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Please Stay in California

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
The United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lists some wilderness areas as Pack It In, Pack It Out regions.  The BLM websitefor certain parks includes an exhortation for visitors to adhere to Leave No Trace standards; “As a result of improper human waste disposal many of the popular campsites have lingering odors.”  The breathtaking Vermilion Cliffs of Paria Canyon in Arizona is one such place.  Of course, the idea of minimizing the impact of hikers is to protect these special reserves so that future visitors can enjoy them.  BLM concludes its website instruction set with, “This will help us preserve the pristine quality of these canyons.”

I am considering a letter to my Congressman asking that the BLM instate a similar set of rules for the entire State of Colorado, where I make my home.  The idea struck me during a conversation that took place just before lining up for the local county fair parade.  I encountered an elderly couple who were proudly sporting their Democratic donkey logo T-shirts.  Their outfits were humorously antithetical to the Republican elephant logo shirt that I was wearing.

The three of us enjoyed a friendly exchange until they began asking about the county fair traditions.  The couple explained that they were looking for opportunities to become more involved in their new local community, having just moved here from California.  They explained that their decision to relocate in their retirement years was because the quality of life in the Rocky Mountain State seemed to be holding up well compared to the declining economic environment of the Golden State.

Those who know me would attest that under most circumstances I am an even-tempered soul, not reacting turbulently to much.  But these two day-hikers had just wandered into my canyon with all the signs of intending to behave as high-impact litterbugs.  Having suddenly turned off my politeness governor, something like this came out of my mouth, “Well, welcome to Colorado.  If you would like to avoid transforming your new home into the same dysfunctional mess that that you just abandoned, do us both a favor and dispense with exercising your right to vote.”

Their response was (I kid you not), “California’s economic troubles are the result of Proposition 13.”  Back in the late 1970s, a citizen activist by the name of Howard Jarvis led this ballot measure that limited the state’s ability to mercilessly increase property taxes.  The landslide passing of this citizen initiative saved the homes of many fixed-income residents.  The skyrocketing value of California real estate had hurled property tax demands far beyond the retirement income of hundreds of thousands.  Proposition 13 put an end to the gleeful seizing of property from countless, otherwise law-abiding elderly for delinquent property taxes by the State of California.

My two new neighbors are classic examples of the Observer Effect.  That is, they modify the environment that they wish to experience by adding themselves to that environment.  We all participate in contributing to the Observer Effect for wherever we choose to live.  Only, some folks carry a measure of narcissism that negates any thought of assimilating into their new environment.

Setting up United States Bureau of Land Management entry stations on the western border of Colorado may be just the ticket.  With a few modifications in wording directed at the electoral process, we could reuse the words currently in use on the BLM website:  “Your permit includes ‘Human Waste Bags’ for each member of your party. You can pick them up at the BLM Arizona Strip District Office. They are easy to use, secure, airtight, and contain chemicals that neutralize odors. The majority of Paria hikers use these bags and have had no problems with them. They will be required for all Paria hikers beginning January 1, 2010.”

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