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I recently heard state Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman) speak out against a Forest Service proposal that would prohibit development in the Crazy Mountains.

White, executive director of the advocacy group Citizens for Balanced Use, is a proponent of motorized travel.

Without it, he argues, how could grandparents show their grandchildren the wilderness? It’s just not fair if everyone can’t drive there.

It’s an old argument used by folks who don’t understand the concept of wilderness.

Wilderness isn’t like a public restroom that provides access to everyone, regardless of age or physical handicap. You don’t drive there simply because you’re no longer in good enough shape to walk or ride a horse.

There are a lot of wild, remote places I’ll never see again either because I don’t have the time or the ambition to return. I certainly wouldn’t want to see the rules change just because I’ve gotten old.

There are very few wild places left. Most of the planet is settled and paved. We are lucky to live in a state where there is still wild, roadless land.

White says wilderness is exclusive, and I’d agree. It’s not for everyone. It shouldn’t be.

But back in the day when I didn’t have a dime, I had wilderness. While I couldn’t afford a four-wheel-drive pickup, an ATV, or a snowmobile, I was still on equal footing with those who could. Our access was the same. It was the roaded areas — not wilderness — where I felt excluded.

My oldest granddaughters started hiking this summer. They haven’t tackled anything too difficult yet, but they seem to like getting out on their own.

There are places I’d like them to see: Jordan Lake, the West Boulder/Mill Creek divide, Froze to Death Plateau, Amethyst Mountain, the Chinese Wall. I’m afraid, however, that they’ll have to go without me. My days of traipsing about the mountains are long gone. I prefer my country a bit flatter these days.

And while I miss the mountain wilderness, I never expected to receive a senior exemption to drive there or to give my grandchildren a ride. They can walk far better than me.

I’d like them to see that country the same way I did: on foot.

You can ride or drive almost anywhere in the U.S. Roadless country is scarce. Let’s not give up what little is left just because grandpa got old.

Parker Heinlein is at pman@mtintouch.net.

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