodiles (a quick google search listed a half dozen PBS programs on the beasts) focused on a river system in Southern Africa. Perhaps it was the Limpopo. This page from PBS has some interesting facts about crocs including how acidic their stomachs are and an interesting comment from a reader from India’s Bengal about how they scare the bejesus out of people killing crocs.

The Bengali solution is not available to the poor Africans who live in one nation on the croc infested river I learned about. Across the river from them lies another nation with a huge national park along the River. The park rakes in money from adventurous tourists from the first world. To keep that revenue source going that nation enforces a rigorous protection of crocodiles who have grown particularly big as a result. They are hungry too despite their slow metabolisms. The PBS page says they require fifty meals a year and they are not picky about what they eat.

One problem for them is that the folks on the other side of the river fish and take a lot of their food away. As a result the huge croc’s prey on the cattle on the populated southern shore and any person unlucky enough to get a pail of water when a lurking croc is nearby. The slow mo movies on PBS of gnus and zebra’s being seized by crocs leave little to the imagination for me. If I had a child that needed to bring water home from the river I’d never get a good night’s sleep along that river.

And yet Africa is racing into the new century. It is a last refuge of great wildlife perhaps due to that wildlife getting used to humans over Eons before they swarmed out of Africa to the other continents. The unwary great animals of the new continents went extinct in great numbers in these new continents with the arrival of humans but they survived in Africa. Until now. We are paving Africa over at an alarming rate. Teddy (the great hunter) Roosevelt wouldn’t recognize the place. To bag a rhino today he’d have to go to a Rhino Farm and pay a small ransom to do it in a pen. I guess for western adventure seekers the crocodillian consumption of a few Africans is a small price to pay for getting a gander at a twenty-foot croc.

So there friend. You only lost your motor boat access to the BWCA. No monster walleyes will be eating your grandchildren. In fact, they will get to see the forest much as you saw it when you were young and it won’t be paved over like the vast belt of green space surrounding Duluth as more people discover what an agreeable place it is. Heck, global warming will put it in a more temperate plant hardiness growing zone.

Now that I’ve displayed my environmental bonafides let me get to that reminiscence.

I ran for a second time against Jaros in 1978. I stood almost no chance of winning but I was game. That year would end up being a highlight of my life in the end. It was the year of the Minnesota Massacre. Republicans overcame Watergate and elected a Governor and two US Senators. It helped that the DFL imploded. There were scandals, taxes skyrocketed and they alienated the usually dependable Northern Minnesota with the Wilderness Act.

I was invited to go to the Bayshore senior residence during the campaign to strut my stuff. It was the most uncomfortable experience I endured in that campaign. I gladly ripped into the gathered union leadership for their unthinking support of all DFLers at a union meeting but what was I supposed to say to so many geriatrics at Bayshore? Lots of them were obviously in the early stages of dementia.

When it came my turn to speak I had the BWCA and the unhappy folks who were being chased out of it on my mind. To the gathered incontinents I talked about this subject that only a small percentage of them could have been interested in knowing that I was as good as talking to a wall. I felt pretty stupid in the face of all these elderly folks gathered together for their own good. It was the right thing to do but that doesn’t make the right thing to do easy.

There were, however, two listeners who were not incontinents. They were two attractive young women, a couple years older then me. I presume they were at the gathering because they were supporting one of the DFLers at the gathering. They had obviously taken offense at my defense of the unhappy folks being removed from the Boundary Waters.

These two ladies came over to me and said something to the effect that they wanted me to know what they thought of me. Then they handed me a big button with a monkey on it. I was taken aback, obviously, because I still remember what was pretty obviously intended as an insult nearly forty years later.

I’ve never had a very high regard for self righteousness or smugness even when I’m guilty of them myself. I recently had an ex staff member from ISD 709 who was a fan of the Red Plan exchange some pleasantries with me. We teased each other about our differences on the plan and then with what was either good-naturedness or a shit eating grin this staff member whose side won joked that I was “still wrong.” I thought to myself about a recent story I’d heard about this staff member – that the reason this staff member had fallen out of favor during my previous time on the School Board was the result of this employee’s sexual harassment of underlings. Sorry. That must make me sound smug.

Forty years later I now regularly visit Bayshore to see my own Mother. She used to be wheeled to a large hall to listen to various programs despite the fact that she had no idea what was going on. Maybe she was wheeled in for a political meeting like the one I attended. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some of the residents in other parts of the facility are sharp as a tack so they deserve not to be neglected at election time. Still….

I wish I could think of some grand moral to end this reminiscence with but, at the moment, pithiness eludes me.