Breaking Into Yellowstone

By Beacon Staff

There are times when a little civil disobedience is in order.

One of my buddies hatched a plan to protest the disaster that’s unfolding in Washington, D.C. If the government shutdown turns into a long-term affair, we’re going to drive up to the east gate of Yellowstone, park somewhere out of sight of whomever is blocking the entrance, and break in.

Our goal would be to make it to a high ridge somewhere in the caldera. There, overlooking Yellowstone Lake, we plan to hike up our kilts and go full “Braveheart” on the plateau, mooning one of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet.

It’s unclear what our act of defiance would accomplish, beyond maybe terrifying nearby forest creatures. But then, making a pointless stand based on misguided principle, regardless of the consequences, has become popular sport. Unfortunately, there are real consequences when elected officials lose their heads. The government shutdown, and my buddy’s crazy Yellowstone protest scheme, made that clear.

It’s no secret that hunters and anglers tend toward the conservative end of the spectrum. It hasn’t always been that way, but today, if you gather together a dozen or so hunters there will only be a few Dems in the mix. I’m a hunter, though I’m mostly a fly fisherman these days.

There’s a perception in the non-angling ranks that fly fishers are a bunch of lefties. It’s been my experience that that’s not really true. The average fly fisher is probably to the left of the average hunter, but probably still to the right of center. I liken the fly fishing community to that sort of old school, main street conservatism: tough on fiscal issues but a little more open to new ideas on the social stuff.

You want lefties, go hang out with a bunch of bird watchers. Those dudes with their Subarus and life lists and Patagonia fleece outerwear might as well be Marxists. But fly fishers? Don’t let all their conservation work fool you. The average fly fisher likely votes Republican.
And there’s the rub. That’s the same GOP that closed the park, and generally has been throwing a fit over the moderate, and decidedly pro-private business health care reform law, also known as Obamacare. It was a last-ditch effort by the GOP to scuttle the law that closed Yellowstone.

I’m not going to tell my conservative friends that they need to change their beliefs. I’m all for diversity and a lively debate. But there is one message I want them to consider: it’s time to ixnay the falling-on-your-sword routine. There’s a difference between nobly standing up for what you believe in, and sheer lunacy, and the line between isn’t always so bright. Shutting down the government because you can’t muster the votes to change a law in the constitutionally described fashion because you don’t like the law is on the wrong side of that line.

What’s that got to do with hunting and fishing? Well, there are many issues upon which we should agree regardless of political party. Access is one. Protecting the public lands where we fish and hunt is another. There’s also the ever-present, though I tend to think slightly exaggerated, threat from the anti-hunting crowd. On these things we should be working across party lines. But too often I wonder what Republican hunters and anglers are thinking when they elect folks who are downright hostile to hunting and fishing.

I’m not saying conservatives need to volunteer at their local Planned Parenthood office or start espousing the economic benefits of redistributive tax policies. Just pick some representatives who aren’t going to go assault our system of publicly managed wildlife and lands, without which we become Europe where hunting is a game played only by the wealthy elite, and I’ll be happy.

There’s something important at stake here: freedom. Freedom for the average guy to hunt or fish or float a river, without having to request permission from the Lord of the Manor.

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