The weekend before Made in America Week (MIAW). I met a new friend for brunch. My new friend manages a large timber farm in West Virginia. He explained the sophisticated process of developing a plan, securing permission and federal grants to rotate cuts, steward the land, ensure wildlife habitats remained serviceable homes for squirrels, deer, opossums, snakes, and returning black bears of the woods. He shared complex and well-thought-out plans to steward the environment, our most valuable resource.
I reflected on our conversation during Made in America Week. First, on Tuesday July 18, a colleague guided me to the White House Facebook site and showed me a post promoting MIAW. She saw me cringe and said, “See, you’re just a hater. How can you possibly not support the Department of the Interior celebrating our tradition of using public lands for recreation? Not support Made in America Week?”
I wake up every morning looking for ways to support potentially positive initiatives of POTUS 45. I read encore’s “Live Local, Live Small” column, which focuses on keeping our local economy and region afloat. I buy American. I support the president’s initiative to buy American. I even support Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s statement:
“At the U.S. Department of the Interior we are taking this opportunity (Made in America Week) to promote and strengthen America’s tradition of outdoor recreation on public lands.”
Zinke’s statement isn’t a deplorable bit of fake news. America does have a long tradition of outdoor recreation on public lands, but the 36-second video embedded in the post was cringeworthy. It seemed more like an advertisement for full range of military style all-terrain vehicles with loud motors and huge tires, jet-powered boats, and supersized RVs. The ads are clearly inconsistent with the Department of the Interior’s mission statement:
“The Department of the Interior protects and manages the nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and other information about those resources; and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities.”
As well-intentioned as the spot may have been, it was neither well-thought-out nor complex. But it could have been worse. The brief spot could have shown a made-in-America Humvee, fully equipped with a 60-caliber machine gun and flying the Stars and Bars with the encouragement to “come to Nantahala National Park and get some!” It could have highlighted its “special commitment to American Indians” by highlighting American-made Winchesters, Gatling guns and bulldozers that won the West, and helped relocate the nuisance populations of Cherokee, Sioux and Lakota.
I reflected about the conversation again on Wednesday when I drove past a new stretch of razed greenery along River Road. On the bright side, I love seeing more of our beautiful Cape Fear River. As clear-cut developments progress, we will enjoy sunset views of the river from along the southern end of New Hanover County. On the questionable side, I’m not sold this local development is well-thought-out. American-made machinery of habitat destruction seem to be tearing down pine trees and replacing them with half-million dollar homes, restaurants, movie theaters, and shops at a rapid pace.
We’re human. We build. But it seems, as we build, some already rich folks will make more money, and wildlife we like—such as our lovely herons—will become part of the appeal of owning property along the river. Flora and fauna we don’t like—that don’t fit our development vision (nuisance populations of gators, snakes and weeds), much like the First Nations—will be rooted up, relocated and/or killed. I’m not sure it’s a complex plan.
Readers who are Carolina born and bred, consider this: For every loblolly pine that falls, a Yankee driving a Prius with a “Co-Exist” bumper sticker, listening to Gina Gambony on WHQR, ready to start another Shakespeare company, will rise up in its place.
Come to think about, it’s the kind of plan I could get behind it.