Editorial: Minnesotans love wilderness areas

Published 10:31 am Thursday, July 12, 2012

It could have happened anywhere.

That’s the lesson to derive from the story printed Tuesday about Albert Lea lawyer Bob Sturtz suffering a stroke in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the subsequent rescue by Albert Lea letter carrier Scott Pirsig, his buddy on the wilderness trip.

The story was reprinted in other newspapers, and on their websites there was some discussion about the dangers of going into the wilderness and questions about whether entering remote places puts responders in peril. There were even people who questioned the cost to taxpayers of the rescue.

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It strikes us one of those lingering debates where people imagine far-off dangers as much worse than the ones right in front of their faces.

The most apparent danger we face each day is traveling on freeways, and people and responders are much more likely to be in peril there than in the wilderness. Freeborn County taxpayers, it could be argued quite clearly, pay a higher burden for out-of-area travelers than many other counties because we send first responders to two interstate highways that cross our county, rather than one or none. We help their taxpayers here just the same as they help our taxpayers there.

Moreover, whether Sturtz’s stroke happened in a wilderness or in civilization is a moot point. It could happen in the safety of a home and just as easily not be noticed immediately if others in the home were occupied or sleeping.

People just love to debate matters of risk, and the imagination often is worse than the reality. For instance, worries over diving boards have prompted the removal of many from swimming pools (especially at hotels and motels), even though no one had been hurt by them other than leg scrapes as long as water was in the pool. The true killer in pools was diving into the shallow end. What is the easiest way to tell the deep end from the shallow end? The diving boards, but they were taken out. Now pools are more dangerous than before.

At some point, people need activities to do, things to enjoy, unless they want to sit on the couch all the time and watch TV shows and movies. What would those shows and movies be about? Not people who sit on the couch all the time and avoid risk. They are about people doing things and living lives.

Wilderness area are valuable assets to Americans who desire to truly get away from mankind’s dominance of the land. They are places a person can test their mettle, soak up nature, find peace and know what the pioneers faced.

Want a piece of history? The Big Island Rendezvous helps us connect to the settlers. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area and other wilderness areas helps us connect to the explorers.

Fortunately, in the comments on those websites, many more people came to the defense of the wilderness. That’s because Minnesotans love their treasured landscapes. Wild places deserve protection because they surely are high on any list of aspects that make Minnesota a great state and a place worth residing in. Even for Minnesotans who don’t visit, there is much pride that our state has wild places untrammeled by humans.