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Boycott corporate campgrounds

Dear Editors,

Does it bother anyone else – are people aware – that a for-profit corporation is taking a cut, a majority cut, out of something that already belongs to you without providing much of anything? I’m talking about those commercial enterprises who “partner” with the U.S. Forest Service to “manage” campgrounds on public lands.

The three prominent companies in our Southwest Colorado area are: American Land & Leisure, Rocky Mountain Recreation Company, and Recreation Resource Management  Corporation. There are others.

First thing they do is double the camping fees, then they hire volunteers to be campground hosts, and then sit back and collect revenue. It’s still the Forest Service who does all the building, road maintenance and repairs.

You might think the corporate entities hand over at least half of your monies to USFS. Think again. Their website mysteriously lists only “a percentage of revenue” while one site mentions 15 percent,. That would be $2.10 out of your $14 going to our public lands. One person I talked to at American Land &Leisure told me they hand over to USFS “whatever is left over” from their operating expenses. What operating expenses? The volunteer staff does the cleanup work (some campgrounds even ask you to clean up your won site) and campers take their own trash to the dumpster. That leaves the expense of toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Another tale of outrageous overcharge on household items? By the way, they call their volunteers “paid workers” because they get their pay in the form of a parking space at the campground.

I am wondering: why can’t the Forest Service find its own volunteer campground hosts, keep all the revenue and give us campers a price break in the process? Unless

it’s due to the ingrained federal mentality of giving away for a pittance our collective natural resources as they have done with timber sales and grazing permits. Only this time, we’re paying out of pocket.4If this scenario ruffles your feathers, you can do your part by boycotting those campgrounds where the payment envelope lists one of these vulture outfits and tell the USFS why you’re doing it.

– Erica Simonova, Cortez

End the ‘solar stupidity’

To the Editors,

If there’s one thing an industrial civilization absolutely requires in order to sustain itself, it is energy. And the more concentrated the energy source, the better.

Relatively dilute energy sources, by comparison, while useful in some instances to supplement major-league power generation, can never assume the burden of serving as the backbone for large-scale energy production.

But try telling that to President Obama, who just blew a pile of taxpayer money on one of the most technically ill-advised projects ever attempted, i.e., industrial-level solar power: “The government is handing out nearly $2 billion for new solar plants that President Barack Obama says will create thousands of jobs and increase the use of renewable energy resources.” (Associated Press, July 3.)

“The two companies,” the article continues, “that will receive the money from the president’s $862 billion economic stimulus are Abengoa Solar, which will build one of the world’s largest solar plants in Arizona, creating 1,600 construction jobs; and Abound Solar Manufacturing, which is building plants in Colorado and Indiana.”

Solar power, however, is a complete flop as an industrial-level energy producer, and for one simple, physical reason: one kilowatt per square meter. At the best of times. At the best of locations. Shine the sun on one square meter for an hour, and how much power do you have? One kilowatt-hour’s worth.

A lump of coal capable of generating one kilowatt-hour, by comparison, weighs less than a pound, and can be held in the palm of your hand. And the amount of uranium needed to generate that same kilowatt-hour of power? One 1,250th of an ounce – barely big enough to see. That’s the difference between concentrated energy and dilute energy – something no form of technology will ever change.

Abengoa’s soon-to-be-constructed solar plant near Phoenix, for instance, will have a capacity of 280 megawatts and will occupy 1,900 acres.

Yet, a typical coal-fired or nuclear power plant generates four times as much power – 1,000 megawatts – and occupies a fraction of the space: 25 acres. That’s an energy produced per unit acre ratio of more than 300 to one. And that’s in Arizona. How well will such a scheme fly in Montana?

If “green” energy were truly the concern here, what would we actually be spending our energy money on? The concentrated variety. Not solar stupidity, but nuclear power – which, in addition to having the highest ratio of energy per unit volume, emits no CO2 whatsoever. Guaranteed power, rain or shine. Arizona or Montana. Power generation capable of backboning the electrical needs of a major industrial civilization on a 24/7 basis.

Talk to people about atoms, however, and they seem to misplace their brains. Radioactivity! Can’t have that! We’ll just forget about the fact that there are 30 trillion cancer doses of uranium scattered all over the country – and that all we would be doing by employing that material for power would be to use it for awhile, then put it back, in far more intelligent places than we found it.

No, the solar power “alternative” is an absolute hoax – just another “make-work” project that won’t even pay for itself in terms of the construction costs for those thousands of acres of materials. Per plant. We might just as well push water uphill, for this energy “policy” is an absolute joke.

And employment? While our president brays loudly about “1,600 jobs,” he forgets that those dollars were forcibly extracted from the taxpayers first – and who knows how the taxpayers would have spent that money in the various sectors of our economy had they been left to their own choices?

It reminds me of the story of Milton Friedman visiting China in the 1960s, where the government was proudly showing off a large “public works” project – hundreds of Chinese building a canal with shovels.

When Friedman asked why they weren’t using earth-moving equipment, his guide replied that the government needed to keep those people employed. “Oh,” Friedman remarked. “I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s employment you’re after, why not just give them spoons?”

– Bradley Harrington, via email

Hands off the natives

To the Editors,Over the years, many of us who love our native plants have observed an increasing number of people walking trails with handfuls of wildflowers they have just picked

We probably all have heard, “Take nothing but memories; leave nothing but footprints.”  This is what we now call, “Leave no Trace.”  Please remember that part of this means, “Do not pick wildflowers.” Leave the wildflowers so they can produce more flowers next year and so that other people can enjoy their beauty.

– Thank you, Al Schneider, president, San Juan/Four Corners Native Plant Society